17th March 1930. The Golden Age of Cinema.
Today in 1930 the British Board of Film Censors, annual report said that sordid themes involving more than 300 films were either sent back for changes or rejected altogether.
They listed coarse speech, women in a state of intoxication, ministers of religion in ‘equivocal situations,’ marital infidelity, criminals shown to be either affluent or apparently successful and references to the Prince of Wales.
Three attempts to film Love on the Dole ran into censorship from governments who were sensitive to the social issues it raised, and wasn’t to be released until 1941 when it was used as a clarion call of a ‘People’s War’.
In the 1930.s the cinema was dominated by American output, only relieved by an obligatory quota for dire British films, noted for wooden, clipped-voice acting, as used on the theatrical stage.
Post war the British film industry was dominated by the Boulting Brothers (John and Roy), after making their name with the Army Film and Photographic Unit.(1)
An early film, by Roy, was The Guinea Pig (1948), where Richard Attenborough, as state schoolboy was placed in a public school, a post war exercise in social engineering.
Later came Private’s Progress, with Ian Carmichael (1956); Lucky Jim; Carleton-Brown of the Foreign Office; I’m All Right Jack; Brothers in Law and Heavens Above, which gently mocked, the hypocrisy and out-dated establishment of, in order: the army, foreign office, trade unions, the law and the church, whilst showing a sneaking regard for British eccentricity.
Then there were the Ealing Comedies with producer Michael Balcon seeing his role as the projector of British values in a patriotic and idiosyncratic, individualism, notably seen in The Titfield Thunderbolt, Passport to Pimlico, Whiskey Galore, The Lavender Hill Mob, many centring on economically marginal areas battling against the bureaucracy of post war Britain.
The Man in the White Suit, showed the alarm generated due to the discovery by the scientist (Alex Guinness) of a new suit material and the threat it posed.
Then in a different vein were the dark comedies of Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers (1957). (2)
War films memorably The Dam Busters and The Cruel Sea, with a message of the challenging circumstances placed on Britain to be defeated by the stiff upper lip, with the British male hero portrayed by the likes of John Mills and Jack Hawkins were also typical of the post war decades.
The ‘Carry On’ films beginning in black and white in the late 1950.s with Carry on Sergeant are a story in themselves.
(1) Roy brought back the first war footage of troops in action after accompanying the Commando raid on Vaagso in Norway. The Unit after the victories of 1942 produced documentaries such as Desert Victory and Tunisian Victory.
(2) Titfield was partly filmed at the old Dunkerton Pit in Somerset.
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