The Essay: Heffer On British Film - Breaking Taboos In The 1950s

Monday 16 September to Friday 20 September



As part of the BBC’s Sound Of Cinema season, historian and columnist Simon Heffer reflects on classic taboo-breaking British films, which depicted a society changed profoundly by war.

The cinema of the Thirties was nakedly and unashamedly escapist in a way that the cinema of the late Forties and early Fifties - in an age of lost innocence and social upheaval - simply couldn't be. This was a period when British cinema was forced to embrace change and reflect reality.

Taboos it had left untouched could no longer be ignored if film was to remain relevant. Families had broken up because of bereavement and adultery. Subjects considered unsuitable for a cinema audience - marital break-down, criminality, revenge, failings in the justice system, and disability - suddenly became popular with British screenwriters and studios. Social realism was the order of the day.

In this first episode, Heffer puts forward the case for five films from the decade after the war which show British cinema dealing with gritty social issues and dramatic high standards before the Sixties were underway - including It Always Rains On Sunday (1947), The Browning Version (1951), Mandy (1953) and Yield To The Night (1956).

Presenter / Simon Heffer, Producer / Mohini Patel for the BBC

BBC Radio 3 Publicity