The Promise

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L to R: Susan MacReady, Ian McKellen, John Castle
Photo by: Ruan O'Lochlainn

Lik Vasilyevna . . . Susan MacReady
Leonidik . . . Ian McKellen
Marat Yestigneyev . . . John Castle
Mother . . . Mary Jones
Stepfather . . . David Mettheim
Soldier . . . David Garfield
Neighbour . . . Christopher Banks
Actor . . . Donald Bain
Oelya . . . Tina Williams
Pyotr . . . William Lyon-Brown

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Continuity shot (Polaroid)

Produced by Howard and Wyndham Films,
Peter Graham Scott
Directed by Michael Hayes
Director of Photography: Brendon Stafford
Art Director: Bill McCrow
From the Play by Alexei Arbuzov
Release Date: December 1969

One of the BFI's 75 "most wanted" missing films.


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The grown-up Leonidik in false beard and moustache

"Alexei Arbuzov's sentimental yet incisive play about three orphaned teenagers trapped in the Siege of Leningrad followed the changing fortunes of their love triangle through three acts until they were in their thirties. It was a hit from Moscow across Europe to the West End where I appeared with Judi Dench and Ian McShane. Then I transferred (with Eileen Atkins and Ian McShane) to the Henry Miller’s Theatre on Broadway. With the Cold War raging, it was difficult for Americans to accept three Brits in a sympathetic Soviet story. As a film, it fared badly with the critics who detected its theatre origins too strongly. Still it turns up late at night on cable television. 'The Promise' was the first time I recreated one of my stage performances on film.

"We filmed at Shepperton Studios and reused the Dickensian sets from the musical film 'Oliver,' which now doubled for war-torn Leningrad."

— Ian McKellen, August 1999