Sometimes you watch a film that surpasses all your expectations; sometimes you watch a film that reminds you how good the British film industry can be. The film in question is Robert Hamer's 1947 adaptation of a novel by Arthur La Bern, It Always Rains on Sunday. This Ealing production depicts a slice of post war London's working class life just two years after the end of WW2. It involves people that have had life beaten out of them by a war and rationing, and live their lives surrounded by bomb damage. It's a film that has been compared with the 1930's French film movement known as the Poetic Realism Movement. These are recreated realism films stylised and studio based rather than socio-realism of the documentary. 'They usually have a fatalistic view of life with their characters living on the margins of society, either as unemployed members of the working class or as criminals. After a life of disappointment, the characters get a last chance at love, but are ultimately disappointed again and the films frequently end with disillusionment or death'. You can sense the similarity with the British New Wave movement of the late 50's and early sixties.
The action takes place more or less on one Sunday in East London. The central figure in the story is Rose, a housewife who before the war worked in a local public house. It was this attractive young blond barmaid that fell in love with a flashy crook who was a regular at the pub, a tall handsome man called Tommy Swan. But the intense affair with Tommy did not last; he was arrested in Manchester and got seven years in Dartmoor for robbery with violence. Rose ended up marrying into a life of drudgery. George (Edward Chapman) is a dull but decent man 15 years her senior with a young son and two nubile teenage daughters Doris (Patricia Plunket The Flesh is Weak 1957) and Vi (Susan Shaw Pool of London 1951) who don't get on with their stepmother. Things get worse for Rosé who gets more and more depressed and miserable as time goes on. Then one grey and wet Sunday morning she wakes up to the news that her ex lover Tommy Swan has escaped from Dartmoor and the police suspect he is heading for his old East End haunts. She discovers that the fugitive is hiding in the family's Anderson Shelter in their back yard. Rose knows that she should turn him in, but realises there is still a spark between them, so decides to help him escape even with the treat of two years hard labour hanging over her should she get caught. Meanwhile the family goes about their normal Sunday morning routines totally unaware of the swiftly developing situation.
|The pressures of family life begin to tell.|
A bleakly desperate and serious story that shows us a time that bares no relation to modern Britain, a totally different world from today especially for working class women like Rose who yearn for some excitement from their sad ‘stuck in a rut’ lifestyle’s. With Swan appearing back in her life it takes her back to her days as that young carefree blond barmaid and for a short time injects some excitement and danger, however risky, back into her life on this cold dank Sunday morning in Bethnal Green.
Hamer brings out some great character studies of what are in essence real people; even in the smaller parts we get fully-fledged characters. Googie Withers and John McCallum, who in 1948 married, play the two main characters. Their real life relationship added dynamism to the on screen affair between Rosé and Tommy. Withers was a strong and sexy actress who appeared in many films before she moved to Australia with her husband were they both continued to have successful careers in the theatre. The period detail is fantastic and gives us, the audience, a real sense of community in this run down part of London, helped by the beautiful photography of Douglas Slocombe a cinematographer whose career spans 47 years and includes 84 feature films from early Ealing in the 1940's right up to three Indians Jones movies in the 1980's via The Italian Job in 1969.
|The Streets of East London cir.1947.|