Cast & Crew
After suffering continual torment from their cruel stepfather, Tobias Cromwell, thirteen-year-old Finn Dove and his seven-year-old sister Derval plot to run away from their home in Liverpool to the Galway, Ireland farm of their kindly grandmother, Mary Magdalene St. Bridget O'Flaherty. Unknown to the children, they are the beneficiaries of a trust set up by Mary's recently deceased husband, with each child to inherit ten thousand dollars. The trust further states that in the event of their deaths, the money would pass on to their uncle, John Cyril Dove, a fading vaudeville actor performing under the name of Hawk Dove. When the impoverished Hawk is fired from a nightclub for his uncontrollable temper, he decides to do away with his nephew and niece to claim the inheritance. In Ireland, the feisty Mary confronts Judge Liffy, demanding that he assist her in becoming Finn and Derval's legal guardian. Back in Liverpool, Hawk disguises himself as solicitor Maxwell Perdon and approaches Tobias with the proposal that he could help Tobias gain access to the children's inheritance. Although furious to discover the children have gone missing from Tobias' house, Hawk discovers a geography book with the map of Ireland torn out and realizes their destination. Tobias and Hawk report the children's disappearance to the police, who soon contact the Irish police to watch for them. Meanwhile, Finn and Derval, with only pennies between them, go to the pier and, mingling with a large family, stow away on a steamer ship bound for Dublin. Arriving the next morning, the children pass easily through customs when the agent heartily welcomes them to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. That same afternoon, Tobias flies to Dublin and is met by Irish detective inspector Michael Roark, who has been informed by the British police of the children's disappearance. Tobias implies that Mary has kidnapped the children and when questioned by reporters, announces a reward for information on Finn and Derval. Arriving on the same plane with Tobias is Hawk, now disguised as British Chief Inspector Wolcott, who informs Roark that he must be included in the search for the Doves. Unaware that their pictures and Tobias' offer have been splashed across the television news, Finn and Derval trail hungrily through Dublin's open markets, unable to afford food. Under the watchful eye of a shifty local, Mickser, Finn boldly snatches a meat pie. The children are spotted by a policeman and chased through the streets into a shopping center where they are amazed to see themselves on television. Overhearing a news report about their disappearance, Finn and Derval learn that Tobias has followed them to Ireland. Evading the policeman, the children seek refuge in a synagogue, where a friendly rabbi helps disguise them so they can escape safely. The children are then swept up into an exuberant St. Patrick's Day parade, which takes them to the edge of the city. From there, the pair begins the long walk to Galway but are soon offered a ride on a horse-drawn cart, driven by Mickser, who has recognized them. When Mickser stops at a local pub for a quick pint, Derval panics when he reveals he has a tattoo, which reminds her of their wicked uncle Hawk, known for the hawk tattoo on his wrist. Observing Mickser using the pub's telephone, Finn and Derval conclude he is Hawk in disguise and, taking a local constable's bicycle, flee. Roark receives the report made by Mickser of the children's location and tells "Wolcott" that as there are only two routes from there into Galway, he plans to intercept them. As darkness descends, the hungry and exhausted Finn and Derval spend the night in a graveyard so they will be safe. Before dawn, however, the children are startled by the arrival of a van and several men arranging to transport illegal liquor into Galway. Although realizing Mickser is the van's driver, Finn urges Derval to hide in the van to reach Galway quickly. On the drive, Mickser picks up Constable Flynn, who laments the theft of his bicycle. At dawn, Roark's roadblock stops the van and the impatient Hawk, still posing as Wolcott, angrily questions Mickser, who demands the reward before relating information about Finn and Derval. Inside the van, Finn hastily covers his and Derval's faces with coal dust and, finding scissors, cuts his sister's hair and places his clothes on her while putting on her small dress. When "Wolcott" demands an inspection of the truck the now unrecognizable children are able to escape. Discovering Flynn's bicycle and scissors, however, Hawk realizes what has occurred and he and the policeman pursue the children into a wool factory. After a grueling, fruitless chase, Hawk returns to Roark to announce he is turning the case over to him. Suspicious of "Wolcott's" abrupt departure, Roark requests information on the inspector. Meanwhile, Hawk makes another transformation into newspaper reporter Miss Heather Marblestone. On the road, Finn and Derval's attempt to steal a donkey results in their being attacked by several children, part of a group of traveling gypsy tinkers led by Powder O'Ryan and his daughter Sheila. Finn apologizes for attempting to steal the donkey, but Powder, who has also recognized the pair, assures them he will help. The next day in a pub, however, when Powder hears locals speculating that the reward for the Doves has likely increased, he telephones the police, who inform Roark. Hawk, as Miss Marblestone, follows the police to the village and overhearing an angry Sheila chastising her father for giving in to greed, offers to help. Just as Hawk spirits Finn and Derval away, Roark, Tobias and the police arrive at the pub. Roark reveals he has learned that Hawk was masquerading as the real detective Wolcott and suspects he is after the inheritance, putting the children in grave danger. Meanwhile, Hawk drives the children to a nearby castle on a hill overlooking a large lake, into which he attempts to push them. Spotting the tattoo on his wrist, the children recognize Hawk and manage to escape. On the edge of despair, the children are about to give up when they finally reach Mary's farm, where they are spotted by hands Paddy and Seamus, who take them to the delighted Mary. As Roark, Tobias and the police descend upon Mary in search of the children, she promises her grandchildren that she and the neighbors will protect them. When the police present a warrant to search Mary's house, Finn and Derval flee with a kindly farmer to the barn, unaware that it is Hawk, again in disguise. Shocked when Hawk tries to attack them with an axe, Finn then offers his uncle the entire inheritance, declaring that living with Mary would provide them all they have ever wanted. Unable to harm the children, Hawk returns them to the house, but is upset when Roark arrests him for impersonating a detective. Summoned by Mary, Judge Liffy arrives and after questioning Finn and Derval, decides they would be happiest with Mary, forcing Tobias to concede defeat. Discovering that Hawk has tied up a policeman and fled in his uniform, everyone laughs and the children settle down in their new home.
William S. Gilmore Jr.
Ray Mercer Jr.
Flight of the Doves
In Flight of the Doves, Wild stars as Finn Dove, a boy from England who, together with his sister Derval (Helen Raye), flees his tyrannical stepfather (William Rushton) and heads for the rolling green hills of Ireland to find their loving grandmother (Dorothy McGuire). Unbeknownst to them, Finn and Derval have been named as heirs to their late grandfather's estate and stand to inherit a large fortune. Meanwhile, hot on their trail across Ireland is their menacing uncle Hawk Dove (Ron Moody), a struggling actor who is next in line for the inheritance. Utilizing an endless array of chameleon-like disguises, Uncle Hawk uses every trick he knows along the way to get rid of the children and claim the money for himself.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, producer-director Ralph Nelson bought the rights to Walter Macken's 1963 children's novel Flight of the Doves after his 12-year-old daughter read it while on a family vacation in Ireland and recommended it to him. Nelson was a veteran Oscar-nominated producer and director best known for Lilies of the Field (1963) and Charly (1968), two films that earned the lead actor in each case-Sidney Poitier and Cliff Robertson-Best Actor Academy Awards. At the time, Nelson was coming off a big box office success with Soldier Blue (1970), a revisionist Western starring Candice Bergen and Peter Strauss.
Nelson tapped child actor Jack Wild to star as young Finn. Wild had shot to fame with his Academy Award-nominated performance as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, followed by a starring role in the offbeat children's television series H.R. Pufnstuf. Wild was looking forward to working under the direction of Nelson, but there was one problem: "[Nelson] was adamant that to play Finn Dove I would have to have my hair dyed red-ginger!-as I was meant to be half Irish," recalled Wild in his posthumously published autobiography It's a Dodger's Life. "Well, I wasn't having that in any way, shape or form." The 17-year-old actor flatly refused and left it to his manager to work out a solution with Nelson.
The solution that Nelson and his manager came up with was for Wild to wear a wig throughout the filming. "Well, I thought, yeah, that's alright," said Wild. "I was just pleased that it'd all worked out. If somebody said to me now, 'You've got to have your hair dyed sky-blue pink!' I'd say 'Right, where's the bottle?' But things are vey different when you're 17."
Wild was happy about working with everyone in the cast, which included his Oliver! co-star Ron Moody, William Rushton, Stanley Holloway, Dorothy McGuire and pop star Dana. Dana, who plays the gypsy girl Sheila, who sings the lovely original song "Far Off Place" in the film, was an 18-year-old Irish schoolgirl who had just won the 1970 Eurovision song contest and launched a successful recording career. According to Jack Wild, at that time Dana was considered a "national heroine" in Ireland. "I was looking forward to working with them all," said Wild, "especially Mr. Holloway and Miss McGuire as they were such established experienced actors. I'd seen Miss McGuire in Old Yeller at the cinema and cried."
When filming began on location in Ireland, Wild's agreement to wear a wig in the film was a decision he soon came to regret. "...I'd made a big mistake," said Wild. "On the first day of filming at Bray Studios, just outside Dublin, I was presented with my companion for the next 10 weeks-a companion I hated from the moment we met. 'Look at it!' I said. 'All I need now is a red nose and I'll be away.' It was my wig and it looked as uncomfortable with me as I was with it. It was not only red, it was permed--permed red hair. They were having a laugh, weren't they? I'd made a huge mistake. I should've agreed to have my hair dyed once I got over here, and then had it dyed back before I went home, then nobody who knew me would've seen it. That's what I should have done rather than being stuck with this abomination...It squatted on my head in protest and we did our best to ignore each other for the rest of the film."
Wild had great fun working on Flight of the Doves across the many locations throughout Ireland. He also loved working with Ron Moody again. "Such an amazing actor," said Wild. "His character, Hawk Dove, was a master of disguise and Ron had to play several characters throughout the film. He made them funny, sinister, and a bit mad all at the same time. Only Ron could've done it like that, and sometimes you'd swear it wasn't him at all...it was so hard to keep a straight face seeing Ron: he was just hysterical. But he was such a deep-thinking clown; one minute I'd see him in serious conversation with Ralph [Nelson] about his different characters, the next he'd be messing about with Willie [Rushton]. I think he's a genius."
Any difficulties that Wild encountered while shooting--aside from his wig--seemed to involve animals. In one instance, he was filming a complicated large-scale scene that involved a funfair with dozens of extras, a market and an array of farm animals including ducks, chickens, sheep and pigs. "[The animals] were waiting patiently in wooden crates," Wild recalled. "Then, inexplicably, there were cute little pigs out of their crates; and then there were cute little pigs all over the place. Cast and crew tried to catch these surprisingly agile and bloody fast little pigs, diving and weaving through the market on their podgy little legs; there seemed to be hundreds of them outnumbering cast and crew and extras alike."
Another instance required Wild to shoot a scene in which Ron Moody chases him through a herd of cattle. "I was terrified, terrified of these cows," said Wild. "...I was so frightened of these cows because they were much bigger than me and three times the size of Helen. When we came to do it, I just grabbed her hand and sped through the beasts, Helen airborne behind me. I ran so fast and ducked and dived, it was enough to make any podgy little pig proud."
Horses, too, presented a problem for Wild in a scene where he was to share a horse with Helen Raye and ride bareback with a stuntman who had to gallop at full speed down a hill and then jump over a stone wall. "They picked up me and Helen, and sat us on the front;" said Wild. "I personally closed my eyes. It wasn't so much the ride down, although that was bad enough, especially so close to the front; it was the jump over the wall I was concerned about. I was not happy because these are big horses. I didn't enjoy that at all...We had to do three or four takes of the horse nightmare; it was the only time I stopped worrying about my wig."
Despite all the animal adventures and the ongoing battle of the wig, Jack Wild looked back on Flight of the Doves with great fondness. "They were incredibly happy days in Ireland," he said. "It had been one big laugh from the day I landed on the island till the day I left. And the people are diamonds."
Flight of the Doves opened to mostly positive reviews in April 1971. Variety called it "a heartwarming, often funny, often suspenseful story...It allows Ron Moody to dominate the film from his first appearance. With almost as many character changes as Alec Guinness had in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Moody is so good at his disguises that the audience starts imagining that each new character who appears might be...Moody." The New York Times said, "...the balance between comedy and terror is sharp enough to establish a real and rather exciting tension."
by Andrea Passafiume
Flight of the Doves
The following written acknowledgements appear in the closing credits: "The Producer gratefully acknowledges the co-operation and assistance received from the Irish Tourist Board, Air Lingus-Irish Airlines and the Central Remedial Clinic-Dublin. The Producer also thanks the Dublin Hebrew Congregation for the use of footage from their documentary on Jewish worship." An April 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that producer-director Ralph Nelson had purchased the rights to Walter Macken's The Flight of the Doves, reportedly after Nelson's 12-year-old daughter Meredith had read the novel while on a family vacation in Ireland and recommended it to her father. Although an April 1969 Daily Variety news item stated that Nelson's daughter would receive a $2,000 fee for suggesting the novel and that her father was trying to arrange for her to have a screen credit, she did not receive screen credit on the released film.
An August 1970 Hollywood Reporter item reported that Dana, who played the role of "Sheila O'Ryan," was an eighteen-year-old schoolgirl from Derry, Ireland and winner of the 1970 Eurovision song contest. Dana sang "Far Off Place" in the movie in both Gaelic and English. Flight of the Doves reunited actors Ron Moody and Jack Wild, who had co-starred as "Fagan" and "The Artful Dodger," respectively, in the popular 1968 Columbia Pictures release of Oliver! (see below). The Flight of the Doves also marked the return to the screen of actress Dorothy McGuire after a six-year hiatus. The film was shot entirely on location in Ireland. According to modern sources, Frank O'Donovan was in the cast.
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States 1971