Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

'40s British noir: It Always Rains On Sunday

Britain's Ealing studios, best known for their pre-and post-war comedies, also did some terrific dramas. One of the most successful examples was IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, from 1947, by Robert Hamer, one of their top directors whose next film was their biggest hit the very black comedy KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS in '49. London's BFI has now restored this one, it has had a run at their National Film Theatre, and a new restored dvd, with some good extras.  I remember seeing it once before on tv, and my best friend Stan liked this one a lot. 

Original artwork
On a dreary weekend in London's East End, the fates of two families and other characters are intertwined by passion, ambition, and ultimately by crime. Rose, An obviously desperate housewife Googie Withers, wakes up next to her dull husband George (Edward Chapman) and has to cope with her resentful stepdaughters, Vi (Susan Shaw) and Doris (Patricia Plunkett). Vi is stepping out with a married man, musician and store owner Morrie Hyams (Sydney Tafler), while Morrie's well-connected gangster brother Lou (John Slater) takes an interest in the more innocent Doris. Meanwhile, the police are after escaped convict Tommy Swann (John McCallum, Googie's husband), who's also Rose's former lover. He is on the run from Dartmoor and holes up in the family's bomb shelter as he expects Rose to help him - its Sunday and the rain pours and pours. This is late 1940s Britain in aspic. As Tommy hides out upstairs in the bedroom the affairs of her stepdaughters are coming to a head, while the crooks are running out of patience and options... 

As the BFI blurb says:  Chronicling a March Sunday in the lives of a Bethnal Green family it centres on the dilemma faced by Rose, an ex-barmaid bored by her older husband and burdened with two grown-up stepdaughters, when an old flame breaks out of Dartmoor and turns up demanding food and a few hour's refuge. Around this central core Hamer creates a credibly caustic portrait of an East End blighted by poverty and populated by all manner of folk striving, honestly or otherwise, to get by.

This is a fascinating chronicle of Britian in the '40s in that era of austerity: the old fasioned kitchen, just like in 1944's THIS HAPPY BREED or 1947's HOLIDAY CAMP, the tin bath - lots of families did not have bathrooms but just outside toilets, and still had to use a tin bath in the kitchen .... thankfully the '50s was not too far away and soon all these mean streets would be demolished as the post-war boom got underway .... this was still a dark rainy underworld of spivs and wide-boys. They are all here: Sydney Tafler, Alfie Bass, John Slater, Jack Hanley and good cop Jack Warner, before he went on to get shot (by Dirk Bogarde) in HUNTED and resurrected for DIXON OF DOCK GREEN ...Googie who died last year aged 94 was an essential '40s British star and had a long career, in tandem with her husband McCallum. She was in Hitch's 1938 THE LADY VANISHES and the '43 comedy I like ON APPROVAL (with Bea Lillie) and her last credit was SHINE in 1996. In the '70s she had a hit tv series WITHIN THESE WALLS as a prison governor. 

Watching IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY is a pleasure now, it is also a great London film, up there with 1950's POOL OF LONDON and DANCE HALL or BLOW-UP or A PLACE TO GO (London label) in showing a vanishing city before the new metropolis took over. 
Review soon of Ealing's other great romantic drama SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS ... with the great team of Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood and a terrific performance by Dame Flora Robson in 1948.

1 comment:

  1. Looking for an old movie like this where a bad guy is hiding in a grandfather clock.