Bonnie Prince Charlie
Directed byAnthony Kimmins
Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Leslie Arliss (uncredited)
Robert Stevenson (uncredited)
Written byClemence Dane
Produced byEdward Black
Alexander Korda
StarringDavid Niven
Margaret Leighton
Judy Campbell
Jack Hawkins
CinematographyRobert Krasker
Edited byGrace Garland
Music byIan Whyte
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
  • 26 October 1948 (1948-10-26)
Running time
140 minutes (original cut)
118 mins
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£175,311 (UK)[2]

Bonnie Prince Charlie is a 1948 British historical film depicting the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and the role of Bonnie Prince Charlie within it. Filmed in Technicolor, it starred David Niven, Jack Hawkins and Margaret Leighton.


In 1745, Flora MacDonald plays a Jacobite song on the piano and is scolded by her stepfather for its seditious nature. In Italy, James, the Old Pretender, wants to make another attempt at regaining the English throne but is worried that he is too old. It is decided to send his son, Charles.

Charles arrives in Scotland and meets Donald, a Scottish shepherd, who he asks to send a message to the Scottish nobles, asking them to meet him at his ship. King George II is warned about the impending invasion but is not worried. Charles tries to persuade the nobles to fight for him and most agree, except for Lord MacDonald, who is concerned about the lack of French support. The clans rally to Charles, including Lord George Murray, and proclaim their loyalty to James. The rebellion begins. Charles is accompanied by another shepherd, Blind Jimmie.

Charles and his men enter Edinburgh in triumph. Clementina Walkinshaw throws him a rose and they meet at a dance and begin a romance. General Cope arrives with government troops and Lord Murray does not want to tell Charles about it, thinking little of his military ability, but the prince finds out. Charles recommends they attack and the Highlanders defeat the British at the Battle of Prestonpans in seven minutes.

Charles and his forces then invade England. King George II starts to panic and sends his son, the Duke of Cumberland, to fight him. At Derby, only 127 miles from London, Lord Murray and the army council recommend a retreat, as further support has failed to materialise. Charles opposes this but the retreat goes ahead anyway. Charles is upset and seeks solace with Clementina, who encourages him to leave for France with her, but he elects to stay with his men.

The Duke of Cumberland defeats the Highlanders at the Battle of Culloden (which is not seen in the film) but is unable to find capture Charles. Charles flees to the islands with Donald, and his hidden by Flora MacDonald. MacDonald helps him evade the government troops looking for him, during the course of which at one stage he has to dress as a woman. MacDonald keeps Charles' spirits high, and he manages to get on a boat to take him back to Italy.



A movie about Bonnie Prince Charlie was a dream project of Leslie Howard prior to his death. The role was taken by David Niven, who had been a friend of Howard's.[3]

At the time, David Niven said he was keen to make the movie as it gave him the chance to return to England, and he did not enjoy being in Hollywood after the tragic death of his first wife. Samuel Goldwyn, who had Niven under contract, agreed to loan out the actor to Alexander Korda, who was producing the film.[4] Later on, however, Niven alleged he had been forced by Goldwyn to take the role.[5] It was one of the few roles Niven played in his career without his moustache.[6]

Kora's original choice to play Flora MacDonald was Deborah Kerr, but she accepted a Hollywood contract and was unavailable for filming.[7]Stage actor Margaret Leighton was cast instead.

Filming took place on location in Scotland and at Shepperton studios in London. Soldiers in the British army were hired as extras, but complained they were not paid.[8] The film ended up taking two years to make. Portions of the film were also directed by Robert Stevenson, Leslie Arliss and Alex Korda.[9] Producer Edward Black died not long after the premiere.

Niven later recalled the movie without affection:

Bonnie Prince Charlie was one of those huge, florid extravaganzas that reek of disaster from the start. There was never a completed screenplay, and never during the eight months we were shooting were the writers more than two days ahead of the actors. In confusion we suffered three changes of directors, with Korda himself desperately taking over, and at one point I cabled Goldwyn: "I have now worked every day for five months on this picture and nobody can tell me how story ends. Advise." He didn't. He didn't even bother to answer. I loved Alex Korda, a brilliant, generous creature, but with this film he was wallowing in confusion. I felt sorry for him, but sorrier for myself as the Bonnie Prince who would assuredly bear the blame for the impending debacle.[5]

However, Niven did meet his second wife during filming.[10]


The film was poorly reviewed by London critics, most criticising the movie as dull and claiming that David Niven was miscast. However, Margaret Leighton received acclaim for her performance.[11] It failed to recoup its cost at the box office.


  1. ^ "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954). Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 13 March 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  2. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000
  3. ^ "THE ARGUS introduces the exciting story of LESLIE HOWARD...AND THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 777". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956). Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia. 22 September 1956. p. 9. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  4. ^ "PETER KINGSTON'S FILMS". The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950). Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 8 June 1946. p. 26 Edition: FIRST EDITION. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b "DAVID NIVEN'S OWN STORY". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982). 1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia. 15 September 1971. p. 15. Retrieved 6 July 2012.((cite news)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  6. ^ "Australian director may return home". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982). 1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia. 30 August 1947. p. 40. Retrieved 6 July 2012.((cite news)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ "Korda Film Postponed". The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 24 May 1947. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  8. ^ "Soldiers Dislike Being Unpaid Film Extras". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). NSW: National Library of Australia. 22 August 1946. p. 3. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  9. ^ "British Film News 17-YEARS-OLD OPHELIA FOR SCREEN "HAMLET"". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). NSW: National Library of Australia. 15 May 1947. p. 10. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  10. ^ "FANS AT WEDDING OF FILM STAR". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 15 January 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Not Pleased With Critics". Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954). Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 6 July 2012.