Wednesday, 1 December 2010


I put a few items up in 2008 relating to the time when the BBC filmed the Alan Bennett play "An Englishman Abroad" in the early 80's, with Dundee being transformed into Moscow.
Well I have a really good bundle of photos which were taken behind the scenes when all this was taking place.
So, in the 2 pictures above, we have shoe shop Peter Lord, on the Murraygate/Commercial Street corner, being modified into it's Russian equivalent.
Across the road on the other corner was John Menzies, who also got the Moscow name change treatment.
It was actually forecast for snow around the time of filming but only a tiny flurry dropped, not nearly enough for what the director, John Schlesinger, had in mind. So the decision was made at 4am to use salt instead. 14 council workers were brought down to the city centre to spread 80 tons of the stuff around town in order that filming could commence at 8:30am pronto.
I was there. They did a really convincing job.
Below is the part of the film where you see the Commercial Street scene.
The actress is trying to find someone who could give her directions to an address she had been given. She then ends up searching around Exchange Street.


  1. Fantastic!

    Just in case anyone is wondering what the signs say, "женская" (or "zhenskaya") means "female", while "мясо" ("myaso") next to JMs means "meat".

    No idea what the old bloke says though - my Russian isn't quite up to scratch!

  2. I remember being out for a drive with John Henderson Jnr (of the undertakers/limousine company)out at Auchmithie, he used to drive around in an old "Minster" Limo, and he was approached by John Schlesinger in the carpark of the Milk Bar there about using his car in the movie, dunno if they ever did, John referred him to his Dad. I also remember kicking around the salt in the city centre at the time.

  3. Alan Bennett records his appreciation in his 1994 memoir 'Writing Home':

    'Certainly we were always pretty far down the line when production money was handed out, however good our track record. Hence the Moscow scenes in "An Englishman Abrad" had to be filmed in Dundee, which turned out to be a blessing...'

  4. Does it have a date when the filming took place?
    I have 2 different bits of info.
    One says it was filmed in November 82, the other says February 83. That's why I opted for the general term of "early 80's".
    It could be both of course. Maybe the Glasgow shots were done in 82 and the Dundee ones in 83, or vice versa.

  5. I'm no expert, and this is very much a guess/hunch, but I wonder if interior shots were done in November 82, and the exterior shots (in Dundee) were done in February 83?

    I'm guessing that (unless the filming was done on a Sunday) trade would have been significantly affected for a great deal of the day while streets were shut off, so I would think they would struggle to get permission to film in a city centre during November (pre-Christmas shopping rush and all that). February is slightly less hectic.

    Total guess, though.

  6. Nice footage of exchange street. You can even see the guy from Dundee council (wearing the Cossack hat) about to put his hand on the woman's shoulder and let her know that if she puts a poster up there, he will report her to the (secret) Police...

  7. Yes, GG, there's a date given.

    Dipping into the diary extracts of (National Treasure) Alan Bennett, we find:

    '1983, 8 February, Dundee. A day off from filming "An Englishman Abroad" and I go to Edinburgh with Alan Bates.'

  8. Cheers Neale.
    I remember the team were definitely in town on a Sunday & Monday and having checked the net, the 8th Feb 83 was a Tuesday, so that all seems to fit nicely.

  9. Great pictures! I remember standing watching the crew preparing a shot on the City Square, which was full of salt. For some reason I only hung around watching for a few minutes ( though if it was a Monday it may have been lunch hour). I was already a big fan of "Midnight Cowboy" and "Marathon Man" but somehow never made the connection that I was watching the same legendary Hollywood director at work! Missed my chance! Today I'd take a week off work and hang out like a geek on the set...