Duration: 48 mins (5 reels). Format: 35 mm. Length: 43000 feet. Viewing copy at BFI Viewing Service.
Cast: Johnny Butt (Captain Hunt); Mary Braithwaite (Mrs Hunt); Charles Ashton (Harry Green); Charley Legge (Toby Cooper); Tom Coventry (Sam Brown), Bobbie Rudd (Billy Jones), Kate Guerney (Cast member), Harry Newman (Cast member) and Montmorency (Matey, The dog).
Plot Synopsis from BFI’s National Film Archive Catalogue:
A small boy [Billy] looking for a way of avoiding the workhouse looks for a father. Rl. 1 Captain Hunt of the ketch `Nancy Bell’ sends his crew off for a drink before they sail. They take along Sam who has been reading his copy of `The War Cry’ and is a member of the Salvation Army Band. Nosey Jones has died and left his son, Billy, and his dog Matey destitute. Matey runs up to Sam and Billy decides that Sam, as a father, would keep him out of the workhouse. He rushes up to Sam and calls him father (808).
Rl. 2. Sam leaves after trying to explain to a Salvation Army lady that Billy is not his son. Billy follows but Sam leaves him in a shop. Billy meets Harry and Charley who have been informed by the Salvation Army lady that Sam is with his son. They decide to play a joke on Sam (1060).
Rl. 3. The two take Billy on board the ketch and he asks to see his father. The Captain allows Billy to sail with the ketch. They sail out of the port of London. Billy becomes very popular with all the crew except for Sam. That day they reach their first port of call – Withersea (2017).
Rl. 4 At the next port of call, Dimport, Mrs Hunt, wife of the captain, and Mrs Brown, wife of Sam are preparing for their husbands’ homecoming. But Sam has deserted at the first port. He is seen, however, by Billy and brought back to the ketch. The ketch sails for the next port of call, Dimport, and Sam, scared to face his wife with Billy in tow, slips overboard and swims ashore with Matey (2808).
Rl. 5. The next morning, Sam is missed and is feared drowned. Harry tells the Captain that Billy is not in fact, Sam’s little boy, and the Captain admits that he had known this all along. Sam arrives home in Dimport, tells his wife he has deserted and hides in the pigsties. Billy is left behind on the ketch as the Mate and the Captain go ashore to break the sad news to Sam’s wife. Billy sneaks off the boat and follows them (3508). Rl. 6. When the Captain and the Mate call on Mrs Brown, Sam is discovered having been betrayed by Matey. Billy is caught following them and he transfers his attentions to the captain who now becomes his `father’. Billy follows the Captain home and after a slight misunderstanding is adopted by the Hunts (4266ft). Note: The place names of Withersea and Dimport are fictional. The voyage is probably along the Kent coast of the Thames Estuary. Note: Includes establishing shots of the port of London in the opening sequences and shots of the two unidentified fishing villages on the Kent coast. Most of the filming is location work apart from brief scenes in the sailors’ quarters. Note: The dog’s credited name of Montmorency is probably a play on the dog’s name in Jerome K. Jerome’s book “Three Men in a Boat”.
This film brings together Charles Ashton and Johnny Butt for a delightful comedy.
Scenes of the voyage were probably filmed along the Kent coast and in theThames Estuary . Most of the filming was on location apart from brief scenes in the sailors’ quarters.
The film is based on a popular novel by W.W. Jacobs. Booksellers were invited to stock W.W. Jacobs’s books to promote the film wherever it was released according to this trade prospectus for the film :
“Cinema managers are assured ”Arrangements will be made with the publishers of Mr W.W. Jacob’s works whereby the booksellers will be notified in every district where the Film is being exhibited. No effort will be spared on our part to help the Exhibitor to boom the picture.”
Sam’s Boy was shown as part of the 13th British Silent Film Festival programme on 16 April 2010, Leicester.
See Programme note at http://www.britishsilents.co.uk/silent/programme.html