Scotsman Jim MacKenzie (Duncan Macrae) lives in a primitive homestead in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia where he is raising his two grandsons, Harry (Jon Whiteley) and Davy (Vincent Winter who steals every scene he is in), following the death of their father in the Boer War.
As a result of his son’s death, Jim hates the Dutch, which leads to Harry brawling at school with the son of a Dutchman.
Harry falls down a cliff and is helped home by the local doctor, Willem Bloem (Theodore Bikel), a Dutchman who is in love with MacKenzie’s daughter, Kirsty (Adrienne Corri) with whom he is having a clandestine romance.
Forbidden by their stern Presbyterian grandfather to have a dog, Harry and Davy “kidnap” an unattended baby and care for the child in a deserted shack as their ‘pet’.
Discussing a name for their “babby” Davy suggests: “We could call it Rover. Rover’s a good name”. Harry disagrees: “It’s a good name for a dog but not a babby”, so they settle for Edward, after the King.
Filmed at Pinewood Studios and on location in the Scottish Highlands, this beautiful black & white film is a masterpiece of British cinema. It was released in the USA as The Little Kidnappers.
Director Philip Leacock was also responsible for the tremendous Reach for Glory (1962).
The Kidnappers so captivated critics that Vincent Winter and Jon Whiteley were awarded an honorary miniature Juvenile Oscar at the 1954 Academy Awards.
Whiteley’s parents asked for the Oscar to be sent to him by post as they didn’t want to disrupt his schooling by going to Hollywood for the ceremony. After a few more films – including Moonfleet (1955) – Jon gave up acting and concentrated on his education, gaining a degree in modern history at Oxford.
He had a distinguished career as a curator at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and was made a chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters in recognition of his special interest in French Art. Jon Whiteley died on 16 May 2020, aged 75.
Vincent Winter continued his screen career into his teens before forging a successful career on the technical side of film-making, starting as a production assistant on A Clockwork Orange (1971). On one occasion when the film’s star Malcolm McDowell was kept waiting for his car at the end of a long day on set, McDowell quipped: “You’re not very good at your job, are you, Vincent?”
The production assistant promptly replied: “Oh yes I am. I’m also rather good at yours and I’ve got an Oscar to prove it!”. Vincent Winter died on 2 November 1998 in Chertsey, Surrey, as a result of a heart attack. He was just 50.
Jim MacKenzie (Granddaddy)
Dr Willem Bloem
Jan Hooft Sr.
Francis De Wolff
Jan Hooft Jr.