Hand in Hand (film)

Hand in Hand is a 1960 black and white Associated British Picture Corporation dramatic film about the friendship between two young children, one a Roman Catholic boy about nine, the other a 7-year-old Jewish girl.

Hand in Hand
Directed byPhilip Leacock
Produced byHelen Winston
Written bySidney Harmon
Diana Morgan
StarringLoretta Parry
Philip Needs
Music byStanley Black
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byPeter Tanner
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
Release date
  • 6 February 1961 (1961-02-06) (USA)
7 April 1963 (UK)
Running time
78 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Filmed in the summer of 1960 under the title "The Star and the Cross", Hand in Hand was released theatrically in the United States in 1961 by Columbia Pictures. Although ABPC's distribution arm in the United Kingdom, Warner-Pathe Film Distributors, screened the film for the British press in late 1960, it remained unreleased in the UK until 1963, when it finally went out nationally on the ABC cinema circuit as the supporting feature for the Tony Hancock comedy The Punch and Judy Man. It was shown to American children and adults when released on the CBS Children's Film Festival 1967 season hosted by Kukla, Fran and Ollie.


Michael O'Malley (Needs), rushes to his priest to tearfully inform him that he has accidentally killed his closest friend, Rachel Mathias (Parry). The story is told in flashback as Michael recounts their friendship, when he first befriended Rachel by hurrying her away from a group of schoolboys who were verbally bullying her on the playground. They quickly become the best of friends. The young children decide to become "blood brothers" by pricking their fingers and rubbing the blood together. They set off for an adventure, hoping to go to London to visit the queen, but instead are picked up by a kindly elderly lady (Sybil Thorndike) who takes them to her home for tea, pretending that she is a princess and that her mansion is one of the queen's homes, but that the queen is currently away. Her amiable deception goes over perfectly, and the children have a great time visiting with her.

Michael and Rachel are aware that they go to church on different days and their religions are somewhat different, but they do not ponder the specifics. However, when a somewhat overbearing and destructively-outspoken classmate informs Michael that Rachel is Jewish and that "the Jews killed Christ", an outraged Michael rushes to Rachel at their clubhouse and angrily confronts her, "Why did you kill Christ?" Rachel is shocked and insistently denies it: "I didn't kill him. I don't even know him." Michael and Rachel conclude that God is angry at them for becoming friends, but they are not sure if He will forgive them. They decide to attend church with each other to see if God is mad at them, believing they will die if He does not want them to go to each other's church. Michael sneaks into the synagogue with Rachel the next Saturday and is somewhat puzzled and intimidated by the ceremony, but he stays and seems to like it as time goes on, especially after a kindly rabbi shows him a passage in the Torah that speaks of God's love shielding him from all fear. The next day, Rachel goes with Michael to his church, and while Rachel is initially somewhat unnerved by the services and statues, she too feels more comfortable after a while.

Having concluded it is acceptable to God that they remain friends, Michael and Rachel decide to take an inflatable raft on the River Thames for their next adventure, a trip to Africa. All goes well at first as Michael paddles and the raft drifts leisurely and makes smooth ripples on the calm water, but then the raft enters a dangerous area of the river with a swifter flow and strong rapids; Michael loses control, and Rachel is knocked overboard. Due to the stronger current and the riverbank's dense underbrush in which Rachel has become entangled, Michael has great difficulty reaching her, but at last pulls her out of the river; however, she is limp and unresponsive. Fearing the worst, Michael frantically rushes to get help, and adults in the area call for an ambulance. The film then returns to the present moment, with Michael in his grief-stricken state, and telling the priest that he's killed Rachel. The priest comforts him and tells him that Rachel may be all right, and then accompanies him to Rachel's home to see how she is. They are met at the front door by Rachel's rabbi who is leaving, and he informs them that Rachel has pulled through and is recovering well, but that perhaps it would be better to wait till tomorrow to visit her. Michael, immensely relieved, rushes home happy that his little friend is alive, and the priest and the rabbi, who have, earlier in the film been established as being good friends --- acknowledging that their respective religions hold more in common than they may have realized before --- speak warmly to each other before walking away in different directions.


Awards and nominations

The film won 14 international film awards including a special Golden Globe Award for Best Film Promoting International Understanding and the children’s category at the Venice Film Festival. Director Philip Leacock was also a top 20 finalist among 1961 theatrical motion pictures for Best Achievement in Directing by the Directors Guild of America.

Directors Guild of America

  • 1962: Nominated, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures – Philip Leacock

Golden Globe Award

  • 1961: Won, Best Film Promoting International Understanding


The film was released on DVD in the US for the first time on October 5th, 2010, followed by a UK release on July 28th, 2014.

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