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IL 1831




Film poster for 'Black Windmill'




Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'




Film poster for 'Black Windmill'




Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'




Film poster for 'Black Windmill'




Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'









 

Sequences from the Hollywood film "The Black Windmill" were shot at Clayton Windmills.

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

In the summer of 1973 Jack and Jill Windmills became film stars. Universal Pictures of Hollywood were to make a film that called for a pair of windmills. The film, named "Drabble", later re-named "The Black Windmill", directed by Don Siegel was shot over a period of six weeks. Its stars included Michael Caine, Janet Suzman, Donald Pleasance, Joss Ackland and Dennis Quilley. At that time the house situated between the two windmills was occupied by the late Henry Longhurst [golf broadcaster and writer] and his wife Claudine, who gave their approval to the idea that the mills should be used as the film's location.
Mrs. Longhurst recalled some memories of the film.

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"The first stage was to erect a wooden facade in front of the house to give it the appearance of a barn with great doors, through which one expected horses and carts to emerge at any moment. One end of the courtyard was blocked off and a mock roof was erected over it so that it looked like a small cottage. A mock roof was also put on the house. Behind the facade the house was in pitch darkness so electric lights had to be on all day. E. Hole & Son, the millwrights, were contracted to put new sweeps on Jack, and this was done in preparation for the film crew which arrived in early August 1973."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"At the Clayton Hill end of Mill Lane they set up a caravan-village for the stars, the film crew, the technicians and the caterers. Our telephone was in constant use throughout the period with calls connected with the making of the film. The first scene involved Michael Caine shooting a gun down the underground passage which joins the Granary to the lowest level of Jack. The passage was sprayed with a special material and as the gun was fired the whole passage was engulfed with flames, right on cue."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"The ambulance service was always on call at the end of the telephone and was indeed called upon on a number of occasions. There was only one really bad accident that occurred during the filming and this involved a stunt man who was required to fall down the steps from the Chapel Floor of Jack to the floor below. The floor around the foot of the steps was padded meticulously with soft padding to absorb the impact of the fall. When everyone was happy that everything was safe the shooting began. Unfortunately, instead of falling onto the soft padding, the stunt man tripped at the top and fell down the steps hitting his head on every step, landing at the bottom totally unconscious. He was promptly taken off to Cuckfield Hospital where he remained for a couple of days."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"When the stars were not being filmed they relaxed in our Sitting Room with a glass of wine looking out of the window, or putting their feet up and dropping off to sleep. In one scene they wanted to film Michael Caine with the dawn coming up behind Jill, so for three days he arrived at the mills at 5 a.m. - and each morning the mills were shrouded in sea mist. At this stage Michael said they would have to do the scene without him. Next morning there was a superb dawn with a lovely pink-green-bluey sky, but no Michael Caine. He had to be superimposed at a later date."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"The film was also shot in London, Paris and in an underground wine cellar outside Paris where they had a large explosion - on purpose - and wine gushed everywhere."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"The production unit also did some shooting at a house on the London-Brighton road. The house was empty and very badly furnished so they just moved in all the trimmings so that the house looked like the most marvellous manor house, furnished with impeccable taste - flowers, lamps, everything. The catering was also moved in and, in between shooting, we had lovely meals there."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

"There were many guard dogs at this house and they were supposed to be locked away during the day, but one day during filming the door opened and in walked a very large Alsatian, nobody said anything. We all just froze while the dog walked around sniffing and looking at each person in turn, until someone came tearing down the stairs to lead the dog away."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

It appears that the Director, Don Siegel, loved hats. Every day he wore a different funny pull-on hat. In secret the girls on the film were making him a special hat to remind him of the film, embroidered with poppies, funny wild flowers and windmills, which they presented to him at the end of the film. As they had been able to use our house and the mills just like a studio, the film company arranged the re-painting of the exterior of the house and the re-laying of a new surface to the drive, in addition to paying for Jack's new sweeps."

Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill' Frame from the film 'Black Windmill'

Finally Mrs. Longhurst recalled how some months later she and her husband were on an aeroplane bound for the United States. "After a delicious dinner the hostess came to ask if we would like to watch the in-flight movie. We asked her what the film was, and were told that it was a film by Don Siegel called 'The Black Windmill'.
So there we were halfway across the Atlantic watching our home on film!"

In addition to "The Black Windmill", over the years Jack and Jill Windmills have been used as television, photographic and film locations. Click here for details.