Newcastle in film: The Clouded Yellow

Inspired by Hartlepool-born Michael Smith's return to his native (sic) Newcastle, I thought I would begin an occasional series on 'Newcastle in film'. For the purposes of the series I will use Michael's definition of Newcastle as anywhere on Tyneside or where he went on his holidays as a lad.

The title of The Clouded Yellow refers to a breed of butterfly rather than the yellow trolleybuses that make a black-and-white appearance in Ralph Thomas's 1951 thriller. David Somers (Trevor Howard) loses his job in counter-intelligence for a 'single mistake'. As he considers his future he takes a quiet job in the country cataloguing a collection of butterflies for Nicholas Fenton. He falls for Fenton's wife's niece Sophie (Jean Simmons), a fragile beauty who is treated as a psychological case by her creepy Aunt Jess because she had witnessed the murder of her parents when she was a small child. Somers begins to suspect Sophie is being manipulated, and when she is accused of the murder of a disagreeable groundsman helps her to escape. They make for Newcastle (by ship from London because the police will only be watching people leaving the country) where Somers has contacts from his espionage days who owe him a favour (German (?) refugees and a Greek (?) taxidermist). Fearing he might expose state secrets in an attempt to protect Sophie, MI6 dispatch Kenneth More in hot pursuit.

The tram on the bridge dates the shot to before 4 March 1950 when the last Corporation cars ran and the Tyne Bridge tracks were abandoned. Gateshead company cars however continued to cross the High Level Bridge into the city until 1951.

Somers's mysterious contact Dr. Karl Cesare leaves the Central Station. The couple have not arrived by train. He is heading for the eastern exit which served the platforms used by the electric trains to the coast and had its own ticket office.

He gives up waiting at the Haymarket bus station. The have not arrived by coach. The double-decker in the background is most likely a Tynemouth bus on (joint with the Corporation) route 11 to Tynemouth.

They have arrived by ship so Cesare gives chase. In the background a two-axle trolleybus on route 34 heads along City Road.

Somers and Sophie are seen running for a trolleybus in St Nicholas Street while in the background a North Tyneside electric train passes the castle on its way towards Manors.

This street and stop were actually only regularly used by vehicles on short workings of service 34 to Denton, but the 'bus shown is one of a group which spent most of their of their working lives on the Great North Road services to Gosforth. This suggests it was probably specially hired or provided for the film.

Special arrangements clearly had to be made for filming inside the 'bus where they are seen travelling along Neville Street past the Victoria and Comet Hotel opposite the Central Station. This would not have been possible for a trolleybus leaving St Nicholas Street. Somers asks for tickets to Jesmond.

They travel on a 31B to Exhibition Park. The class of which 483 was an example was actually built for London Transport and diverted to Newcastle in 1948.

Cesare's car pulls up behind them.

Later, on the run, their attempt to escape the police via the Dog Leap Stairs is frustrated so they steal a rowing boat and cross the river to begin their second flight to Liverpool via the Lake District. The faction now strongly resembles The 39 Steps also directed by Thomas (and starring Kenneth More) in its 1959 version.

Police check-point on the Tyne Bridge.


  1. more like this please; never heard of this film; most interesting; regards, Charles