Doctor Syn (film)

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Doctor Syn
Directed by Roy William Neill
Produced by Michael Balcon
Edward Black
Written by Roger Burford
Michael Hogan
Based on novel by Russell Thorndike
Starring George Arliss
Margaret Lockwood
John Loder
Music by Louis Levy
Hugh Bath
Jack Beaver
Cinematography Jack E. Cox
Edited by R. E. Dearing
Release date
25 August 1937 (U.K.)
14 November 1937 (U.S.)
Running time
78 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Doctor Syn is a 1937 British black-and-white historical dramatic adventure film, directed by Roy William Neill for Gainsborough Pictures. It stars George Arliss (in his last feature film), Margaret Lockwood, Graham Moffatt and Ronald Shiner.[1] The film is based on the Doctor Syn novels of Russell Thorndike, set in 18th century Kent. The character of Syn and the events at the film's climax were both softened considerably in comparison to Thorndike's original story.


Led by Captain Collyer (Roy Emerton), a detachment of Royal Navy tax and revenue officers arrive in the village of Dymchurch on Romney Marsh. The area is notorious for liquor-smuggling and they are on the trail of the culprits. They find a village of apparently honest, pious and simple folk, looked after benevolently by their philanthropic vicar Doctor Syn (Arliss). Syn is in fact the leader of the smugglers of the parish, using his cover as a man of the cloth to run a profitable ring whose dividends are used to better the lives of the local community. Collyer gradually comes to suspect what is going on, and a series of chases and confrontations takes place across the marshes, in which Syn and the smugglers always narrowly outwit their pursuers. Collyer finally discovers that Syn is none other than the notorious pirate Captain Clegg, thought to have been executed many years earlier. Still one step ahead, Syn destroys all incriminating evidence and he and his men make their escape.



It was the last film George Arliss made under his contract with Gaumont British.[3] "He is a quite good parson and there is virtue even in his smuggling", said Arliss. "I think we can make him quite an amusing character, and the subject is picturesque and dramatic."[4]

The film was announced in April,[5] taking place at Gaumont British's studio at Islington.[6] There was some location work in Dymchurch [7] and the marshes around Rye and Winchelsea. [8]

Anna Lee was to play the female lead. She was replaced by Margaret Lockwood who impressed with her performance so much she was offered a three-year contract by Gainsborough Pictures.[9]


There are two songs in the film:

  • Heavenly Home (hymn sung by congregation in the opening church scene)[10]
  • Come Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl (traditional drinking song)[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Man Who Doubles for George Arliss". Lancashire Evening Post: 4. 1 December 1937.
  3. ^ "SPOTLIGHT ON TODAY'S TALKIES". The News. XXVIII (4, 319). Adelaide. 27 May 1937. p. 12. Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "PICTURES & PERSONALITIES". The Mercury. CXLVII (20, 843). Tasmania. 11 September 1937. p. 5. Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Flashes". The Age (25, 651). Victoria, Australia. 3 July 1937. p. 6 (THE AGE HOME SECTION). Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "STUDIO AND SCREEN: A Schools Film Institute Group for Manchester--Making a Star--Some New Films". The Manchester Guardian. Manchester (UK). 29 Apr 1937. p. 12.
  7. ^ "TALKIE NEWS". The Chronicle. LXXX (4, 208). Adelaide. 8 July 1937. p. 51. Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Dr Syn Unit to Film near Hastings". Hastings and St Leonards Observer: 9. 29 May 1937.
  9. ^ "NEWS OF THE SCREEN: ' Woman Chases Man' Opens Today at Music Hall'George and Margaret' on Warner's Program News From Hollywood". New York Times. 10 June 1937. p. 27.
  10. ^ "Heavenly Home". Hymnary.Org. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Come Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl". Classic English Folk Lyrics. Retrieved 7 May 2018.

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