Without a doubt Scotland is beautiful, so it’s hardly surprising that many films have used it as a location. Recent times have been heralded as a boom in the Glaswegian film industry, blockbusters such as World War Z being evidence for this. Yet the city of Glasgow, along with its university, has been used as a film set for many years.
The stunning gothic revival architecture of the Gilbert Scott building makes it an obvious film location. Interestingly, though the university has played itself on a number of occasions (for example, in the 2008 film The Stone of Destiny) it frequently stands in for other universities. Cloud Atlas saw one of the quadrangles become the University of Cambridge. Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, had the cloisters pretending to be the University of Edinburgh. In Ronnie Corbett’s first feature film, You’re Only Young Twice, it played an entirely fictional university.
The university is also home to the Mackintosh House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s old home. Nicky Imrie, the International Heritage Project Support Officer, tells us more about it:
“Glimpses of a lost corner of campus can be seen in an early-1960s colour film made by the Scottish Educational Film Association (SEFA). Charles Rennie Mackintosh gives an overview of the work of the architect, designer and artist and includes the house at 78 Southpark Terrace (originally 6 Florentine Terrace) which Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret Macdonald, bought in 1906, he subsequently remodelled and lived in until 1914. Look out for views of the exterior and interiors of the house (03:23–05:00) and in particular the sunset over the University’s main building from the new window Mackintosh added in the south wall of the first-floor drawing room (04:55–9).
The house and its immediate neighbours were demolished in 1963 but not before the interiors were carefully removed and securely stored. The interiors were reassembled inside the purpose-built Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Art Gallery which opened in 1981. Located on the same site today is the medical-centre reception in the Fraser Building.”
It isn’t only the striking buildings that draw the filmmakers in, the university’s world-changing alumni bring them back too. John Buchan, the famous novelist and politician, gained an honorary LLD from the University of Glasgow in 1919 having initially studied in the late nineteenth century. The Hitchcock film of his novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, was partially filmed here. Indeed You’re Only Young Twice was based on a humorous play by James Bridie, a University of Glasgow graduate.
Another Glasgow alumnus James Alfred Wight, otherwise known as James Herriot, was the author of a series of autobiographical works about his experiences as a vet which became the television series All Creatures Great and Small. Recently the BBC had a series about Wight’s experiences at the Glasgow Veterinary College in the 1930s called Young James Herriot.
As well as attracting traditional filming, the university has also been used in pieces of art. Rosalind Nashashibi’s University Library looks at communal spaces and the patterns in day-to-day activities. This film has no dialogue or music and is far apart from the standard film narrative.
The university has certainly been used for many different kinds of films over the years. The history of the university, its prominent alumni and architectural significance of its buildings ensure its continued role in the film industry for many years to come.
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