Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

The British New Wave: 5 Movies About Gritty Brits – CURNBLOG

Originally posted on CURNBLOG.

Before 1960, most films about the British working people showed them in a patronising, if affectionate way. They always worked hard, paid their bills, and endured hardship with a grin. Apron-wearing matriarchs hen-pecked their husbands, and terrified prospective sons-in-law. Men returned from work to enjoy a wash in the sink, followed by a frugal meal. If they were lucky, it would be accompanied by a beer, after which they would smoke a pipe or cigarette, gazing into a coal fire.

They were the salt of the earth, serving their country in war, working hard in peace. Their aspirations were modest, perhaps a small garden, or an allotment, where they could retreat from the nagging wife, and grow some prize-winning vegetables. They would often keep pigeons, breed rabbits, or have a few chickens in a run out the back.

They wore a tie at all times, even when doing heavy work, and got the bus to their jobs, or cycled, as they could rarely afford a car. The high-spot of their week would be a visit to the pub, returning home with friends, to sing some songs around an old piano.

Women were long-suffering, usually unattractive, and mothers to at least three children. They took in washing, did part-time cleaning jobs, or managed small shops. They hoped for better for their offspring, perhaps an office job for the daughter, and technical school for the son. But the need for a contribution to the household generally forced children into the same jobs as their parents, at age fourteen or fifteen. A good example of this type of film would be This Happy Breed, directed by David Lean in 1944, and produced by the distinctly upper-class Noel Coward, based on his own play. The film is a cinematic history of Britain from 1918 to 1939, seen through the eyes of two families in a South London suburb. Although the families in question would probably be better described as middle class, based on their jobs and lifestyle, the characters are played with a distinctly working-class feel. In 1956, the lightweight film Sailor Beware explored similar domestic themes, and starred the formidable Peggy Mount, as the no-nonsense female head of the household.

By 1960, society was undergoing a radical shift in Britain, and the films being made began to reflect the new ideas and changing morals of what would come to be described as the ‘Swinging Sixties’. Given the fact that most films were made to entertain and to provide escape from the real world, it must have seemed unlikely at the time that audiences would want to go to the cinema to see hard lives similar to their own portrayed realistically on screen. However, most of these new realistic and gritty films were well-received then, both by cinema-goers, and critics alike, and many have gone on to be rightly regarded as classics of modern British film-making.

Woman In A Dressing Gown (1957)

Although released before the 1960s, this film showed how attitudes were beginning to change. Set in an ordinary London family, Yvonne Mitchell gives an award-winning performance in the title role, as the housewife who just cannot cope with everyday chores, and her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Not for her, being the staunch heart of the family. Everything is too much trouble and life just gets on top of her. Whether not managing to prepare a breakfast for her working husband and teenage son, forgetting to go shopping, and failing to regard her appearance, she is portrayed as lazy and ungrateful, spending all her time in the dressing gown of the title…

via The British New Wave: 5 Movies About Gritty Brits – CURNBLOG by Pete Johnson

2 comments on “The British New Wave: 5 Movies About Gritty Brits – CURNBLOG

  1. beetleypete

    Thanks for the re-blog Sarah. As with the re-tweets etc, it is always greatly appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. First Night Design

    It was a pleasure, Pete. Your introduction was particularly good in describing the patronising attitude in previous films.

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