Lights, Cameras, Action – movie star milestone has top billing on 2023 London To Brighton
The 70th anniversary of the classic British comedy film Genevieve will be celebrated in terrific style on this year’s RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (5 November).
The much-loved, Bafta-winning movie was first released in 1953 – intriguingly another coronation year – and follows the adventures of two couples participating in the annual London to Brighton event when driving a pair of early veteran cars.
Alan McKim, a young barrister, and his wife Wendy (played by John Gregson and Dinah Sheridan) are aboard a 1904 Darracq called Genevieve, after which the film is named. Their friend Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More), a rather brasher advertising salesman, and his latest girlfriend, fashion model Rosalind Peters (Kay Kendall) – plus her pet St Bernard dog – ride in a 1905 Spyker. With an Oscar-nominated score by the renowned harmonica player Larry Adler, their antics on the way to Brighton and subsequent skullduggery on a return ‘race’ to Westminster Bridge won millions of admirers right around the globe, and also fuelled unprecedented interest in the veteran car movement.
To mark the much-loved film’s 70th birthday, both the original movie star cars will be back in the spotlight come this year’s staging of the world’s longest running motoring event. While the pin-up Darracq has been a regular crowd-pleaser on recent Runs, the Spyker has not been seen on the road to Brighton for more than a decade. The pair now will be reunited in Hyde Park for the traditional early Sunday morning start in early November.
“Genevieve is a legendary film and we are so delighted to be celebrating its 70th birthday milestone on this year’s RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run,” said Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, the organiser of the quintessentially British automotive event. “Whilst none of the actors are still with us, the reunification of the Darracq and Spyker will be a rare and fitting tribute to a celluloid caper that rightly remains treasured by film buffs and motoring enthusiasts alike.”
Like so many of the pioneering cars retracing the famous route to the Sussex shore, the eponymous Darracq has quite a story to tell. It was discovered among piles of junk on an estate in East London shortly after WW2 and purchased for £25. The new owner found an appropriate two-seater body but had neither the time or money to complete a restoration so sold it onto Norman Reeves who oversaw the car’s complete renovation and named it Annie.
When film director Henry Cornelius failed to find his desired British-built Lanchester, he fortuitously cast the little reborn Darracq for the leading four-wheeled role in the motion picture, rechristening it Genevieve after the patron saint of Paris where the car had originally been built. Reeves eventually got tired of all the publicity surrounding the celebrity Darracq and sold it to a new owner in Australia.
After residing Down Under for more than 40 years, Genevieve returned to Europe and is now displayed – appropriately alongside the Spyker – at the splendid Louwman Museum in The Hague, Netherlands. However, with such an important anniversary to honour, both film idols will be back in the UK for much of this summer.
Throughout the summer holidays and early autumn, the pair will be on public display at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and 70 years of Genevieve will also be the subject of a ‘Transport Torque’ lecture by Andrew Roberts at the National Motor Museum on the evening of the 7 October. These will be followed by a few yet-to-be-announced final screen calls in the late autumn during the build-up to the 2023 Veteran Car Run – entries for which open on Wednesday 17 May.
Buoyed by such special Genevieve celebrations, interest in the 2023 event is certain to be exceptionally high with huge numbers of veteran car owners from around the world expected to join the festivities.