Passage Home
Diane Cilento with Peter Finch during the making of the film
Directed byRoy Ward Baker
Written byWilliam Fairchild
Story bynovel by Richard Armstrong
Produced byJulian Wintle
StarringAnthony Steel
Peter Finch
Diane Cilento
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited bySidney Hayers
Music byClifton Parker
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
  • April 1955 (1955-04) (UK)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Passage Home is a 1955 British drama film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Anthony Steel, Peter Finch and Diane Cilento.[2] The screenplay was by William Fairchild based on the 1952 novel of the same name by Richard Armstrong.


Captain "Lucky" Ryland is about to retire. He has a flashback of several years to a voyage on a merchant ship which he was captaining from South America. He is forced to give passage to a British governess, Ruth Elton, who is returning to England.

Both Ryland and his second mate, Vosper, fall for Ruth. Ryland proposes to Ruth and when she turns down his offer he tries to rape her in his cabin but she is rescued by Vosper. The ship survives a very severe storm in which Vosper saves Ruth's life outside on deck after which Ruth and Vosper realize that they are in love with each other.

There is a subplot about the dissatisfaction of the ship's crew with being fed rotten potatoes, which Ryland has bought cheaply simply to save money. Ryland says a good cook would still be able to use them productively. The potatoes are dumped overboard and Ryland is determined to find out who is responsible by offering the crew £5 for any information as to who did it. Vosper accuses Shorty, who is acting oddly, and they fight. Ike intervenes and fights Vosper. Shorty then confesses to Ike but Ike takes the blame. Probably due to the fight, Ike, who is already known to be ill, takes to his bed and dies. He is buried at sea in a makeshift coffin.

At the allotted time of the funeral Ryland is drunk, drowning his sorrow in whisky due to being rejected by Ruth (whom he had seriously assaulted, ripping her dress). The red ensign is flown at half mast. Ryland struggles to find the right pages in the Book of Common Prayer and loses his place. When the body is slid overboard they recite the Lord's Prayer.

That night Ryland is even more drunk. The steward brings his dinner and he rudely demands that he "do his job" and tidy his room. A violent storm is throwing things around. The ship is in trouble but Ryland musters himself and manages to give logical instructions to get her through the storm. Down below the engineer struggles to keep up the power. In the hold things start sliding and Shorty is crushed by a crate holding a bull while pushing Burns to safety. They head for "The Lizard". Ruth goes on deck and is in danger of being swept away when part of the safety railing is destroyed. Vosper saves her and carries her to her cabin where they kiss.

Coming out of flashback, Ruth and Vosper are now married and are attending Ryland's retirement function. Ryland shakes her hand and calls her "Mrs Vosper". The film ends with Ruth looking at Ryland in tears because she still has feelings for Ryland after all of the years.



It was Roy Ward Baker's first film after working for several years in Hollywood. Baker's biographer would later write "although he [Baker] was disappointed in the eventual result Passage Home was the quintessential 1940s and 1950s Baker film – classical in style and melodramatic/generic in its basic structure... it conveys a quiet, pervasive sense of despair in its storyline, involving melancholy and sexual repression."[3]

The script was by William Fairchild who had written Morning Departure (1950), alo directed by Baker. The director called it "a bomb in the bomb locker story... all pretty formula stuff. It's not very good... The whole film should have been set in 1885 on a sailing ship. It was sort of a Victorian film. It just didn't work as a modern day film."[4] He added "there was this fatal flaw, it was an old-fashioned story in an almost contemporary setting and it didn’t really work."[1]

Baker felt the "only interesting thing about" the film was it used a new form of back projection.[4]

Diane Cilento's casting was announced in September 1954.[5] She was cast after producer Julian Wintle had seen 60 people. Cilento had only recently appeared on stage in The Big Knife and signed a five year contract with Alex Korda.[6] Her co star was Peter Finch, a fellow Australian.[7]

The film was shot at Pinewood Studios in November 1954.[8][9] It was the first film Finch made under a new five year contract with the Rank Organisation.[9]

It was also the first film Michael Craig made under contract to Rank. He said filming went for over three months and was impressed by the set, saying "the art department, if no one else, had done us proud."[10]

Baker said "the film went out and they probably made a bit of money on it. It was certainly well made. It was a splendid production, storm sequences and all that stuff."[1]


The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "This is a film made with considerable if impersonal accomplishment, and an efficient surface realism; the story has promising elements, and there is evidence of determination in the writing generally to get beyond the stereotype in the characterisations of the crew of the Bulinga. To a limited extent, it succeeds, and the supporting figures achieve a measure of individuality. The main situation, however, is insufficiently explored. Only Ryland (played with an effective, sullen concentration by Peter Finch) emerges as a fully rounded figure; Ruth (Diane Cilento, a clearly interesting personality here none too happily cast) remains an elusive, too passive character, and Vosper (Anthony Steel) is colourless. The triangle situation, anyway, is lost at its crisis by the intervention of the storm, a deus ex machina in disguise which takes up an unconscionable amount of footage. There are good minor performances by Gordon Jackson, Bryan Forbes and Cyril Cusack."[11]

Filmink argued the film would have been more successful if a war film.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Transcript of Interview with Roy Ward Baker" (PDF). History Project. 1989. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  2. ^ "Passage Home". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  3. ^ Mayer, Geoff (2004). Roy Ward Baker. Manchester University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780719063541.
  4. ^ a b "Collected Interviews: Voices from Twentieth-century Cinema". SIU Press. 2001. p. 151. ISBN 9780809324170.
  5. ^ "SHAKESPEARE TONED DOWN". Sunday Times (Perth). No. 2912. Western Australia. 26 September 1954. p. 9 (MAGAZINE). Retrieved 26 June 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "MARIAN MARCH PAGE". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Vol. 97, no. 29, 987. South Australia. 23 November 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 26 June 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Australian Stars Team In New Rank Film". The Newcastle Sun. No. 11, 308. New South Wales, Australia. 1 October 1954. p. 7. Retrieved 26 June 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Victor Valentine pays a visit to Australian Stars IN LONDON". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 22 January 1955. p. 46. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Peter Finch gets new offer". Sunday Mail. Queensland, Australia. 21 November 1954. p. 4. Retrieved 26 June 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ Craig, Michael (2005). The Smallest Giant: An Actor's Life. Allen and Unwin. p. 66.
  11. ^ "Passage Home". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 22 (252): 84. 1 January 1955 – via ProQuest.
  12. ^ Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.