BOYS IN BROWN, 1949. Juvenile delinquents, British style. How did I miss this one? Well I was too young then for a start. This is an even more delirious look at late-40s England (one that is never revived now) as we join those borstal boys in their short trousers in that institution presided over by well-meaning Jack Warner. Our two main ‘boys’ are Richard Attenborough and the rather more mature Jack Hanley. Chief inmate is scheming Dirk Bogarde, playing here with a camp, Welsh accent – Dirk would have been 29 at the time, so these are rather mature teenagers.
Attenborough and Hanley are both decent chaps who have had misfortune and gone off the rails, but surely with Warner’s help they can be turned into decent citizens? Michael Medwin, Alfie Bass, Graham Payn, John Blyth, Patrick Holt are among the other ‘boys’ with Thora Hird as mother and Barbara Murry as love interest. Directed by Montgomery Tully, it must have paved the way for THE BLUE LAMP in 1950.
[A postscript: in 1970 when we were waiting to enter the auditorium for Dirk Bogarde’s discussion at the BFI (see Bogarde label for more on that), I got talking to the Attenboroughs who were next to me, Dickie was like an old friend and insisted on signing my programme. What a dear chap.].
THE BLUE LAMP. Despite being a great Dirk Bogarde admirer, I had not seen many of his early films – they simply never appear here, but are now on reasonable mid-price dvds by the enterprising StudioCanal. THE BLUE LAMP was a key British film of the time, 1950, and is an authentic postwar British classic, directed by the ever-watchable Basil Dearden. We focus on several policemen at a London station, Paddington Green. Jack Warner is Dixon, a veteran bobby on the beat, Jimmy Hanley is the new recruit who looks on Dixon as a father figure (he lodges with Dixon and his wife, Gladys Henson). Dirk Bogarde and Patrick Doonan are the two cheap hoods, who plan a robbery during a cinema visit and Dirk shoots Dixon when he gets in the way.
The cheap hood is finally cornered at the crowded White City Stadium, where police and the underworld come together to catch him - great location shooting. Bogarde is simply electrifying here, one could see he was going places. It is a marvellous look at the London of the time, with the post-war bombsites and the different way of life then, people looking up to and trusting the policemen on the street, keeping an eye on everybody. Shot in an influential semi-documentary style, it paved the way for the later tv cop shows like Z-CARS and Dixon himself was resurrected by the BBC for the long-running series DIXON OF DOCK GREEN. Dirk's spiv period was followed by his war heroes in the early 50s (see reviews of THE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM, APPOINTMENT IN LONDON, ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT etc, and then his popular DOCTOR films which made him the 'Idol of the Odeons' before his later more serious films, like those Loseys and others ...
They journey around the country, and a touching and sensitive bond forms between the two fugitives. They end up in Scotland as Lloyd realises he cannot continue with the ill child, so gives himself up. Crichton nicely catches working class life in postwar England, and it’s a gritty but pleasing drama. With Kay Walsh, Elizabeth Sellars, Geoffrey Keen.
Bogarde and Whiteley were teamed again in the popular THE SPANISH GARDENER in 1956 (Bogarde label). Whiteley is a perfect little boy here in '52, and also starred in that costume favourite, MOONFLEET in 1955. HUNTED could almost be the template for the later TIGER BAY in 1959.
Right: THE SPANISH GARDENER, 1956.
The robbery is carried out and our gang start counting out the money in their underground hideaway under that deserted airfield. But soon that helicopeter is hovering overhead …. As Finlay made the mistake of calling his wife from a nearby phonebox, alarting the police to activity nearby. It was ever so …. Baker though escapes, as we see in that closing coda in New York.
Shot around Battersea and Victoria it is a fascinating look at the city then, and the fashions and interior decors of the era are all here too, to laugh at now. Potter – so right in FELLINI SATYRICON is quite ordinary (and a long way from Fellini) here.
Supporting cast includes young David Essex, Robin Askwith, Sandra Dorne, Queenie Watts and more, and lets not forget Ian Hendry as that gay gangster with his camp boyfriend in tow .... It is an amusing timewaster now, one pities people who paid to see it at the time. Produced by Peter Rogers it has the cheap look of his '70s CARRY ONs; directed by the prolific Sidney Heyers, who did better with PAYROLL (above), CIRCUS OF HORRORS, THE TRAP etc.
Henson was quite the lad then - those tight trousers are so '70s - as per his randy guest at FAWLTY TOWERS; uncrecognisbably older he was in the last series of DOWNTON ABBEY. He was once married to Una Stubbs, and is the grandson of veteran Gladys Henson, a favourite here.
Martin Potter is married to Susie Blake, comedienne from the Victoria Wood shows, she was Bev in CORONATION STREET and recently the bitch mother-in-law in MRS BROWN'S BOYS - one of the more surprising show-business unions.
Julia Foster of course married vet Bruce Fogle and is the mother of Ben Fogle.
These are also interesting London films, as per London label, fitting in with the likes of POOL OF LONDON, IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, DANCE HALL, SAPPHIRE, VICTIM, WEST 11 and the like ...
Soon: more early Bogarde in PENNY PRINCESS and SO LONG AT THE FAIR, plus late '50s: LIBEL and THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA / 4 more Bakers: SEA FURY, VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, HELL IS A CITY, THE CRIMINAL and another look at Losey/'s BLIND DATE, 1959.