Whistle Down The Wind (1961, Alan Bates, Hayley Mills)

Alan Bates and Hayley Mills star in enduring childhood fable Whistle Down The Wind. Three Lancashire children find a criminal hiding out in their barn and come to believe he’s Jesus Christ.

Among the most enduring – and most unusual – post-war British children’s dramas, Whistle Down The Wind catches its star Hayley Mills at the peak of her powers.

Adapted by Keith Waterhouse from a story by Mills’ mother, Mary Hayley Bell, it’s neither a character study nor a coming-of-age tale. Rather it’s a sort of parable about the power and limits of religious faith, and the displacement of childhood certainty with doubt.

The story centres on three rural Lancashire kids who find a mysterious stranger (Alan Bates) asleep in their barn. The eldest, Kathy (Hayley Mills), asks him who he is. His first words to her – “Jesus Christ!” – are misunderstood and Kathy becomes convinced that the man, a murderer on the run from the police, is the Messiah. Slowly she weaves an entire mythology around him until all he says and does is loaded with religious significance.

Cast: Bernard Lee, Alan Bates, Hayley Mills, Diane Holgate, Alan Barnes

Writer: Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall
Director: Bryan Forbes