Behind the scenes: The Night of the Hunter

Six rare images reveal relaxed moments with Robert Mitchum and Charles Laughton during the making of a terrifying American classic.

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With the snap of that clapperboard, actor Robert Mitchum will transform into psychotic, self-styled preacher Harry Powell for a scene of crackling menace in Charles Laughton’s visionary 1955 fable The Night of the Hunter.

With the snap of that clapperboard, actor Robert Mitchum will transform into psychotic, self-styled preacher Harry Powell for a scene of crackling menace in Charles Laughton’s visionary 1955 fable The Night of the Hunter.

Adapted by James Agee from Davis Grubb’s extraordinary novel, The Night of the Hunter follows the ruthless efforts of rogue preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) to lay his hands on a fortune stolen by a man he met in prison. He decides to charm the man’s widow (Shelley Winters) and two young children – but reckons without the boy’s resistance…

As one of the two Harper childen set in Powell’s deadly sights, Sally Jane Bruce gives one of cinema’s most unforgettable portrayals of a child in peril. Here she enjoys a less fraught moment, playing with a viewfinder with director Charles Laughton.

As one of the two Harper childen set in Powell’s deadly sights, Sally Jane Bruce gives one of cinema’s most unforgettable portrayals of a child in peril. Here she enjoys a less fraught moment, playing with a viewfinder with director Charles Laughton.

 

Laughton gets down to the floor to try out a shot with director of photography Stanley Cortez, also known for his work with Orson Welles. Cortez later commented: ‘Apart from The Magnificent Ambersons, the most exciting experience I have had in the cinema was with Charles Laughton on Night of the Hunter.’

Laughton gets down to the floor to try out a shot with director of photography Stanley Cortez, also known for his work with Orson Welles. Cortez later commented: ‘Apart from The Magnificent Ambersons, the most exciting experience I have had in the cinema was with Charles Laughton on Night of the Hunter.’

 

Charles Laughton chats with Robert Mitchum between takes. Although clearly a natural in the director’s chair, after the critical and box-office failure of The Night of the Hunter, Laughton would never again make a film.

Charles Laughton chats with Robert Mitchum between takes. Although clearly a natural in the director’s chair, after the critical and box-office failure of The Night of the Hunter, Laughton would never again make a film.

 

A conversation between Robert Mitchum and his director. Mitchum’s character’s sinister ‘L.O.V.E.’ tattoo is clearly visible on his right hand.

A conversation between Robert Mitchum and his director. Mitchum’s character’s sinister ‘L.O.V.E.’ tattoo is clearly visible on his right hand.

 

Laughton watches actors Robert Mitchum and Peter Graves getting ready for the early jail scene, where the film’s terrifying villain discovers that a stolen fortune is hidden away awaiting recovery.

Laughton watches actors Robert Mitchum and Peter Graves getting ready for the early jail scene, where the film’s terrifying villain discovers that a stolen fortune is hidden away awaiting recovery.

The Night of the Hunter is back in cinemas, including an extended run at BFI Southbank, on 17 January.

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