Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Twelve Days of (Ealing) Christmas

A suitably festive contribution to round off my year (and a bit) of Ealing viewing - the blog will be back in 2013 with more musings on cinema and TV...
Twelve Crichton’s Directing
Not counting his contribution to Dead of Night (1945), Charles Crichton directed twelve Ealing films, including comedy classics Hue & Cry (1947), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), as well as lesser known dramas like Dance Hall (1950) and The Man in the Sky (1957). Despite this, he still lags behind Basil Dearden (21 films) and Charles Frend (13), but ahead of Robert Hamer (7), Harry Watt (7), Walter Forde (6) and Alexander MacKendrick (5).

Eleven Pipers Piping
Before becoming famous for TV roles in Upstairs Downstairs and The Professionals, a young Gordon Jackson made eleven appearances in Ealing films, stretching from Tommy Trinder’s mate Alastair ‘Jock’ McFarlane in The Foreman Went to France (1942) to Peggy Cummins’ jealous boyfriend Ralph in The Love Lottery (1954). His distinctive brogue provided a Scottish perspective for war films, Australian epics and Victorian melodrama.

Ten Lads a Leaping
Aside from Gordon Jackson, the top ten leading actors who appeared in Ealing films include Mervyn Johns (12), Jack Warner (8), Jack Hawkins (6), Alec Guinness (6), Stanley Holloway (6), George Formby (5), Will Hay (5), John Mills (5), John Clements (5), and Raymond Huntley (4).

Nine Ladies Dancing
The top nine leading actresses include Googie Withers (6), Joan Greenwood (4), Moira Lister (4) Sally Anne Howes (4), Katie Johnson (4), Elizabeth Sellars (3), Kay Walsh (3), Adrienne Corri (2), and Patricia Roc (2). However, although never a lead, they are all beaten by Gladys Henson, who appeared in 10 Ealing films.

Eight Alec Guinesses-a-killing
One of Ealing’s best known films, the dark comedy of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) is most famous for Alec Guinness’ appearance in eight different roles, as the members of the artistocratic D’Ascoyne family that Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) kills off, one by one... Guinness would try and recreate the effect in Barnacle Bill (1958), but to less acclaim.

Seven Awards a Winning (kind of)
Ealing films were nominated for Academy Awards seven times, but T.E.B. Clarke proved victorious, winning ‘Best Original Screenplay’ in 1952 for The Lavender Hill Mob. The other six nominations were for:
  • 1949: Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Colour), Jim Morahan, William Kellner, Michael Relph, Saraband for Dead Lovers
  • 1949: Best Original Screenplay, T.E.B. Clarke, Passport to Pimlico
  • 1952: Best Actor, Alec Guinness, The Lavender Hill Mob
  • 1952: Best Adapted Screenplay, John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander McKendrick, The Man in the White Suit (nominated) – from play of same name by MacDougall
  • 1953: Best Adapted Screenplay, Eric Ambler, The Cruel Sea (nominated) – from Nicholas Monsarrat novel
  • 1956: Best Original Screenplay, William Rose, The Ladykillers

6 Six Googie Withers
The inestimable Googie Withers appeared in six Ealing films: she had a low-key start as the love interest for George Formby in Trouble Brewing (1939), before starring in some of Ealing’s strongest 1940s dramas: They Came to a City (1944), a supportive wife in Dead of Night (1945), a calculating Victorian femme fatale up against stern patriarch Mervyn Johns in Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), a female farmer challenging tradition in The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947) and, perhaps her strongest performance, as Rose Sandigate in It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), struggling to reconcile her past life with criminal and her new domestic life in the East End of London.

Five Aussie Things
Between 1945 and 1959, the head of Ealing Studios Sir Michael Balcon, followed through on his plans to develop and expand Australian film production, with The Overlanders, Ealing’s first film to utilise Australian stories, cast and location filming. Followed by Eureka Stockade (1949), Bitter Springs (1950), The Shiralee (1957) and Ealing Film’s swansong, The Siege of Pinchgut (1959), these films represent the more globally focused side of Ealing that looked (often eagerly) beyond Britain’s shores for stories and audiences.

Four Just Men (1939)
The fifth Ealing film under Michael Balcon’s stewardship of the studios, this confident and briskly paced crime-spy thriller lingers on some of the darker and dramatic strands of Ealing’s output, elements that would thread through later films as diverse as Went the Day Well? (1943), Dead of Night (1945), Against the Wind (1948), The Blue Lamp (1950), The Gentle Gunman (1952) and Nowhere to Go (1958).

Three French Locations
Many of Ealing’s films feature French protagonists, but three in particular use their French locations to set up a Britain-French narrative contrast: The Foreman Went to France (1942) strands its British hero in the middle of an invasion; David Farrar fakes his death before escaping back to Herbert Lom’s glamorous and sexualised Parisian club in Cage of Gold (1950); while Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway engage in a madcap trip to Paris to retrieve their misplaced golden Eiffel Towers in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).

Two Audrey Hepburns
Before Roman Holiday (1952) and Sabrina (1954), Audrey Hepburn appeared in two very different Ealing films: a brief part as ‘Chiquita’ in the South American scenes that bookend The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), and a major role as Nora Brentano in spy drama Secret People (1952).

And a (solitary) Partridge in the Studio’s Pear Tree
Several stars made singular appearances in Ealing’s film output: Humphrey Bogart (The Love Lottery, 1954); Mai Zetterling (Frieda, 1947), David Niven (The Love Lottery, 1954); Harry Secombe (Davy, 1957), Simone Signoret (Against the Wind, 1948)and Benny Hill (Who Done It? 1956).

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