Tag Archives: Alexander MacKendrick

Unsung Classics 7: Mandy (1952)

Mandy was directed by Alexander MacKendrick. This Ealing Studios film was produced by Michael Balcon and Leslie Norman, and it is based upon the 1946 novel The Day Is Ours by Hilda Lewis. In addition to being a very powerful and touching film, Mandy also serves as an extremely educational experience for people who don’t know that much about deafness.

The sequences where Mandy attends the deaf school were actually filmed on location at the Royal School For The Deaf in Manchester, the school still exists and is now called The Seashell Trust. The film features strong performances from all in the cast, and it is a very moving and uplifting film showing people that there is hope out there during tough times. It also shows that you shouldn’t assume someone isn’t capable of learning or growing as an individual because of a disability they may have. 

    Mandy Miller as Mandy. Screenshot by me.

The film also features one of the best performances by a child actor (Mandy Miller) that I have ever seen. Mandy Miller is such a natural young actress, she conveys so much in this film with her expressions and eyes alone. The fact that she is so young and can convey so much emotion in such a natural way is impressive to me. Mandy wasn’t in very many films, and retired from acting when she turned 18. I think that her retirement is a real shame and quite a loss to the industry, as she was a very gifted young lady.


Searle helps Mandy to communicate. Screenshot by me.

The film also does so much to highlight that people who are deaf are just like the rest of us. If taught and supported properly, they can communicate, cope and live perfectly normal lives just like everyone else can.

At the time of this films release, illness and disability still had a great deal of stigma attached to them. Issues such as deafness were swept under the carpet so to speak. People didn’t want to know about such things. Shame on them I say, disability is not catching!

I also really hope that people who saw this film back at the time of release came to understand that deaf people(and anyone else with a disability for that matter)are just as normal as anyone else. I also hope this film helped educate people more about the condition of deafness.

The film focuses on a family who are affected by deafness. At first glance Mandy(Mandy Miller)seems like any other child her own age, she is, except for one slight difference though. Mandy was born deaf.  Mandy’s loving parents Christine and Harry(Phyllis Calvert and Terence Morgan)raise her at home, because she is mute and can’t communicate with her family or anyone else as she has no concept of language.

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Mandy’s parents. Image source IMDb. 

As she gets older, Mandy becomes hard to control and becomes a danger to herself. Mandy withdraws into herself and doesn’t understand the dangers surrounding her in everyday life. Eventually Mandy is taken to a residential deaf school, which is run by the progressive teacher, Dick Searle (Jack Hawkins). Here Mandy can at last make friends, and she can finally learn how to communicate in a hearing world.

The growing friendship which develops between Christine and Searle as they bond while helping Mandy, could so easily have developed into a romance, but it doesn’t. This relationship is touching and is well conveyed by Jack Hawkins and Phyllis Calvert.

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Searle with Mandy and her mum. Image source IMDb.

The film also does a good job of showing the strain that can sometimes exist in the lives of family members of people with disabilities. The parents in the film are depicted as being very loving and devoted towards to their daughter, but they also know that Mandy needs professional help and that help is something they are not equipped to give her. Dealing with her condition and with her going away to school sadly places a strain on this couples marriage.  

All the adults do a good job here, but they are essentially in supporting roles. Mandy Miller is the real star of this one. I think that Jack Hawkins is particularly excellent as the gruff teacher who doesn’t act in a conventional way. Searle doesn’t care about manners etc, he just wants to help the children and do a good job as a teacher. This attitude makes him disliked by the schools governing board. He’s the man for the job though, and he will help no matter what they say.

An uplifting, moving and very interesting film that raises awareness about deafness.

Please leave your comments on the film below.