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Doctor Syn (film)

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Doctor Syn
Doctor Syn (1937 film) poster.jpg
DVD-R cover
Directed byRoy William Neill
Maude T. Howell (asst.)
Written byRoger Burford
Michael Hogan
Based onnovel by Russell Thorndike
Produced byMichael Balcon
Edward Black
StarringGeorge Arliss
Margaret Lockwood
John Loder
CinematographyJack E. Cox
Edited byR. E. Dearing
Music byLouis Levy
Hugh Bath
Jack Beaver
Release dates
25 August 1937 (U.K.)
14 November 1937 (U.S.)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Doctor Syn (Dr. Syn in the United States) 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 storyline.


Led by Captain Collyer, a detachment of Royal Navy tax revenue collectors arrive in the village of Dymchurch on Romney Marsh. The area is known for liquor-smuggling, and they are on the trail of the culprits. They find a peaceful village of apparently honest, pious, and simple folk, looked after benevolently by their philanthropic vicar, Doctor Syn.

Dr Syn is in fact The Scarecrow, the leader of the band of parish smugglers. He uses his cover as a man of the cloth to run a profitable smuggling ring, whose profits are used to improve the lives of the local citizenry by paying their heavy tax burden imposed by the Crown. Collyer gradually comes to suspect what is going on, after which a series of chases and confrontations takes place. The Scarecrow and his smugglers narrowly outwit their Royal Navy pursuers on the surrounding marshlands.

Captain Collyer finally discovers that Syn is none other than the notorious pirate Captain Clegg, thought to have been hanged many years earlier and buried in the graveyard at Dymchurch. Still one step ahead of the Collyer and his men, Syn destroys all incriminating evidence, after which he and his smugglers disappear, making their escape from England by merchant ship.



This was the last film of George Arliss' 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] This was a key turning point in Lockwood's career.[10]


There are two songs used in the film:

  • "Heavenly Home" (hymn sung by congregation in the opening church scene)[11]
  • "Come Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl" (traditional drinking song)[12]

Home media

Dr. Syn was released in the U.S. on a public domain Region 1 DVD-R in 2014. Product code: 6 44827 11062 9


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Man Who Doubles for George Arliss". Lancashire Evening Post: 4. 1 December 1937.
  3. ^ "SPOTLIGHT ON TODAY'S TALKIES". The News. Vol. XXVIII, no. 4, 319. Adelaide. 27 May 1937. p. 12. Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "PICTURES & PERSONALITIES". The Mercury. Vol. CXLVII, no. 20, 843. Tasmania. 11 September 1937. p. 5. Retrieved 7 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Flashes". The Age. No. 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 April 1937. p. 12.
  7. ^ "TALKIE NEWS". The Chronicle. Vol. LXXX, no. 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. ^ Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.
  11. ^ "Heavenly Home". Hymnary.Org. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Come Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl". Classic English Folk Lyrics. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
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Doctor Syn (film)
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