The 1958 film ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness‘ was filmed at Nantmor and Beddgelert in addition to at Elstree Studios.
The following article was published in the Liverpool Echo on Friday 16 May 1958:
Chinese City Comes To Life On Mountain Slopes Near Beddgelert
Mule trains will be seen above village
Paddy fields where Welsh sheep and cattle graze
Setting for a film
By an Echo Reporter
On the rugged mountain slopes above Nantmor, a picture postcard village, with one chapel, a post office and two shops, near Beddgelert, Caernarvonshire, a Chinese “city” is quickly taking shape.
Called Wang Cheng, it is being built by 20th Century Fox for the film “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Shooting will begin after Whitsun and during the holiday Ingrid Bergman, Curt Jurgens, and other stars of the production and hundreds of Chinese extras will travel on location to the Beddgelert area.
For the past month a team of M.G.M. construction men – they are working for the 20th Century Fox on the locale – have been bringing a breath of China to the hills above Nantmor. The “city” walls have been made out of prefabricated plastercasts clipped onto steel tube scaffolding, and from far or near they look just like the real thing. The set is complete with look-out towers of timber and Masonite, and there is a realistic gateway through which mule trains will pass when filming starts. The sets were brought to Nantmor on special lorries.
When the touch up experts have finished with the city walls and look-out towers, Wang Cheng will have a mellow and ancient air about it. In the meadows outside the city walls where Welsh mountain sheep and cattle graze, paddy fields are being made. Haystacks a la Chinese are of timber and wire netting – corn-grinders, and water treadmills, too, will be part of the scene.
Mr. Leo Davis (constructional manager on the site, who has a team of 45 men) said that bad weather had thrown the work behind schedule. But the sets had stood up to the severe battering they had got from the wind.
He stated: “Up to a week ago we were making wonderful progress, but the recent bad weather has upset all our plans.”
Before going to Beddgelert, Mr. Davis spent seven weeks in China on research with a party of experts.
The film tells the story of Gladys Aylward – Ingrid Bergman plays this role – a Lancashire woman who went out to China as a missionary. The period it covers is the 1930’s. The main scene to be shot is of an attack by Japanese bombers, and aircraft will be specially commissioned to do the job.
Mules will be brought in from Ireland and some of the horses needed have been hired from North Wales riding schools. Chinese extras, some of whom will be billeted in youth hostels in the Snowdon area, have been drawn mainly from Merseyside. Many of the extras are young children.
Some four miles from Nantmor, too, in the Sygyn Fawr, a disused copper mine, a Chinese village called Peh Chu is coming to life. Here a temple, a market place, a village square and ornamental gates will be put up and to give the scene a real true-to-nature touch, ditches have been opened up and small ponds made.
Two brothers from Beddgelert, Harry and Robert Williams, both of whom are stonemasons, are doing specialised work on the walls at Peh Chu.
Welcome in area
The Beddgelert area was chosen by producer Mark Robson as a location scene because of its striking resemblance to Northern China. The work has gone well and , said Mr. Davis: “I am very grateful for the friendliness and co-operation shown by everyone here. They have helped us enormously.”
Everyone on the job feels that he is really welcome in the area.
The film is being made in England and North Wales and shooting began at Elstree Studios in March. There Mr. Robson is using the largest set yet constructed in Europe to depict a complete Chinese city. Within the walled city at Elstree are lakes, shops, a winding street and a mandarin’s house which were all built by 750 carpenters and skilled craftsmen at a cost of 250,000 dollars. Another star of the film in Robert Donat, who returns to the screen after an absence of four years. Filming at Beddgelert is scheduled to go on until June 15, provided the weather holds good.