Heffer On British Film

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01It Always Rains On Sunday20130916

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war.

In this first programme Heffer explores the Britain depicted by director Robert Hamer in what he describes as his 'stunning film noir' "It Always Rains on Sunday".

"The period between 1945 and 1955," says Heffer, "was when the British cinema started to grow up. The films reflected a world that existed rather than one self-appointed moral arbiters wished existed. The treatment of class became radically different. Hamer brought a mathematician's precision and a poet's touch to his work. He was the most original directorial talent working in Britain, whatever fans of Michael Powell and David Lean might argue. He combined acute visual sense with a regard for and an understanding of the English language, matched by none of his rivals."

The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery. Subjects considered unsuitable for a cinema audience - marital breakdown , criminality, revenge, failings in the justice system, and disability - suddenly became popular with British screenwriters and studios. Social realism was the order of the day. And in "It Always Rains on Sunday" from 1947, Hamer depicts a gritty world of shrewish housewives, spivs, chancers, petty thugs and avuncular but determined policemen who patrolled the streets of London's tough Bethnal Green district.

01It Always Rains On Sunday20130916

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war.

In this first programme Heffer explores the Britain depicted by director Robert Hamer in what he describes as his 'stunning film noir' "It Always Rains on Sunday".

"The period between 1945 and 1955," says Heffer, "was when the British cinema started to grow up. The films reflected a world that existed rather than one self-appointed moral arbiters wished existed. The treatment of class became radically different. Hamer brought a mathematician's precision and a poet's touch to his work. He was the most original directorial talent working in Britain, whatever fans of Michael Powell and David Lean might argue. He combined acute visual sense with a regard for and an understanding of the English language, matched by none of his rivals."

The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery. Subjects considered unsuitable for a cinema audience - marital breakdown , criminality, revenge, failings in the justice system, and disability - suddenly became popular with British screenwriters and studios. Social realism was the order of the day. And in "It Always Rains on Sunday" from 1947, Hamer depicts a gritty world of shrewish housewives, spivs, chancers, petty thugs and avuncular but determined policemen who patrolled the streets of London's tough Bethnal Green district.

02The Browning Version20130917

The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality. Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Long Memory (1952), Mandy (1953), Yield to the Night (1956) and the subject of today's essay - The Browning Version (1951).

Anthony Asquith's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's unforgettable play. The Browning Version, outlines personal, marital and institutional failure with a clarity and honesty unusual for the time, if not unprecedented. A heart-breaking story of remorse and atonement, The Browning Version is a classic of British realism and the winner of best actor and best screenplay honours at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival. It's set in an English public school on the last day of the summer term. The once-brilliant classicist, Andrew Crocker-Harris, played by Michael Redgrave, is about to leave his post after 18 years because of ill-health, to take a less demanding job and begins to feel that his life has been a failure. His students despise him - the boys and staff alike nick-named him 'The Crock' - and his wife Millie, played by Jean Kent, is carrying on an affair with another master at the school.

Diminished by poor health, a crumbling marriage, and the derision of his pupils, the once brilliant scholar is compelled to re-examine his life when an unexpected gesture of kindness from a pupil of a copy of Browning's translation of the Agamemnon overwhelms him and brings a ray of hope. He must confront his utter failures as teacher, husband, and a man. Long-repressed emotion, disappointment and humiliation are released and the way is paved for a series of surprising revelations and decisions.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

02The Browning Version20130917

The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality. Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Long Memory (1952), Mandy (1953), Yield to the Night (1956) and the subject of today's essay - The Browning Version (1951).

Anthony Asquith's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's unforgettable play. The Browning Version, outlines personal, marital and institutional failure with a clarity and honesty unusual for the time, if not unprecedented. A heart-breaking story of remorse and atonement, The Browning Version is a classic of British realism and the winner of best actor and best screenplay honours at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival. It's set in an English public school on the last day of the summer term. The once-brilliant classicist, Andrew Crocker-Harris, played by Michael Redgrave, is about to leave his post after 18 years because of ill-health, to take a less demanding job and begins to feel that his life has been a failure. His students despise him - the boys and staff alike nick-named him 'The Crock' - and his wife Millie, played by Jean Kent, is carrying on an affair with another master at the school.

Diminished by poor health, a crumbling marriage, and the derision of his pupils, the once brilliant scholar is compelled to re-examine his life when an unexpected gesture of kindness from a pupil of a copy of Browning's translation of the Agamemnon overwhelms him and brings a ray of hope. He must confront his utter failures as teacher, husband, and a man. Long-repressed emotion, disappointment and humiliation are released and the way is paved for a series of surprising revelations and decisions.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

03The Long Memory20130918

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war. The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), Mandy (1953), Yield to the Night (1956), The Browning Version (1951) and the subject of today's essay - The Long Memory (1952).

The Long Memory was Robert Hamer's follow-up to the success of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), one of the driest black Ealing comedies ever made. Hamer wrote the script for this thriller with Frank Harvey, adapting a novel by Howard Clewes. It portrays Britain as depressed, worn out by war, and full of the poor, dispossessed, transient, and criminal. It tells the story of Phillip Davidson (John Mills) fresh out of prison after serving twelve years for a murder he didn't commit and obsessed with revenge.

An early flashback provides us with the details: a smuggling job goes sour, and Davidson is blamed for the death of a man who, in fact, is not dead. His girlfriend, Fay (Elizabeth Sellars), played a significant part in securing that conviction. She was coerced by her father to lie about the identity of the man who was burned in the boat fire that followed the altercation. And one of the film's neat little twists, she subsequently goes on to marry the very policeman superintendent originally in charge of Davidson's case. Davidson makes his home in a remote shack on the Kent Marshes, and grimly sets about the task of seeking out his former tormentors. The action alternates between his search and the slow unravelling of the idyllic domesticity of the policeman's life. Davidson gets involved with local waitress Ilse, played by Norwegian actress Eva Bergh, a refugee her from being raped one night and a touching relationship develops between them, forcing Davidson to re-evaluate his need for revenge.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

03The Long Memory20130918

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war. The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), Mandy (1953), Yield to the Night (1956), The Browning Version (1951) and the subject of today's essay - The Long Memory (1952).

The Long Memory was Robert Hamer's follow-up to the success of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), one of the driest black Ealing comedies ever made. Hamer wrote the script for this thriller with Frank Harvey, adapting a novel by Howard Clewes. It portrays Britain as depressed, worn out by war, and full of the poor, dispossessed, transient, and criminal. It tells the story of Phillip Davidson (John Mills) fresh out of prison after serving twelve years for a murder he didn't commit and obsessed with revenge.

An early flashback provides us with the details: a smuggling job goes sour, and Davidson is blamed for the death of a man who, in fact, is not dead. His girlfriend, Fay (Elizabeth Sellars), played a significant part in securing that conviction. She was coerced by her father to lie about the identity of the man who was burned in the boat fire that followed the altercation. And one of the film's neat little twists, she subsequently goes on to marry the very policeman superintendent originally in charge of Davidson's case. Davidson makes his home in a remote shack on the Kent Marshes, and grimly sets about the task of seeking out his former tormentors. The action alternates between his search and the slow unravelling of the idyllic domesticity of the policeman's life. Davidson gets involved with local waitress Ilse, played by Norwegian actress Eva Bergh, a refugee her from being raped one night and a touching relationship develops between them, forcing Davidson to re-evaluate his need for revenge.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

04Mandy20130919

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war. The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality.

Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery. Subjects considered unsuitable for a cinema audience - marital breakdown , criminality, revenge, failings in the justice system, and disability - suddenly became popular with British screenwriters and studios. Social realism was the order of the day.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Long Memory (1952), The Browning Version (1951), Yield to the Night (1956) and the focus of today's essay - Mandy (1953).

Ealing Studios' Mandy, directed by Alexander Mackendrick was based on the book 'The Day Is Ours' by Hilda Lewis, with screenplay by Nigel Balchin and Jack Whittingham. It's the story of a girl, Mandy Garland, who is diagnosed with a congenital hearing defect and starred Phyllis Calvert, Jack Hawkins and Terence Morgan.

As her parents Harry and Christine Garland come to terms with the fact that they have a deaf-mute daughter, they enrol her in special education classes to try to get her to speak. As she struggles to express herself and learn how to lip-read, her parents argue over the best way to deal with her condition and their marriage comes under severe strain. This is compounded by hints of an affair between Christine and Searle (Jack Hawkins) , the headmaster of the school for the deaf where Mandy is enrolled. Although it may be too late for the little girl to make great strides, the specialist training eventually pays off to the point where Mandy says her own name for the first time.

While the drama revolves around the parents' sharply conflicting views of what to do for their child, the unpretentious, documentary style adopted by MacKendrick reveals the world through the eyes of the little girl as she responds to the strange way adults around her conduct themselves and the sensitive guidance of her school. And, thanks to the wonderful performance he draws from Mandy Miller, the slow but sure development of this youngster is at the heart of the film.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

04Mandy20130919

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war. The cinema of the 30s was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late 40s and early 50s - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality.

Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery. Subjects considered unsuitable for a cinema audience - marital breakdown , criminality, revenge, failings in the justice system, and disability - suddenly became popular with British screenwriters and studios. Social realism was the order of the day.

In Heffer on British Film, Simon Heffer puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Long Memory (1952), The Browning Version (1951), Yield to the Night (1956) and the focus of today's essay - Mandy (1953).

Ealing Studios' Mandy, directed by Alexander Mackendrick was based on the book 'The Day Is Ours' by Hilda Lewis, with screenplay by Nigel Balchin and Jack Whittingham. It's the story of a girl, Mandy Garland, who is diagnosed with a congenital hearing defect and starred Phyllis Calvert, Jack Hawkins and Terence Morgan.

As her parents Harry and Christine Garland come to terms with the fact that they have a deaf-mute daughter, they enrol her in special education classes to try to get her to speak. As she struggles to express herself and learn how to lip-read, her parents argue over the best way to deal with her condition and their marriage comes under severe strain. This is compounded by hints of an affair between Christine and Searle (Jack Hawkins) , the headmaster of the school for the deaf where Mandy is enrolled. Although it may be too late for the little girl to make great strides, the specialist training eventually pays off to the point where Mandy says her own name for the first time.

While the drama revolves around the parents' sharply conflicting views of what to do for their child, the unpretentious, documentary style adopted by MacKendrick reveals the world through the eyes of the little girl as she responds to the strange way adults around her conduct themselves and the sensitive guidance of her school. And, thanks to the wonderful performance he draws from Mandy Miller, the slow but sure development of this youngster is at the heart of the film.

Producer: Mohini Patel.

05 LASTYield to the Night20130920

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war.

In Heffer on British Film, he puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Browning Version (1951), Mandy (1953), The Long Memory (1952), and Yield to the Night (1956), the subject of his final essay in the series.

Yield to the Night was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Diana Dors' career - the film on which her reputation as a serious actress rests. She plays a murderess Mary Hilton sentenced to hang, spending her last days in the condemned cell in a British women's prison. It was released a year after Ruth Ellis was executed and bore an uncanny resemblance to her case but it was actually based on a novel of 1954 - a year before Ellis murdered Blakely.

Mary is a married woman who drifts into an affair with a good-looking piano player Jim Lancaster (Michael Craig) The problem is the affair is one-sided. Jim is smitten with another - Lucy Carpenter - who is way out of his league. But Mary is so hopelessly in love, she starts to believe Lucy deserves to die. And she has Jim's gun. But she shoots not her boyfriend, but her boyfriend's lover.

The story of events leading to murder is told in flashback and there is little doubt that the screenplay draws liberally on the Ellis case - the murderess withdrawing her revolver from her handbag in the street, and emptying its chambers into her victim with shocking calmness. A glamorous, bottle-blonde young woman, Mary, like Ellis, had difficulties with men all her life and makes no attempt to escape justice.

The film focuses almost entirely on her experience of prison - the British equivalent of Death Row - awaiting execution, and on her relationship with the various female prison warders, and in particular with MacFarlane (Yvonne Mitchell). Mary is a likeable young woman and the warders grow fond of her. Decidedly anti-capital punishment and downbeat in mood, the film won critical acclaim, particularly for the skilled acting of Dors, who had previously been cast solely as the stereotypical "blonde bombshell".

Producer: Mohini Patel.

05 LASTYield To The Night20130920

As part of BBC Radio 3's Sound of Cinema, a week of essays written and presented by historian and columnist Simon Heffer on classic British taboo-breaking films which depicted a society changed profoundly by war.

In Heffer on British Film, he puts the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the 60s were underway - including It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), The Browning Version (1951), Mandy (1953), The Long Memory (1952), and Yield to the Night (1956), the subject of his final essay in the series.

Yield to the Night was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Diana Dors' career - the film on which her reputation as a serious actress rests. She plays a murderess Mary Hilton sentenced to hang, spending her last days in the condemned cell in a British women's prison. It was released a year after Ruth Ellis was executed and bore an uncanny resemblance to her case but it was actually based on a novel of 1954 - a year before Ellis murdered Blakely.

Mary is a married woman who drifts into an affair with a good-looking piano player Jim Lancaster (Michael Craig) The problem is the affair is one-sided. Jim is smitten with another - Lucy Carpenter - who is way out of his league. But Mary is so hopelessly in love, she starts to believe Lucy deserves to die. And she has Jim's gun. But she shoots not her boyfriend, but her boyfriend's lover.

The story of events leading to murder is told in flashback and there is little doubt that the screenplay draws liberally on the Ellis case - the murderess withdrawing her revolver from her handbag in the street, and emptying its chambers into her victim with shocking calmness. A glamorous, bottle-blonde young woman, Mary, like Ellis, had difficulties with men all her life and makes no attempt to escape justice.

The film focuses almost entirely on her experience of prison - the British equivalent of Death Row - awaiting execution, and on her relationship with the various female prison warders, and in particular with MacFarlane (Yvonne Mitchell). Mary is a likeable young woman and the warders grow fond of her. Decidedly anti-capital punishment and downbeat in mood, the film won critical acclaim, particularly for the skilled acting of Dors, who had previously been cast solely as the stereotypical "blonde bombshell".

Producer: Mohini Patel.