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.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Snapshots of Britain

Kay and Bonar at the DANCE HALL

Ken Annakin's HOLIDAY CAMP in 1947 is post-war England in aspic, with working-class families going on holiday to the new holiday camps as the new age of leisure dawned after the war, its almost a historical document of that era. Flora Robson has a great role here as the lonely spinster yearning for her love lost in the war, only to discover he is the holiday camp announcer but is now blind, and happily married and does not remember her. Esma Cannon (later in the CARRY ONs) as her twittery friend fares less well, as she falls prey to Dennis Price's murdering conman. The Huggett family (from the radio) are enjoying themselves, led by father Jack Warner and mum Kathleen Harrison, with daughter Hazel Court, Jimmy Hanley and Diana Dors as well as Patricia Roc also pop up. Below: Mr and Mrs Huggett get used to being on holiday, Dennis Price with murder in mind, and Dame Flora - noble as ever. 
Its an enjoyable time capsule now, as is:

DANCE HALL - Charles Crichton's 1950 portrait of 4 working class girls who work in the local factory and let off steam at the Saturday night dance (the Chiswick Palais). This is a roll-call of ‘50s British showbiz with a very varied cast here: the girls are young Petula Clark, Natasha Perry, Jane Hylton and the rising Diana Dors. Its a fairly grim look at working class life, but lots of fun too. Donald Houston and Bonar Colleano are among the men they attract, Kay Kendall pops in for a minute, as do Eunice Gayson and Dandy Nichols, Sydney Tafler is the dance hall manager and dear old Gladys Henson is Petula's mum who gives her an awfully old-fashioned dress to wear at the dance contest! Dors is great fun as the good-natured blonde with an eye for a hunky fella! Parry is torn between stolid Houston and wide boy Colleano, while Hylton remains a spinster. 
10 years later SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING would be a new male-dominated update on working class life, as the '60s dawned, but this 1950 version is just as pleasing and relevant now. This and HOLIDAY CAMP are as essentially '40s and early '50s British as IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, POOL OF LONDON, THE BLUE LAMP, HUNTED etc. - those movies where the likes of Jack Warner and Jimmy Hanley were bobbies on the beat or dependable guys next door, and Canadian Bonar Colleano (of the circus family, he died in a car crash in 1958, aged 34) was the not to be trusted wide boy or American G.I. in England, and young Bogarde was a spiv with a gun before graduating to war hero roles.
Factory girls
Diana lets rip on the dance floor

PLAY IT COOL. A hopelessly square 1962 British musical showing the pop scene at the time, showcasing pop idol of the time Billy Fury in his movie debut. We liked Billy then, an authentic rocker with a great look and voice (“Halfway to Paradise”) who died too young, aged 43 in 1983. 
He and his jolly gang (Michael Anderson Jr, Keith Hamshere, Jeremy Bulloch, and a very young David Hemmings) are en route to Gatwick Airport when they decide to help out a runaway heiress (don’t laugh, this isn’t the 1930s) – Dennis Price plays her oily father and others roped in include Mr Showbiz: Lionel Blair and his dancers. 
Statue of Billy in Liverpool
There is a twist number, the twist was big at the time – and American Bobby Vee gets to sing, as does Helen Shapiro, the school girl singer of the time (I was an early teen then, and loved her songs). Michael Winner directs and keeps it all moving. This pop scene though, along with the Cliff Richard films (THE YOUNG ONES, SUMMER HOLIDAY) and those earlier Tommy Steele, Frankie Vaughan, Adam Faith ones,  was swept away the next year, when The Beatles exploded in 1963, and 1964’s A HARD DAY’S NIGHT showed how to make a pop movie which also captured the moment perfectly.

SOME PEOPLE – more pop from 1962. I remember this one vividly, being 16 at the time. This is a lively look at teenagers in a suburban city – Bristol – with a lead role for Kenneth More as the well-meaning choirmaster with that church hall where the kids can play their instruments. It features the then up and coming Ray Brooks (THE KNACK) and a gormless David Hemmings (4 years before Antonioni made him an icon of the 60s in BLOW-UP), Anneke Wills who wears her jeans in the bath to shrink them, Angela Douglas (who married More). 
David Hemmings, centre
The bored teenagers are only interested in motorbikes and music and are convinced society has no use for them, but are hardly rebels without a cause. Kenny More soon gets them playing – this was all part of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, which features here. The music is catchy though and it all looks nice in colour. Clive Donner – another under-rated 60s director – helms it, he also directed the Hemmings starrer ALFRED THE GREAT in 1969, after his like WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? and THE CARETAKER, and that other look at teenagers in a suburban city HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH in swinging '67. What is interesting here is the contrast between the options for teenagers in 1962 (in pre-Beatles England) and 5 years later, at the start of the hippie and psychedelic era in 1967 in HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH ... it was a different world for them then!

More early '60s British movies:

TWICE ROUND THE DAFFODILS. This 1962 comedy, adapted from a play, is a CARRY ON in all but name, produced by the regular team Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. Of interest now mainly for that supporting cast of familiar faces. We join 4 patients who arrive at a hospital for tuberculosis patients (they are still allowed to smoke though!) – RAF type Donald Sinden with an eye for the ladies, funny man Lance Percival, boorish Wesh Donald Houston who is in denial and refuses to accept he is ill – one wants to reach for the mute button every time he starts ranting, and young Andrew Ray. Already on the ward are Ronald Lewis and snobby Kenneth Williams whose only visitor is his dowdy sister Joan Sims. Head nurse is Juliet Mills, and others include nurse Jill Ireland, Sheila Hancock as a loyal girlfriend,. Nanette Newman as the glamorous one who has found someone else with a sports car. The patients are getting better when they can walk twice around the daffodil patch … a slight amusement, matinee fodder perhaps, which shows that the 1960s had yet to begin at Pinewood. 

THE VERY EDGE. This long forgotten 1963 thriller has suddenly been re-discovered – the BFI are screening it in April, but thanks to a fellow correspondent here I have got a ‘screener’. It’s a taut thriller (filmed in Ireland), a Raymond Stross production starring his wife Anne Heywood again as the happy housewife, looking after her husband Richard Todd and her ideal early ‘60s home, who is stalked by a deranged stranger – young Jeremy Brett, terrific here. He follows her around the supermarket and attacks her in her home causing her to miscarry her child. Worried policeman Jack Hedley notes the stranger will be back. Our worried couple move home, but its no use. 
Brett soon has her in his power again as she tries to fight back. We end up on the roof as our brave heroine has to outwit him before help arrives. Add in Nicole Maurey as Todd’s super-efficient secretary with a yen for him, as his and his wife’s marriage falls apart and tension is maintained to the very end. A routine thriller perhaps, but certainly watchable now. With Pauline Delaney, Gwen Watford, Maurice Denham, Barbara Mullen and Patrick Magee, and ably directed by journeyman Cyril Frankel.We liked Heywood recently in that revived I WANT WHAT I WANT from 1972 - Heywood label - where she is a transexual ...

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