British Cinema, Second World War

Went The Day Well? (1942)

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Quite simply, this is one of the best films ever made at Ealing Studios. This film was a rare none comic film from a studio that was best known for its comic output. The film looks at how we act under pressure and threat. It also shows us that we can all make a difference in such circumstances.

For a film from the 40’s, Went The Day Well? contains some extremely graphic and dark scenes. For instance, there’s the scene where a woman murders a German soldier and in turn she is murdered by his colleague. The scene where members of the home guard are gunned down on the road. The scene where a woman is slapped for not obeying instructions. There is also the scene where the Vicar is shot to death in his church.

One of the most shocking (and for me the most unforgettable)scenes comes near the end of the film. A live grenade is thrown into a room full of children, an older woman notices it, grabs it and runs from the room with it, only to be blown up.

The body count in this film is very high. Both British and German characters are killed throughout, leading to the battle for the village in the films final minutes.

The film is based on a story by Graham Greene. The film no doubt served as a reminder to British people at the time to remain vigilant to the possible invasion of the enemy.

Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Went The Day Well? tells the story of a group of German paratroopers who seize control of the British village of Bramley End. Some of the villagers make an heroic stand against the soldiers, and they try and get word to neighbouring communities of the arrival of the Germans.

Unbeknown to the villagers one of their own is a German sleeper agent. Leslie Banks plays the double crossing Oliver Wilsford with relish. Wilsford is despicable having no qualms about happily ending the lives of people he has lived amongst for years.

This film has a cracking cast to enjoy.

Marie Loher is excellent as the heroic Mrs. Fraser.

C.V France is excellent as the steadfast Vicar, willing to risk his own life instead of bowing beneath the jackboot.

Valerie Taylor is Nora, the Vicar’s gentle daughter who will do the unthinkable and resort to violence.

Harry Fowler is George, a young boy who will risk his own life to alert neighbours to the invasion.

A very young Thora Hird is memorable as Ivy. She is shown happily dispatching Germans off with her shotgun.

Muriel George is Mrs. Collins, the brave postmistress who gives a side order of hatchet with her sausages and mash.

A young David Farrar impresses as an ice cold German soldier casually threatening to kill the village children.

The film interestingly depicts everyone in this community working together for the greater good. Whether they be rich or poor, old or young, male or female; the villagers come together and work as one to defeat the enemy.

I also like how for most of the film it is the women who come up with plans of escape or of warning the outside(the eggs with a message on for example). The film also offers some very strong female roles, and shows the women to be just as brave and capable(if not more so)as the men.

This is one of my favourite war time films, and it is a film that I consider to be one of the best British films ever made. I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this film influenced The Eagle Has Landed.

Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it. If you have, please leave your thoughts below.

 

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15 thoughts on “Went The Day Well? (1942)”

  1. I watched Went the Day Well on a whim without having any idea of how good it would be. This is the type of film the phrase “forgotten gem” was coined for, and you don’t want to mess with a gun toting Thora Hird!

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  2. Such a great film and fascinating on so many levels. It’s highly effective as a propaganda film, but also just a very good thriller if you want to approach it that way. I especially love the “present day” prologue in the churchyard, the only piece of English soil the Germans ever captured. I think the novel of The Eagle Has Landed begins with the discovery that some German paratroopers are buried in an English graveyard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the inspiration.

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  3. They’re crown dependencies so are not part of England really, so if he said England or English soil it would have been technically correct.

    It’s interesting what you said in your review about the film showing the community coming together, because this seems like a foreshadowing of some of the post-war Ealing comedies, Passport to Pimlico, The Titfield Thunderbolt, etc. I think it’s deliberate that some of the most unlikely people in the village help to defeat the Germans – the postmistress, the old poacher, the young boy, etc. And Leslie Banks, the most famous actor in the film, and one of the highest status people in the village, turns out to be a traitor. The film is a fascinating mix of overlapping, complementary messages – be vigilant, don’t automatically put trust in uniforms or status, be prepared for violence and self sacrifice, but don’t worry because we’ll definitely win in the end, and the most unlikely people can play their part – even Thora Hird!

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  4. It’s been years since I last saw this film. The CBC used to show a lot of British films on TV while I was growing up. I assume this was in deference to the heritage of Toronto/Ontario. The change in demographics over the years saw these movies slip from the lineup, and I think that’s a shame. Many people would appreciate something like Went the Day Well?.

    Liked by 1 person

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