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Dirk Bogarde and the Blackboard Mystery

A classic 1961 movie with a continuity blooper

The other day I listened to a dramatised radio documentary about the former matinee idol Dirk Bogarde. Actually, it was the story behind Victim, a ground-breaking 1961 movie starring Bogarde that sensitively addressed the appalling treatment of gay men at that time. I'd never heard of this film before, so I searched it up on YouTube.

I've now watched it, it's an excellent film, but I confess that I was distracted by a scene set in a primary school classroom. Historic school scenes always fascinate me. In the image below we see individual desks pointing to the front, a world globe on a table, a map of Europe on the wall, a photo of the queen, and of course a blackboard. All very familiar from my own primary school days.

And then there's the maths. On the blackboard are five fraction sums that have been left for the children to solve.

They're a bit hard to read, but I make them out to be these:

1. 3/4 + 2/3

2. 2/3 + 5/6 + 1/4

3. 2 3/4 + 3 2/3

4. 4 7/8 - 2 2/3

5. 5 1/3 - 2 3/4

That would keep a class of ten year olds busy for a while, especially those subtractions at the end.

In the snapshot, you can see the teacher (Sylvia Syms) entering the classroom on the right. Moments later her husband (Dirk Bogarde) follows her in.

Next we see them both in close-up in a fraught moment where Bogarde is revealing that he is being blackmailed. But I can't help being drawn back to the blackboard. It's changed! Instead of those fractions, we now see five lines of the two-times-table, starting with 2 x 2 = 4 and finishing with 6 x 2 = 12.

What's going on? Has Syms entered the room, spotted the tricky fractions, decided these were too hard, and in five seconds wiped them off and put up something simpler before her husband spots them? No, this is of course just a sloppy continuity error.

The question is, how did this continuity error even happen, and why is it not mentioned among the bloopers on the meticulous IMDb website?

I can only think that the two shots were filmed a few hours or days apart, and the blackboard was wiped in between them. Nobody on the production team could remember what had been written there, but somebody recalled there being five calculations. "Just stick some times tables on the board, nobody will notice, it's maths"

And perhaps for 60 years nobody did notice. But now, somebody has.