Discover Dylan Thomas’s Screenplays 2018-03-04T17:44:17+00:00

Dylan made wartime documentaries for Strand Films and contributed by writing scripts,  directing,  producing and as a voice over narrator in the commentary.  The busiest period was in 1942 when Strand Films produced seventy-five films.

As the war neared an end, Donald Taylor, a producer at Strand films wished to get away from propaganda documentaries, and set up as Gryphon films. They started different forms of film work, which then continued after the war when Dylan worked for Sydney Box at Gainsborough Films.

Unfortunately many of Dylan’s scripts were not turned into films, or were made many years after Dylan’s death. However, these screenplays were an opportunity for Dylan to test out ideas and techniques which we see again in his play-for-voices, Under Milk Wood.

 

 

Click the picture to visit the National Library of Wales online exhibition.

List of screenplays

Dylan had always had a fascination with films and regularly visited the cinema.  As a teenager he wrote an essay called  The Films, and later in life he contributed to a symposium in New York called Poetry and the Film. These, and the screenplays below, can be found in Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995).  Eight of Dylan’s propaganda films can be viewed on Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both are currently out of print.

Please click on the below  +  symbols to reveal more information on each subject.

  • First released: 1942, made by Strand Films
    Producer: Basil Wright
    Location Direction: Jack Ellitt
    Camera: Jack Cardiff
    Sound Track: Richard Addinsell, Dylan Thomas, Marjorie Fielding, Joseph MacLeod, Valentine Dyal
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Every morning as the sun rises it brings back to the world colour which was lost in the darkness. And the light of everything we look at depends more than most of us realise on colour. Why is a rose red in sunlight, and why in moonlight does it lose almost all its colour? To answer these questions, we must ask another.
  • Further information: This film was made for Imperial Chemical Industries and looked at the history, production and use of British dyes. The film was made in colour.
  • First released: 1942, made by Strand Films
    Producer: Alexander Shaw
    Director: John Eldridge
    Camera: Jo Jago
    Script: Dylan Thomas
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both are currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: City Councillor: Now this is Smokedale. Half a million people live there – down at ‘Deep. (noises of heavy industry)Let’s take another look. Let’s see how folks live there. Don’t forget there’s folk still living like this in most big towns. (sounds of children playing, Councillor pointing towards them) There! Look at that! That’s wrong! Visitor: What’s wrong? The houses are fit to live in, aren’t they? They are not condemned, are they? The kids look happy enough. City Councillor: Ay, but they shouldn’t be!…
  • Further information: This was a propaganda film made for the Ministry of Information. The script was about the re-planning of British towns after the war.
  • First released: 1942, made by Strand Films
    Producer: Alexander Shaw
    Director: Ivan Moffat
    Camera: Jo Jago
    Script: Dylan Thomas and Ivan Moffat
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Recruiter: Good morning, will you sit down. Barmaid: Thank-you. I want to join the WAAF as a balloon operator. Recruiter: Good. What is your age and occupation? Typist: Twenty-two. I’m a stenographer. Recruiter: You want to be a balloon operator do you? Housemaid: Yes. I wanted to do something much more worth while than being a housemaid. Recruiter: It’s hard work, you know. Out of doors in all weathers and needs physical strength. Think you could stand it? Shop Girl: Yes, it’s that sort of work I want. Recruiter: Fine, and we want girls like you to man the balloons and to release as many me as possible for other work. If you pass your Medical, you will go to learn how to handle and repair balloons at a Training station in the country.
  • Further information: This was a propaganda film made for the Ministry of Information and shows recruitment of women for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).
  • First released: 1942, made by Strand Films
    Directors: John Banting, Dylan Thomas, Charles de Latour, Alan Osbiston, Peter Scott, Desmond Dickinson
    Camera: Charles Marlborough
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: 3rd Man; ‘S’not too bad, but what’s the point of it all these ‘ere art? Pretty pictures don’t win anything. Not now anyway. Newton: We all know what we’re fighting against, but don’t you think we sometimes forget what we’re fighting for? Sr. Man: Not pretty pictures! Newton: Yes, but they’re part of it. We’ve got to fight because if we didn’t we wouldn’t be free. Free to work, to play, to listen, to look at what we want to.
  • Further information: A propaganda film about theatre in war-time.
  • Written: C. 1942
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology(DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Teacher: You see, sums and accounts aren’t just things we learn in school books. We couldn’t run our club without them, and now we’ll go to our geography lesson. No! No! You won’t need those atlases and text books today. Your arithmetic lesson today has been all about Young Farmers Club, and now our geography lesson is going to be concerned with a Young farmers Club too.
  • Further information: This propaganda film was aimed at children, in particular town children. It showed how useful land can be.
  • First released: 1942, made by Strand Films
    Director: John Eldridge
    Producer: Donald Taylor
    Devised and compiled by: Alan Osbiston and Dylan Thomas
    Words by: Dylan Thomas, spoken by James McKechnie and Brian Herbert
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Morning mist glides over Snowdon, over the mountains where men of Wales for centuries fought their enemy, the English, over the castles, over Harlech and Conway and Carnarvon garrisoned by the English kings in the long and far-away wild wars…Morning mist over the vale of Llangollen and over the oldest rocks in the work-the ageless, world-backed, morning-waking mountains…
  • Further information: This was a propaganda film made for the Ministry of Information. Part of the ‘Pattern of Britain’ series, it gives a beautiful image of the Welsh landscape.
  • First released: 1942. Director: Alan Osbiston Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: The third year of the Second World War. And loud and savage from their victories, the Axis Powers are now grimly confident that world domination lies within their clutch. For Germany has conquered Europe; Germany has cut off the Mediterranean Basin as a supply route to the United Nations; Italy obeys, stabs and betrays; Japan has torn away the island of the Far East; and Malaya, Singapore and Burma. Already they see, ripe from their picking, the whole wealth of raw materials of the British Empire.
  • Further information: This film shows the world at war, and how the British Commonwealth can fight together for freedom.
  • First released: 1943, made by Strand Films
    Director: Alan Osbiston
    Producer: Donald Taylor
    Devised and compiled by: Alan Osbiston and Dylan Thomas
    Commentators: J.McKechnie and Brian Herbert
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Goebbels: I became a writer of plays, a poet, a journalist. None of my work was accepted. And this is because the editors and publishers were Jews. Unemployed, Jew-hating, crippled, frustrated and bitter, i joined the Nazi party. Stretcher and I founded a newspaper to propagate obscene lies against Jews and Socialists, and said that the Liberty of the Press was one of the greatest abuses of Democracy. Consequently I was appointed Propaganda leader to the whole of Germany.
  • Further information: This propaganda film was made for the Ministry of Information. It utilises and changes part of Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph Des Willens’, so it appears Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, Streicher and Hess report their sins and mistakes in a very honest and blasé way.
  • First released: 1944, made by Strand Films
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: This picture is dedicated to the Research Workers and Doctors who discovered the sulphonamide drugs. In a short time these drugs have revolutionised the treatment of many diseases. Today they are preventing suffering and saving life on this battlefield.
  • Further information: This film focuses on the discovery of antibiotic drugs.
  • First released: 1944, made by Strand Films
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: 1st Voice: We were free. We were people at peace in our own country. We were proud of the land we sowed and the fields we ploughed. Peace was there in the harvesthomes of the earth and the simple air and the voice of the will of the people awoke and rejoiced among trees and flowers to the rhythm of The Riches of the Earth Shall Be Ours.
  • Further information: This film focuses on individual heroic acts of defiance from the ‘Unconquerable Common People’ in the occupied countries.
  • First released: 1944, made by Strand Films
    Direction by: John Eldridge
    Photography: Jo Jago
    Music: William Alwyn
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: London: and all the separate movements of the morning crowds are lost together in the heartbeat of the clocks a day when the long noise of the sea if forgotten street drowned in another memory of the sound itself of smoke and sailing dust trumpets of traffic lights and hoardings and posters rasp of the red and green signal lights the scraped string voices of overhead wires and the owl sound of the dry wind in the tube tunnels the blare and ragged drumroll of the armies of pavements and chimneys.
  • Further information: Our Country was made by Strand Films for the Ministry of Information. It gives a fresh view of Britain through the eyes of a sailor travelling around the country.
  • First released: 1944
    Direction by: John Eldridge
    Camera: Jo Jago
    Script: Dylan Thomas
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: London: and all the separate movements of the morning crowds are lost together in the heartbeat of the clocks a day when the long noise of the sea if forgotten street drowned in another memory of the sound itself of smoke and sailing dust trumpets of traffic lights and hoardings and posters rasp of the red and green signal lights the scraped string voices of overhead wires and the owl sound of the dry wind in the tube tunnels the blare and ragged drumroll of the armies of pavements and chimneys.
  • Further information: This film featured Durham pit and showed miners contribution to the wartime effort, encouraging women to persuade sons and husbands to work in the pits to provide fuel for the country.
  • First released: 1945 Director: John Eldridge
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006. Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: A city of spires and towers, an ancient city which produced from its hundreds of factories the newest machines and engines in the world…On the 14th November 1940, it became a City of Destruction. For three nights the German bombers attacked in their fullest force. This introduced a new word into the vocabulary of mass-murder; to Coventrate.
  • Further information: The film was based in Coventry and showed the dreadful war-time destruction and the planned post-war rebuilding.
  • First released: 1945 Director: John Eldridge
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (DVD) (2006) Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: Husband: Trying to break through into India, of course, but we didn’t let them. This was the monsoon now, and no one had ever fought in a monsoon before. We did, through all the rains and that’s how we beat ’em. That’s how we got to Mandalay. We had never seen jungle. God, how you start hating. You hate the base wallers first, and then you start hating civvies and everybody at home except your own.
  • Further information: This film focuses on the need for wives and husbands to make a psychological readjustment after years of separation during the war-time.
  • Written: C.1944/1945 First released: 1985
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and The Doctor & The Devils [DVD] [1985). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: A small black figure appears at the top of the road, and moves downhill. A small black figure with another darkness billowing around it. Now we see the downhill-approaching figure as a top-hatted man in the wind. From our distance he is still the mystery of a man, alone in a blowing morning on a lonely hill-top; still the shadow, not the recognisably featured substance, of a man.
  • Further information: This film was based on the body-snatchers Burke and Hare, who helped provide Dr Know with dead bodies for medical research.
  • Written: C.1944/1945
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: It is morning in the market-town of Dingle. A cracked school bell is ringing. The main street is wide awake: a man leans at a corner, motionless, smoking. A woman stands at an open doorway, looking at the morning. A large pig crosses the road slowly, and enters. The school bell still rings.
  • Further information: This unfinished script is based on part of Twenty Years A Growing, Maurice O’Sullivan’s autobiography. The film was never made.
  • Written: 1945
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: It is a big, dark, overcrowded, stone floored Kitchen, with a very large range and an old-fashioned bell-indicator over the door: A kitchen that can have changed in no essential since the more gloomy basement days of the last century. The cook, a faded, doleful woman, is making pastry at the table. Betty is busy at a wash tub, up to the elbows in suds.
  • Further information: Some of the dialogue from this script, which was never turned into a film, was used in the Good Time Girl with Diana Dors.
  • Written: C.1947
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: This is an idea for a film set in 1850 somewhere in England.
    Shadows – part 1.
    There are shadows in bright sunlight.
    Shadows of tall trees on dusty roads,
    Of Village bright church towers, the bells ringing.
    Of cattle drinking, their shadows on the midget an hazy, lazy summer water,
    Of sheep angled on white cliffs,
    Of lambs about their mothers,
    Of cows in shallow streams, drinking
    Of peasant lovers in deep and idle early evening lanes,
    Of the jutting and hanging roofs of old houses in narrow sunbaked streets.
  • Further information: This is an idea for a film. It tells the story of a young sailor, Blaise, who sells his shadow for a ‘Bottomless Purse’ of gold to a man without a shadow.
  • Written: C. 1947/1948 Released: 1948
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: The film opens with noises of pit disaster as the old workings of the now disused mine give way and village houses and road collapse in the sudden, dramatic subsidence. There are noises of panic and terror at the earthquake-like scene in the village street, and some cries can be heard by the three sisters in their house, Morlais, above the village.
    Voices: Sergeant bach! Sergeant bach!
    (Calls for the village below.)
    Maud: I don’t know what’s happened! I was nearly thrown out of bed!
    Isobel: Look at all the lights moving in the valley!
    Gertrude: Where in the valley?
    Isobel: Down at the bottom of the valley, down by Zion.
    (Thomas, mentally retarded, their servant, enters.)
    Thomas (His simple-minded excitement breathlessly relates events.) It’s the old mine workings. Lion street’s gone – and Alban Garage! And they’re all down there digging, and Dr Davies and Mr Price, and Mrs Jones Mount-Pleasant was screaming like a pig until the doctor slapped her face.
  • Further information: The Three Weird Sisters is based on the book of that name by Charlotte Armstrong. Dylan used the title and plot, but the words were his own. There is pit subsidence that destroys part of a village and the ‘three weird sisters’ make a pledge to rebuild it. It then follows their attempts to murder their brother Owen, for his money.
  • Written: C. 1947/1948 Released: 1948
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: (A large crowded store, busy with Christmas shoppers, the carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, its tale of the manger as bed for the child aptly introducing the opening scene as the words and music ring out.)
    Mary O’Rane: I’m an assistant here. There was one evening I will always remember. It was Christmas Eve, just before closing. There was the usual crowds of last-minute shoppers. In that last hour everyone in the world wants to come in, and they all want to be served at once. I had just gone away from my counter for a moment when I looked back and saw a crowd had begun to collect around it. Probably someone caught shoplifting I thought. And then I saw who it was, Norma, Norma Bates, and I shuddered to think how easily it might have been me. The detective was marching her away to the manager’s office. Yes, Norma is a thief. I know that. I know much more than that. I know why she is a thief. You see, once I thought stealing was quite unimportant. How well I remember, years ago, walking with Mr Burrells through the railway arch, and catching my first glimpse of that dreadful house (sound of train rushing). Poor Norma, I remember…
  • Further information: Dylan adapted this film script from a 1945 stage play by Joan Temple . It is set in war-time Britain and looks at the negative consequences of child evacuation.
  • Written: C.1947/1948 Released: May 2014 (as a broadcast)
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: It is the hour before tropical dawn, on the hushed, grey, open sea. A boat glides by like a shadow, the moon going down behind her tall sails. The boat sails on, through the very slowly lightening night, through moonlight and music, the soft sea speaking against her sides, an dis gone again.
  • Further information: This is Dylan’s adaptation of of The Beach of Falesá by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was not made in Dylan’s lifetime, despite Richard Burton buying the script as he was also unable to develop it into a film. However, it has been performed on the airwaves. Radio 3 broadcast the world premiere of it in May 2014 to mark the centenary of Dylan’s birth.
  • Written: C.1948
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: In the far distance, a young man on a penny-farthing bicycle is riding down the slope of a country lane. He is clad in full bicycling costume of the eighties and rides his fearful machine with an attempt at debonair confidence, whistling the tune of ‘Me and my bike’ as he wheels down the slope, but wincing as the rubberises wheels bump in each rut.
  • Further information: This ‘film operetta’ was about a man who loved his bicycle and it covers the whole of the man’s life to when he dies and rides his bike to heaven, where he is met by a chorus of bicycle bells. It was unfinished and never made into a film.
  • Written: C. 1948/1949
    Released: 1992
    Available now in: Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995) and Rebecca’s Daughters (VHS) (1992). Both currently out of print.
  • Excerpt: The farmers are moving to their secret meeting-place. On horseback they come out of their farmyards into country lanes, their lit lanterns swinging. They ride, in small parties, into deep dark woods, a wild wind blowing. Alone, they ride between black hedges, their lantern lights flickering. out of the deep dark woods and into open country they ride together through wild wind. Over the street cobbles they come, their horses’ hooves covered with sacking. One rider, on an ancient horse, rides between tall trees, his lantern casting shadows, his umbrella swinging.
  • Further information: This script tells the story of a political struggle. The ‘Rebecca rioters’ violently protested against unfair taxes and poor law amendment.

Screenplays available in print

Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (1995). Currently out of print.

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Dylan Thomas: A War Films Anthology (2006). Currently out of print.

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The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, A New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and published by Orion.

A few of the screen plays can be found in here.

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