Tag Archives: Googie Withers

It Always Rains On Sunday (1947)

It Always Rains On Sunday poster

This film is one of the best screen portrayals of everyday life in post World War Two London that there has ever been.  We see the grime. We see the boredom of the young, who are so desperate to break away from their parents control. We also see the frayed tempers and all the nosy neighbours. The film is part Noir, part crime drama, and part romance. This flick came out of Ealing Studios during their grittier and darker period in the 1940’s.

The film is interesting visually because photographer Douglas Slocombe shot it out on location in and around the streets of London. This choice certainly gives the film a great deal of realism. We see the cramped and busy city streets, and the somewhat calmer residential streets, and because we do it’s like being there with the characters we are watching. It is shown to be raining for much of the film, and I really love how one part of the soundtrack by Georges Auric sounds just like the patter of raindrops.  

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Tommy keeps Rose quite. Image source IMDb.

Rose Sandigate is a London housewife whose dull Sunday morning is turned on its head by the arrival of her former sweetheart Tommy Swann(John McCallum). Tommy has been in prison for years and has escaped. Tommy is now on the run and is being searched for by the police, in a manhunt led by the highly experienced and observant, Detective Fothergill (Jack Warner).

Rose hates Tommy for having left her, but she won’t turn him over to the police. Rose may harbour conflicted feelings for Tommy, but she will try and offer him what little help she can (shelter, food and money). The trouble is Rose is now married to the kindly George (Edward Chapman)and is mother to their son, and also to her two stepdaughters, Vi and Doris. Her family are in and out of the house and she must try and hide Tommy from them and from her neighbours and the police.

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Tommy on the run. Screenshot by me.

The escape of Tommy isn’t the only story of the film though. There are several other stories being told, and the paths that some of the other characters in those stories take end up connecting them with Tommy Swann’s later in the film. There are the three criminals who are trying to flog stolen rollerskates, the reporter who is also trying to find Tommy, and the crime boss who Doris’s boyfriend wrongly assumes fancies her.

We also follow Rose’s two stepdaughters Vi (Susan Shaw)and Doris (Patricia Plunkett) and their love lives. We also see the antagonism that they (more so Vi)have towards Rose. Interestingly Vi and Rose are both quite similar in that they are both very strong and determined women, and they both fall for a guy who breaks their heart; in Vi’s case it is the suave, married musician and music store owner Morry (Sydney Tafler). Vi and Rose have more in common with one another than they’d like to admit.

This film is thrilling, suspenseful, funny and quite realistic. There are strong characters and performances to enjoy throughout. The standout performance of the film comes from Googie Withers as Rose. Googie was one of the best actresses working in Britain at the time. She always excelled at playing strong women and this is one of her best screen performances. She perfectly captures this woman’s boredom and her unleashed excitement when the situation with Tommy makes this Sunday one she’ll never forget. Rose is on edge throughout the film. She struggles to control her temper when she argues with Vi,  and struggles to ignore her feelings for Tommy. Most of all she struggles to endure the dullness of her life as a housewife. 

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Vi. Screenshot by me.

Susan Shaw also makes quite an impression in the film. She is excellent as the glamourous Vi. Shaw shows us that this woman is tough and also easily hurt. Shaw had a tragic life, she married the popular actor Bonar Colleano, and became an alcoholic after he was killed in a car crash in 1958. A sad life and end for a very good actress.

Sydney Tafler is excellent as Morry. He steals every scene he is in as the man who cheats on his wife, but who wrongly assumes she doesn’t know when she actually does. This leads to him rather amusingly finding out he is wrong in that. He breaks a lot of hearts, and doesn’t give it a second thought. What a cad!

I like how the film shows how the family have frayed tempers because they live in such a cramped environment, and because of that they have little privacy from one another. This would have been the reality in many British homes at the time. The film also reflects the dullness of everyday living and the excitement that beckons from living your life in a different way to the accepted norm of society. 

The film also shows us the two sides of criminal life. There’s the money and nice times when the criminal succeeds, and there is also the imprisonment and heartbreak when they fail, get caught and are punished. This is reflected in the exploits of the gang trying to flog their stolen skates, and in Tommy, who literally embodies what happens to a criminal when they are caught and punished. In the film Tommy is shown to have been severely flogged while in prison. He has come out a scared, broken and desperate man. Hopefully his situation may have served as a wakeup call to anyone in the audience who thought crime pays.

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Preparing to shoot a scene between Rose and Tommy. Image source IMDb.

I think this film also highlights that it is women who so often are left to pick up the pieces, and to suffer great emotional pain when their men go and do something stupid (be it crime or cheating on them). The women take that pain and use it to make themselves stronger, as that is the only way they can go on with life after what has happened.

The film also makes Rose an interesting character, she is shown as a married woman who still has feelings for her ex, and there is a scene where it is pretty strongly hinted that she and her ex have sex in her bed! Also the rather shocking decision she makes near the very end of the film is very interesting; I think that her choice must surely have shocked quite a few people at the time of release from a moral point of view.

This bleak choice that Rose makes adds even more darkness and despair to a film already swimming in both of those things. Interestingly though Rose does get some happiness at the end, which goes against what usually happened to characters like her, especially if they are deemed immoral or because they made the decision she did at the end.

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Googie Withers as Rose. Screenshot by me.

Sadly this was to be the last film that Googie Withers would make for Ealing Studios. She continued to make films elsewhere though. She and co-star John McCallum were in love when they made this film, and they got married the following year. They moved to Australia in the 1950’s and stayed married until John died in 2010. Googie died the following year.

This really is one of the best British films. I think it does such a good job of portraying the post war life. It has become a great favourite of mine, and when I’m in the mood for a well acted British Noir this is one I turn to. I just wish it was better known by classic film fans today.

I like how many of the characters actions, gestures and words give the film a strong dose of authenticity and realism. One of my favourite examples of this is the scene with Hermione Baddeley as a landlady interviewed by the police; she is so disdainful and walks away from them yawning and scratching her bum. It’s the little moments like this that bring characters to life and make a film or series more realistic. I also like how the people in this film are relatable and ordinary, they are not rich or doing things that most people at this time would never have been able to afford to do.

My favourite scenes are the following. Rose and Vi’s argument and fight about the bedroom door and the mirror. The entire sequence at the railway yard. The inspector speaking to the three men in the pub. The opening scene where Doris has to make breakfast, and the family all start to get up and get ready. Tommy and Rose’s first meeting in the air raid shelter. The flashback sequences showing us Tommy and Rose’s romance.  The two boys blackmailing Morry in return for their silence about seeing him with Vi. The ending.

Any other fans of this one?

 

The Horrorathon: Dead Of Night (1945)

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This is my entry for my horror blogathon. I can’t wait to be able to read all of your spooky film reviews.

I’m going to be writing about one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is Dead Of Night. As many of you already know I personally much prefer creepy and psychological horror stories instead of the violent and gory ones. This film is the perfect blend of the supernatural and scares for me. The film brings to mind the scary stories from books, you know the ones I mean, those creepy tales of terror which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark and stormy night.

A sequence near the end of the film does the best job I’ve ever seen of bringing to life nightmares. This sequence manages to capture the disorientation and outright terror you experience when you are having a nightmare. Images and faces are jumbled up, time has no meaning and there is no escape from what you’ve become part of.

At the time this film was released the horror genre was practically non existent in British cinema. America was churning out scary and spooky flicks on a regular basis, but we just were not doing the same.  Then Dead Of Night was released, and this film quickly showed the world that the UK could also produce films that were able to chill the blood.

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I would have so loved to have been in the audience when this film was first released. Not only was the content and style of the film something new but this film came out of Ealing Studios. Why is that important you may ask?

The content of this film was about as far from Ealing’s regular output as it was possible to get. Ealing is best known for its comedies and picture postcard portrayals of British life, but during the 1940’s they did start to produce some grittier and darker films. This horror film was one of their darkest. The content of this film was so different that it must have come completely out of the blue for audiences at the time. Other films worth watching from the studios grittier and darker years include: Went The Day Well? Pink String and Sealing Wax and It Always Rains On Sunday.

Dead Of Night is not only a good horror film, but it is also a very unique and cleverly put together film. It has four of Britain’s finest directors at the helm. These directors each directed the different segments of the film. Basil Dearden directs the linking narrative, and also directs the hearse driver story. Alberto Cavalcanti directs both the Christmas party and the ventriloquist dummy stories. Robert Hamer directs the haunted mirror story. Charles Crichton directs the golfing story.

Although this wasn’t the first anthology horror film to be made (the earliest one that I’m aware of is Eerie Tales from 1919); Dead Of Night would however go on to become a film that was to become extremely influential on future horror anthology productions. The style of this film paved the way for films like The Amicus horror films, such as Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors and The Vault Of Horror.  The hearse driver story surely has to have inspired the films Final Destination and The Night My Number Came UpThe Twilight Zone season 2 episode called Twenty Two also has strong similarities to this story too.

Dead Of Night consists of five individual horror stories, with each one being connected via a clever linking story. Ghosts, Deja vu, recurring nightmares, premonitions, haunted objects and a creepy ventriloquists dummy all feature here. Unlike many other anthology films, the stories and the overall structure of the film combine together here to make a perfect whole. It’s not like there are only a couple of good parts and the rest is rubbish, each of these horror stories sucks you in. The horror stories are not the only high points of the film though; the linking story itself is also extremely chilling, and it is one that I always want to keep returning to as the film goes on.

I actually think that the film would have still worked and been creepy (although undoubtedly not as successful) if only the linking story was shown, and instead of us seeing the horror stories we just see the characters telling their respective stories.

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Walter Craig arrives. Screenshot by me.

The film begins with architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)arriving at the country home of Elliot Foley (Roland Culver). Craig is there to consult on some renovations being undertaken in the house. Foley has some houseguests and Craig (despite never having met any of them before)knows them and claims he knows them due to seeing them in a recurring dream.

As the guests speak to him, Craig begins to start predicting things that they will do, and he becomes increasingly uneasy and is convinced something terrible will happen soon.

The other guests all try and convince Craig that there is no truth to his fears. As the day goes on the guests are inspired by Craig’s claims, and they start to share weird and scary stories of strange incidents they have witnessed themselves. We see these stories play out on screen.

The first story that we see is about a racing car driver (Anthony Baird)who is injured in a crash. As he recovers in hospital, he begins to have some frightening visions. He later comes to understand these were premonitions. This sequence is very unsettling indeed and it is one of my favourites from amongst the various stories. This sort of story is one that never gets old. It can be set in any situation really (public transport, meeting a dangerous person who will do you harm, an accident etc.)

    The racing driver opens the curtains and sees a nightmare.Screenshot by me.

The second story takes place at a Christmas party in an old country house. A young girl (Sally Ann Howes) goes exploring the rooms during a game of hide and seek. She comes across a lonely little boy dressed in old clothes. Chills are guaranteed when she later discovers who he is. This sequence is both creepy and touching. It is inspired by a real British murder case. The actor who plays the boy is uncredited, I find that very strange as he has quite a large role within the sequence.

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Sally makes a chilling discovery. Screenshot by me.

The third story concerns a couple who are plagued by a haunted antique mirror. The husband (Ralph Michael)sees a different room reflected back to him in the mirror, instead of the room in which he is standing. He soon becomes obsessed by this mirror and undergoes a personality change. His wife (Googie Withers)tries to help him and she soon comes to see that he is not going mad as she had first feared.  

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She was starting to wish she hadn’t brought this mirror. Screenshot by me.

The fourth story is comic in tone and seems a bit of an odd one to have been included really. Having said that though there are some creepy moments to be found here (the man walking into the lake to drown himself for example). There’s also some clever camera trickery too. The story is about two obsessed golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne)who are in love with the same woman. One of the men ends up as a ghost and haunts the other . This one strikes me as just an excuse to show Wayne and Radford in a film; these two appear regularly throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s as the comic characters Charter’s and Caldicott, their characters in this film might just as well have been those characters.

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A Charters and Caldicott ghost story.

The fifth story is the one that is best remembered. A ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave)descends into incurable madness. What causes this? He is convinced that his dummy is actually alive. Is he correct, or is he just simply an ill man who is sadly losing his mind? Ventriloquist stories are always creepy and this is one of the most unforgettable and well made of these stories.  Michael Redgrave gives one of the best performances of his entire career here, you really do believe he is becoming tired, unbalanced and downright terrified.

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The deranged ventriloquist. Screenshot by me.

After the individual stories are over the horror continues on as we return to the linking story. I won’t reveal the ending in case people haven’t seen this, but if you have, then you will know the horror which awaits the viewer at the end of the film.

The film features many of Britain’s finest actors. Michael Redgrave and Googie Withers were two of the biggest British film stars of this era, and I’ve no doubt that their presence was a major reason for fans to check this film out. Mervyn Johns and Roland Culver were wonderful character actors and they are both excellent here. A very young Sally Ann Howes makes quite an impression in an early role.

The photography by Douglas Slocombe is incredible. The photography really helps to create an eerie mood which carries on from sequence to sequence. The film looks fantastic too. The music by Georges Auric is suitably chilling and it is the perfect accompaniment to the spooky visuals.

My favourites of the stories are the linking story, the hearse driver, and the ventriloquists dummy.

I think the best of the stories are the following. The linking story. The ventriloquists dummy. The haunted mirror. The hearse driver.

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best and to enjoy some interesting interviews about the film. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below. If you’ve never seen this one, I highly recommend it to you.