British cinema of the 1940s freshly interpreted by Simon Heffer who explores old favourites in terms of their social and political message.
The British film industry went into the second world war still relatively naive. It was behind Hollywood in terms of technical accomplishment and behind France in its sophistication - 1939 was, after all, the year of Gone With The Wind and La Regle du Jeu, both unrivalled in Britain at the time.
The early propaganda films were predictably facile and jingoistic; but as the threat of invasion passed and attention turned to winning the war rather than simply defending the country against the Nazi onslaught, British cinema became more subtle. By late in the war, cinema became more concerned with presenting the basis for a new post-war settlement for the British people.
In three personal interpretations, Simon Heffer traces the ways in which British cinema moved from galvanising the public to challenging the established class system and arguing for social cohesion, with its consequent potential loss of individuality. In the post-war period he looks at how film reflected a reaction among the public against state control and austerity and a new challenge to supposedly common values.
1. Went the Day Well?
In the first programme, Simon Heffer celebrates the 1942 Ealing film, based on a short story by Graham Greene, depicting how a village invaded by Germans unites against them and defeats them. Despite the bloodshed, what emerges is an almost Utopian vision of rural peace that suggests itself as a possible microcosm for a less class-bound future society.
Producer: Beaty Rubens.