- Mark Aldridge, The Birth of British Television: A History and 27 sample pages
- Shakuntala Banaji, Reading ‘Bollywood’: The Young Audience and Hindi Films and 30 sample pages
- Craig Batty, Movies That Move Us: Screenwriting and the Power of the Protagonist’s Journey and 27 sample pages
- Lucy Bolton, Film and Female Consciousness: Irigaray, Cinema and Thinking Women and 16 sample pages
- Matthew Boswell, Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film and 41 sample pages
- Mark Thornton Burnett and Adrian Streete (eds), Filming and Performing Renaissance History and 29 sample pages
- Havi Carel and Greg Tuck (eds), New Takes in Film-Philosophy and 12 sample pages
- Bryony Dixon, 100 Silent Films and 71 sample pages
- Paul Frosh and Amit Pinchevski (eds), Media Witnessing: Testimony in the Age of Mass Communication and 44 sample pages
- Vincent M. Gaine, Existentialism and Social Engagement in the Films of Michael Mann and 19 sample pages
- Lee Grieveson and Colin MacCabe (eds), Empire and Film and 32 sample pages
- Lee Grieveson and Colin MacCabe (eds), Film and the End of Empire and 25 sample pages
- Asbjørn Grønstad, Screening the Unwatchable: Spaces of Negation in Post-Millennial Art Cinema and 25 sample pages
- Michael Hammond and Michael Williams (eds), British Silent Cinema and the Great War and 24 sample pages
- John Hill, Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television and 30 sample pages
- Jim Hillier and Doug Pye, 100 Film Musicals and 34 sample pages
- Matthew Kerry, The Holiday and British Film and 26 sample pages
- Elspeth Kydd, The Critical Practice of Film: An Introduction and 31 sample pages
- Neal King, The Passion of the Christ (Controversies series) and 30 sample pages
- Peter Krämer, A Clockwork Orange (Controversies series) and 34 sample pages
- Vivian P.Y. Lee (ed.), East Asian Cinemas: Regional Flows and Global Transformations and 19 sample pages
- Song Hwee Lim and Julian Ward (eds), The Chinese Cinema Book and 21 sample pages
- Fran Mason, Hollywood Detectives: Crime Series in the 1930s and 1940s from the Whodunnit to Hard-boiled Noir and 36 sample pages
- Ewa Mazierska, European Cinema and Intertextuality: History, Memory and Politics and 34 sample pages
- Kristi McKim, Love in the Time of Cinema and 37 sample pages
- Steven Peacock, Hollywood and Intimacy and 28 sample pages
- Laura Rascaroli and John David Rhodes (eds), Antonioni: Centenary Essays and 27 sample pages
- Sue Short, Cyborg Cinema and 24 sample pages
- Stevie Simkin, Straw Dogs (Controversies series) and 58 sample pages
- Beverley Skeggs and Helen Wood (eds), Reality Television and Class and 37 sample pages
- J.E. Smyth (ed.), Hollywood and the American Historical Film and 19 sample pages
- Michael Berry, Jia Zhangke’s ‘Hometown Trilogy’: Xiao Wu, Platform, Unknown Pleasures and 12 sample pages
- Will Brooker, Star Wars and 12 sample pages
- John Coldstream, Victim and 12 sample pages
- John Gill, Far From Heaven and 17 sample pages
- Barry Keith Grant, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and 8 sample pages
- Amelie Hastie, The Bigamist and 6 sample pages
- Noah Isenberg, Detour and 14 sample pages
- Julian Jackson, La Grande Illusion and 7 sample pages
- Sarah Kozloff, The Best Years of Our Lives and 18 sample pages
- Peter Krämer, 2001: A Space Odyssey and 6 sample pages
- Jon Lewis, The Godfather and 41 sample pages
- James Naremore, Sweet Smell of Success and 11 sample pages
- John David Rhodes, Meshes of the Afternoon and 5 sample pages
- Amy Sargeant, The Servant and 10 sample pages
- Melvyn Stokes, Gilda and 10 sample pages
- Matthew Tinkcom, Grey Gardens and 22 sample pages
- Catherine Wheatley, Caché (Hidden) and 22 sample pages
The year 1949 was a pretty miserable time in Britain. Postwar austerity was at its height. Many city centres were still largely bomb sites. The cold war was getting chillier. The British film industry was in crisis after the Labour government had imposed a punitive tax on American films, which led to Hollywood studios withholding their product. Then suddenly, in the early summer, three pictures opened on consecutive weeks that together defined what we now know as “the Ealing comedy“. The films got darker and Ealing Studios‘ reputation greater as the month wore on. [Philip French, ‘Whisky Galore – Review’, The Observer, July 31, 2011]
[Michael] Powell after A Matter of Life and Death gives us three intriguing variations on the trauma picture, in which, intertwined are the central landmarks of British life after 1945: the end of war, the end of empire and the birth of a new consumer age.
Before that, however, we should note that Ealing comedy of the period inverts the trauma film completely.
If Ealing Studios produced the keynote Dead of Night, it also produced a triple antithesis in the post-war years: anti-trauma comedy in the form of [Robert] Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Alexander Mackendrick’s scintillating double act, Whisky Galore (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955). Indeed, the best of Ealing comedy is premised very precisely on this inversion, where what might well be traumatic turns out to be the exact opposite.
Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets is biting social satire, in which the serial killer, Louis (Dennis Price), as outcast of the family and excluded by the vacuous rich, is more sympathetic than any of his eccentric aristo victims (all played by Alec Guinness). As they fall like ninepins one after the other, we can all have a good laugh and applaud Louis’ elegant cunning. A perfect picture, you could argue, for a new social democracy.
The wartime Whisky Galore, set on the remote island of Todday (toddy?), also plays on inversion: this time on the fear of occupation – an anti-The Next of Kin (Thorold Dickinson, 1942) or Went the Day Well? In Mackendrick’s film, the fear of invasion is now past but the Scottish island is ‘occupied’ by an English Home Army captain, Waggert (Basil Radford), who has marshalled customs officials to try and prevent the looting of a wrecked cargo ship carrying whisky. It is a comic version of Anglo-Scots antagonism, with its famous montage sequence of the looted alcohol being hidden by the islanders in rain-butts, water tanks, hot-water bottles and under a baby’s cot before bemused officials arrive to discover absolutely nothing. The gradual social exclusion of Waggert from the island has an edge and a cruel streak that prevents any lapse into sentimentality.
Sentimentality is equally absent from The Ladykillers, where Mackendrick completely inverts the trauma-effects of Gothic expressionism. A motley gang of train robbers posing as a musical ensemble takes lodgings near Kings Cross station to prepare the next heist. At the landlady’s door, the figure of Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) casts a dark shadow – shades of the opening to The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927) – but thereafter the threat becomes internal as the eccentric old landlady ([Katie Johnson]), in her parody of a haunted house, has the gang tearing their hair out in annoyance and frustration at her blithe eccentricities. In Gothic melodrama, we expect villains to terrify, but here they are traumatised to the extent that, when found out, they are prepared to kill off each other rather than kill the ‘harmless’ old landlady. She who should be terrified is oblivious to the threat; those who should terrify show a collective failure of nerve and eliminate each other instead. Gothic melodrama morphs into dark comedy. And Ealing comedy runs happily on in a parallel world to David Lean and Michael Powell. [John Orr, ‘The Trauma Film and British Romantic Cinema 1940-1960’, Senses of Cinema, Issue 51, 2009 ]
Ealing Studios, the oldest continuously working film studio in the world, is marking its 80th anniversary, according to a couple of enjoyable videos at the Channel 4 and BBC websites. A remarkable achievement, indeed, thinks Film Studies For Free, one of the finest in the history of British cinema.
Founded in economically austere and politically troubled times, the studios escaped relatively unscathed from the recent riots in London (Ealing was a particularly tragically affected area). They seem set to continue to produce their distinctly transnational brand of cinematic goods for the UK film industry well into the future.
The current anniversary of the establishment of the sound stages at Ealing, and a number of other connected anniversaries coming up (e.g. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Scottish-American director Alexander Mackendrick’s birth, one of Britain’s greatest, and most undervalued, filmmakers) have felicitously ‘coincided’ with the latest cinematic and DVD release of three of the greatest products of those studios: the Ealing comedies Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951), and Whisky Galore (Mackendrick, 1949).
FSFF loves a mildly subversive chuckle from time to time, and is particularly partial, thus, to a good Ealing comedy. So, in fond celebration of that wonderful cycle of movies, below is its little list of links to online studies of those films, as well as to other items of related, scholarly interest.
- Anthony Aldgate and Jeffrey Richards, ‘Cul-de-Sac England: The Ladykillers’, From Best of British: Cinema and Society from 1930 to the Present (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999)
- Charles Barr, ‘Projecting Britain and the British Character’: Ealing Studios, Part I ‘, originally Screen, 15(1) 1974
- Charles Barr, ‘Projecting Britain and the British Character: Ealing Studios, Part II’, originally Screen, 15(2), 1974
- Michael William Boyce, ‘Re-imagining the War in British Film, 1945-1955’, PhD Thesis, University of Manitoba, April 2007
- Susan Condor, ‘Temporality and collectivity: Diversity, history and the rhetorical constructionof national entitativity’, British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 2006
- Steven Fielding, ‘A Mirror for England? Cinematic Representations of Politicians and Party Politics, circa 1944–1964’, Journal of British Studies, 47:1 (2008)
- Philip Kemp, The long shadow: Robert Hamer after Ealing’, in Ian McKillop and Neil Sinyard (eds), British cinema of the 1950s: a celebration (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)
- Ian McKillop and Neil Sinyard (eds), British cinema of the 1950s: a celebration (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)
- Dave Rolinson, ‘If they want culture, they pay’: consumerism and alienation in 1950s comedies’, in Ian McKillop and Neil Sinyard (eds), British cinema of the 1950s: a celebration (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)
- Routledge student resource website on Ealing Studios with downloadable chapter (PDF) on Ealing and on British film comedy
- Amy Sargeant, ‘The Man in the White Suit: New Textiles and the Social Fabric’, Visual Culture in Britain (June, 2008)
- Neil Sinyard, ‘Mirth, Malevolence, Murder: The Ealing Comedies of Alexander Mackendrick’, From Essays in Honour of Peter Davidson (1985)
- ‘Vision of great Ealing power: Alexander Mackendrick’, Obituary, The Guardian (1959-2003); Dec 27, 1993
- John Wakeman, ‘Alexander Mackendrick’, World Film Directors, Volume II (1988), edited by John Wakeman
- John West, ‘Seasick on the Serpentine: Englishness, otherness and consensus in Passport to Pimlico’, Screening the Past, March 2000
|British Film Institute library in Dean Street in 1950s|
|BFI Library today in Stephen Street|
Today, FSFF celebrates some newly published, online, BFI resources on the subject of film appreciation and education in the 1950s. As is its wont, FSFF has supplemented these links with its own curation of online items on international film education and appreciation. All links may be found below.
But FSFF has been dismayed to hear of proposed changes to the British Film Institute National Library (still going strong after 76 wonderful years) and the Viewing Service at the BFI. The proposals are outlined here. These changes are likely to have serious implications for the field and for research opportunities in film and television in the UK. If any of FSFF‘s readers are concerned about the proposals, you may like to make your views known to the BFI – possibly through the chairman Greg Dyke. If anyone knows of an online petition to register discontent about these changes please let FSFF know and it will happily publish the link. This has now been set up: Please sign!
Selected resources made available by the BFI in the 1950s to support film appreciation and education:
- 20 Films to use in Junior Film Societies (PDF, 34.3mb) compiled by A. W. Hodgkinson (British Film Institute and The Society of Film Teachers, 1953) Identifies key feature films suitable for studying with young people. Each record includes a summary of the film, examples of critical opinion and suggested discussion points.
- Are They Safe at the Cinema? a considered answer to critics of the cinema (PDF, 3.66mb) by Janet Hills (British Film Institute) Pamphlet examining the effects of cinema on young people. Questions the notion of a causal link between sensationalist or violent films and behaviour, and outlines the potential benefits of film education and appreciation.
- School Film Appreciation (PDF, 7.1mb) by A. W. Hodgkinson, John Huntley, E. Francis Mills and Jack Smith (King’s College School and British Film Institute, 1950) Practical notes compiled by educators in the field, detailing appropriate film titles and books for study, with advice for teachers.
- The Artist the Critic and the Teacher (PDF, 1.9mb) (The Joint Council for Education through Art, 1959) Programme for a forum presented by The Joint Council for Education through Art on the relevance of the arts to education, held at the National Film Theatre. Participants included Lindsay Anderson, John Berger, Karel Reisz and Kenneth Tynan.
- Film Study Material (PDF, 850kb) (British Film Institute, 1955) Catalogue of films and extracts available from the British Film Institute for use in film study.
Other Resources on Film Education and Appreciation:
- Charles R. Acland, ‘Patterns of Cultural Authority: the National Film Society of Canada and the Institutionalization of Film Education, 1938-1941’ Canadian Journal of Film Studies/Revue Canadienne d’etudes cinematographiques, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2001
- Cary Bazalgette, ‘Analogue Sunset. The Educational Role of the British Film Institute, 1979-2007’, Comunicar, n. 35, v. XVIII, 2010, Scientific Journal of Media Literacy; ISSN: 1134-3478; pages 15-23
- Richard Berger and Julian McDougall, ‘Touching the Void?: Media Education Research in the Twenty-first Century’, Media Education Research Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 2010
- William J. Buxton, ‘Rockefeller Support for Projects on the Use of Motion Pictures for Educational and Public Purposes, 1935-1954’, Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports Online, 2001
- John Caughie, ‘Authors and auteurs: the uses of theory’, in Donald, J. and Renov, M. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Film Studies (London: Sage, 2007)
- Zoë Druick, ‘International Cultural Relations as a Factor in Postwar Canadian Cultural Policy: The Relevance of UNESCO for the Massey Commission’Canadian journal of communication,Vol 31, No 1, 2006
- Alexander Fedorov, ‘Media Education around the World: Brief History’, Acta Didactica Napocensia, Volume 1, Number 2, 2008
- Caroline Jane Frick, Restoration Nation: Motion Picture Archives and “American” Film Heritage, PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2005
- Gary Hoctor, The Irish Film Society from 1936 to 1956: An examination in the context of the Cultural Histories of Ireland, MA Thesis, 2006
- Elizabeth Lebas, ‘Sadness and Gladness: The Films of Glasgow Corporation, 1922–1938’, FilM Studies, Issue 6, 2005
- Toby Miller (ed), Dossier: ‘In Focus: The British Film Institute’, Cinema Journal 47, No. 4, Summer 2008
- Melanie Selfe, ‘”Doing the Work of the NFT in Nottingham” – or How to Use the BFI to Beat the Communist Threat in Your Local Film Society’, Journal of British Cinema and Television, 2007
- Michelle Spinella, Cinema in Cuban National Development: WOmen and Film Making Culture, PhD Thesis, Florida State University, 2004