BBC Alba is currently showing the fondly remembered 1960s television version of Dr Finlay’s Casebook based on the short stories of Scotland’s best-selling author of yesteryear – A.J. Cronin, 1896-1981.
Cronin may not be a household name today but from his sensational debut with Hatter’s Castle in 1931 he was prized as a master story teller, with huge international sales. He drew on his experience of small-town Scottish life, including his family dramas and religious intolerance, and his early work as a doctor. Success meant he became a full-time writer by the time he was 35.
Inevitably Cronin’s highly dramatic novels like The Citadel , The Stars Look Down, and The Keys of the Kingdom were snapped up by film studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Most of his big titles made it to the screen in major productions starring, amongst others, Robert Donat, Carole Lombard, Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Gregory Peck, and Dirk Bogarde.
Film versions of two of Cronin’s “Scottish” novels Hatter’s Castle and The Green Years feature in our current exhibition Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema. Deborah Kerr and James Mason shine from the original poster for Hatter’s Castle and there’s a US Forces edition of The Green Years, with an original leaflet promoting MGM’s film version which featured Tom Drake, the “boy next door” from Meet Me in St Louis, as … the boy next door in Victorian Scotland, who also wants to be a doctor.