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Civil servant opposed funding films in '40s Belfast including Odd Man Out

By Adrian Rutherford

It may be a boom time for the movie industry in Northern Ireland today, but that was not always the case.

A previously unseen document has revealed how a senior civil servant warned in the 1940s that there was little to be gained from making a film in Belfast.

Back in 1946, a production company asked the Government for funding to shoot what later became seminal thriller Odd Man Out.

Starring James Mason, Kathleen Ryan and Cyril Cusack, it tells the story of a Belfast gunman called Johnny McQueen who is badly wounded during a robbery and is left on the run from the authorities in his home town.

However, documents released by the Public Record Office (PRONI) in Belfast reveal the film nearly did not make it off the ground.

A Ministry of Commerce file cautions against financial support for the filming.

The file, entitled: Application by Two Cities Films Ltd to film in Belfast, contains a letter from one of the Joseph Arthur Rank companies from 1946.

However, it is the response from the Ministry of Commerce that catches the eye.

The Permanent Secretary writes that he can see no commercial opportunities for making a film in Belfast.

Stephen Scarth, from PRONI, said: "This contrasts starkly with the position today where the film industry is a massive draw for tourists and Northern Ireland is home to internationally successful brands such as Game of Thrones.

"Even now, Odd Man Out remains a seminal movie in the history of film-making."

The film, released in 1947, included Belfast as a backdrop, with some of the film shot in the city.

However, the Crown Bar's famous interior was recreated in a studio in Buckinghamshire.

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