The Long Good Friday
|The Long Good Friday|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Mackenzie|
|Produced by||Barry Hanson|
|Written by||Barrie Keeffe|
|Music by||Francis Monkman|
|Distributed by||Paramount British Pictures|
The Long Good Friday is a British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979, but because of release delays, it is generally credited as a 1980 film. The storyline weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including mid-level political and police corruption, IRA fund-raising, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, UK membership of the EEC, and the free-market economy.
It was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute‘s list of the “BFI Top 100 British films” list, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role. In 2016, British film magazine Empire ranked The Long Good Friday number 19 in their list of “The 100 best British films”.
A man named Colin delivers money to an unknown destination in Belfast, taking some of the cash in the process. The recipients realize that money is missing but are then attacked. Soon afterwards, the delivery driver is kidnapped and killed at the same time as Colin is murdered whilst swimming.
Harold Shand, a London gangster, is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman and is trying to form a partnership with the American Mafia, with a plan to redevelop London Docklands. Harold’s world is suddenly destabilized by a series of unexplained murders and bomb attacks. He and his henchmen try to uncover his attackers’ identities whilst simultaneously trying not to worry their visitors, fearing the Americans will abandon him if they think he’s not in full control. Harold’s girlfriend, Victoria, tells the Mafia representatives Harold is under attack from an unknown enemy, but assures them Harold is working to quickly resolve the crisis. She starts to suspect Harold’s right hand man, Jeff, knows more about who is behind the attacks than he claims.
After some investigation, Harold confronts Jeff who confesses he sent Harold’s friend Colin to Belfast to deliver money raised by Irish Navvies to the IRA. He explains that three of the IRA’s top men were killed on the same night after discovering some of the money had been stolen. Harold realizes the IRA have come to the conclusion that he sold them out to the security forces and pocketed the missing cash for himself. Vowing to destroy the terrorist organisation in London, Harold loses his temper and kills Jeff in a frenzy.
Harold sets up a meeting with the IRA’s London leadership. He ostensibly offers them £60,000 in return for a ceasefire but double crosses them and has them shot as they are counting the cash. Believing his enemies are dead, Harold travels to the Savoy Hotel to triumphantly inform his Mafia partners only to find the Americans preparing to leave, having been spooked by the carnage. In response to their derisory comments about the UK, Harold berates them for their arrogance and dismisses them as cowards.
Leaving the hotel, Harold steps into his chauffeur-driven car only to find it has been commandeered by IRA assassins. As the car speeds to an unknown destination, Harold contemplates the inevitability of his fate.
The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000 by Barry Hanson from a script by Barrie Keeffe, with a soundtrack by the composer Francis Monkman; it was screened at the Cannes, Edinburgh and London Film Festivals in 1980.
Under the title “The Paddy Factor”, the original story had been written by Keeffe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the film, but Hanson bought the rights from Euston for his own company Calendar Films. Although Hanson designed the film for the cinema and all contracts were negotiated under a film, not a TV agreement, the production was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lew Grade‘s ITC Entertainment for transmission via Grade’s ATV on the ITV Network. The film was commissioned by Charles Denton, at the time both Programme Controller of ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion. After Grade saw the finished film, he allegedly objected to what he saw as the glorification of the IRA.
The film was scheduled to be televised with heavy cuts on 24 March 1981. Because of the planned cuts, in late 1980, Hanson attempted to buy the film back from ITC to prevent ITV screening the film. The cuts, he said, would be “execrable” and added up to “about 75 minutes of film that was literal nonsense”. It was also reported at the same time that Bob Hoskins was suing both Black Lion and Calendar Films to prevent their planned release of a US TV version in which Hoskins’ voice would be dubbed by English Midlands actor David Daker.
Before the planned ITV transmission the rights to the film were bought from ITC by George Harrison‘s company, Handmade Films, for around £200,000 less than the production costs. They gave the film a cinema release.
Barrie Keeffe wrote a sequel, Black Easter Monday, set twenty years after the events of the first film. It opened with Bob Hoskins’s character escaping from the IRA after the car was pulled over by police. Hoskins would retire to Jamaica, then return to stop the East End being taken over by the Yardies. However, the film was never made.
- Guardian review
- Mark Duguid “Long Good Friday, The (1979)”, BFI Screenonline
- “The 100 best British films”. Empire. 29 November 2017.
- “Association of Independent Producers’ magazine, September 1980.
- “Producer seeks a £ 1m buyer…”: news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22 November 1980.
- Bloody Business: The Making of The Long Good Friday, documentary film, 2006
- Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro, 2003, pp. 56–70.
- Johnston, Sheila (21 April 2010). “Interview: Barrie Keeffe on Sus, The Long Good Friday and London’s Changing East End: Artful dodgers, diamond geezers and the real East End, by one of its leading scribes”. Athe Arts Desk.