Thursday, 5 September 2013

Never Never Land

‘Turned Out Nice Again’ starring George Formby, seems quite an unusual film.  Firstly, he marries at the beginning of the story, which hardly ever happens to him.  Usually, much of the storyline revolves around him getting his girl against all the odds.  Secondly, although it was made in the darkest days of World War Two (1941) there is no mention of the war.  There doesn’t even seem to be any underlying message along the lines of “Keep Calm and Carry On” or “Dig For Victory”.  It is 75 minutes of pure escapism back to the pre-war world, with not a uniform in sight to jolt viewers back to an unpleasant reality.  This is actually not that out of kilter with the times.  Cinema and theatre receipts from the time do show that people unsurprisingly had a strong preference for escapism.

I was also quite surprised by the rampant capitalism shown in ‘Turned Out Nice Again’.  The storyline involves George working as an overseer at a textile mill in Preston.  He is climbing up the career ladder and a recent promotion has enabled his marriage to take place.  Charged with running a sales exhibition in that London, he finds himself in ruthless company a long way from home and sensible advice.  He is duped into giving away his life savings in return for the rights to a new type of yarn.  He returns back to the mill with it, has a row with the stuffy company director and is sacked.  But of course, this being a morale boosting feelgood film, it all comes good for George.  The yarn becomes highly sought after and he both gets his job back and a share of the profits.

This film seems to be showing us an idealised lifestyle that you would think would be more in keeping with the 1980s.  George is keen to move up in life, he saves well, and then risks those savings in order to increase his income and the output of the mill.  Much is also made of the marital home, which is furnished on “tick”, that is on credit with regular payments.  I didn’t realise that hire purchase was so easily available pre-war, and that the tradition of the older generation berating the young for buying things that they can’t afford was so well established.  But George and his new wife furnish their entire house, probably using an h.p. price plan, from a local furniture store.  They return to take it all back when George appears to be bankrupt and it is as if the removal men were in.  So this shows that even then, families were being encouraged to aspire to a way of life beyond their immediate means.  This is actually quite a modern film for one that is over 70 years old – if you put aside George’s wife’s role as the deferential housewife.

Finally, I must just put a word in for George’s mother, who has a strong role in this film (usually she remains behind the scenes, despite his frequent exhortions to her).  She is played here, quite hilariously, by Elliott Mason.  I think I may adopt her catchphrase to throw at my own children:

“Eeeh to think, I was four and a half hours under chloroform having you!”

Turned Out Nice Again! by @aitchteee

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