But Blackman led an interesting life well before either of those roles made her famous.
|Blackman as "Pussy Galore" - in Goldfinger, 1964.|
|As Cathy Gale in The Avengers - 1962 - 64|
In World War II, Blackman, still just a teenager, was a dispatch rider for the British "Home Office" - delivering messages by motorcycle between military headquarters and field units. It was very dangerous work, and it was primarily done by young women as the men were on the battlefield.
|Blackman aboard her Triumph motorcycle, risking her life for war effort. (Damn, I love this picture)|
Blackman's acting career began shortly after the war ended, and one of her earliest films was a cute little "romantic comedy" called A Boy, a Girl, and a Bike, 1949.
I'm not going to kid you that it was a great film in any way. But it is entertaining, and features the British cycling club-riding scene as a major part of the story. There's lots of footage of riding and racing around the Yorkshire area of England, and the story is decent - if a little under-developed in places.
The film begins with the wealthy David Howarth (John McCallum) - a car-loving jerk who views cyclists as nuisances who "think they own the road" - as he then forces a bunch of them off the road with his car:
|David getting annoyed (honking impatiently) as he comes upon the local cycling club, the Wakeford Wheelers. . .|
|. . . Then whistling away as the entire club is left to pick themselves up off the side of the road.|
|Of course, one of those "nuisance" cyclists is the lovely Susie Bates, played by Blackman, riding alongside her on-screen boyfriend, Sam Walters (Patrick Holt) - one of the club's leaders.|
|Not long after, David and Susie run into each other again (literally) when David knocks Susie off her bike and damages it.|
As mentioned, the entire story is set against the backdrop of the club riding scene of the late '40s, and there are numerous shots of riders in the Yorkshire countryside, riding along roads lined by craggy stone walls, and a couple of races between the rival clubs in the area.
|And barely a car to be seen anywhere. God, it looks idyllic.|
One thing I found interesting, from a historical/trivial angle, is that the racing depicted in the film is of the "Continental" style or "massed start" racing, while most club racing in Britain in those days was in the form of time-trialing. What this means is that the clubs depicted in the film (if we were to make the "leap" that this was not just a movie) would have to have been affiliated with the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) which advocated for massed start racing - and put them at odds with the National Cyclist's Union that governed British racing in those days. The Taylor Brothers were among the first to join the BLRC, which got them kicked out of the NCU. Another early advocate for British massed-start racing was Henry Rensch, of the "Paris" bicycle brand (a point that I'll come back to shortly).
As a product of its time, some of the riding footage looks a little goofy by today's standards (No - I'm not being overly critical - one has to just accept these things when watching old movies like this) as the film sometimes switches from decent on-location exterior shots of riders out on the road, to "close-ups" that are clearly done in a studio.
|(On the road)|
|(NOT on the road)|
|My favorite. That's Sam and David (in white) - rivals for Susie's attention - teaming up to defeat a rival club.|
|When was the last time you saw the finer details of bike construction used as a plot device? One of the club members, whose bike was stolen, describes to the police that even if his stolen bike were repainted, it could be identified positively by its brake cables that route through the top-tube. Now, here's some serious bike anorak trivia: Though he calls his bike "a foreign make," when we eventually see the stolen bike up close, it is a Rensch-built Paris-brand bicycle (actually a British bike with a foreign name). Recall that Rensch was one of those early advocates of massed-start racing in Britain - and the model shown here is probably their "Tour de France" model.|
But on the whole, despite whatever flaws it may have as a film, A Boy, a Girl, and a Bike is an enjoyable movie, a good diversion while we're shut in during the pandemic, and a nice showcase for the young Honor Blackman.
I hope you'll enjoy it!