Flight of the Dove (1971): Ralph Nelson’s Irish Tale of Abused Children on the Run (St. Patrick’s)

Ralph Nelson (best known for leading Sidney Poitier to his Oscar winning performance in the 1963 Lilies of the Field) directed and co-wrote the script for Flight of the Doves, a family film based on the novel by Irish writer Walter Macken.

Two Liverpool children set out in search of love after years of abuse from their Uncle Toby Cromwell.  Their mother had married Cromwell after the death of her first husband, the children’s father, and Cromwell was granted custody after her death.

Finn Dove and sister Derval, tired of their stepfather’s abuse and neglect, run away to County Galway, Ireland, where Finn and Derval’s grandmother lives.

The children are unaware they are heirs to their grandfather’s estate and will inherit a large fortune upon his death. However, if the children are either dead or missing, the money would go to their uncle “Hawk” Dove, an unsuccessful actor.

The Dove children’s journey across Ireland is rough, and they are discovered missing. Their stepfather had been informed of the inheritance (by Hawk Dove disguised as a lawyer). Toby decides to bring in the police, and Uncle Hawk and Uncle Toby are close on their trail.

The chase takes them to a St Patrick’s Day parade, a synagogue, Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge, a tinkers’ encampment, and other places.

Ron Moody as John Cyril Dove – “Hawk” / Maxwell Perdon / DCI Wolcott / Miss Heather Marblestone / Dermot Corcoran
Jack Wild as Finn Dove
Dorothy McGuire as Mary Magdalene St. Bridget O’Flaherty – “Granny”
Stanley Holloway as Judge Fenton Liffy
Helen Raye as Derval Dove
Willie Rushton as Tobias Cromwell – “Uncle Toby”
Brendan O’Reilly as Insp. Michael Roark
Dana as Sheila O’Ryan
John Molloy as Mickser
Noel Purcell as Rabbi


TCM showed this film on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2020.


Ralph Nelson Filmography

The Man in the Funny Suit (1960)

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Lilies of the Field (1963)

Soldier in the Rain (1963)

Fate Is the Hunter (1964)

Father Goose (1964)

Once a Thief (1965)

Duel at Diablo (1966)

Counterpoint (1967)

Charly (1968)

Tick, Tick, Tick (1970)

Soldier Blue (1970)

Flight of the Doves (1971)

The Wrath of God (1972)

The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)

Embryo (1976)

A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich (1978)

Because He’s My Friend (1978)

Christmas Lilies of the Field (1979)