Just published on Amazon Kindle….Matinee Musings by The History Usherette!
This book contains five extended essays on themes beloved of this blog, along with illustrations of its stars by @aitchteee.
1. A Favourite Pastime
This looks at how film has tracked the changes to one of our favourite leisure pursuits – betting on the horses. Between Formby in ‘Come on George’ to Sid James in ‘Carry on at Your Convenience’ there was a revolution in how betting was carried out and perceived.
“But this shows how legalisation of off-course betting changed the demographic of those taking part. From being something that seemingly everyone indulged in and followed, the betting shops banned children and created an atmosphere that often excluded women. Even when I was working there, as a woman walking into some of the more down at heel branches I did at times feel daunted and under scrutiny.”
2. Carry on NHS
This takes three of the medical Carry on films and looks at how our favourite bit of the welfare state changed during its first three decades.
“The respect for the NHS and medical profession is considerably less than in ’Carry On Nurse’. Frankie Howerd’s character, Mr Biggar, is highly vocal in his criticism:
Nurse: “No bleeding. Good.”
Mr Biggar: “Just like the service.” “
3. Tunnel of Time
The British love railways, even when they don’t do what we want them to. This looks at how our rail services have been portrayed on film, from ‘Oh! Mr Porter’ to ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’.
“Even that most famous of 1940s railway films, ‘Brief Encounter’, gives no indication of shortages or the poor condition of the engines and coaching stock that were in general use at the time. But perhaps the omission of this information is instructive in its own way. Even when the war had been won, there was still a need to keep morale up. “
4. Let George Win it!
George Formby made films throughout World War Two. He was a man of the people, so what do his films tell us about how the people fared in the war?
“If Formby’s entertainments were a gentle morale boosting contribution to the war effort, his war themed films made up for any subtlety. Indeed, subtlety is cast aside like a grenade. First among these is ‘Let George Do It’ (1940). It all starts off quite normally, with a mix up on a railway station and a healthy dose of innuendo. But George soon accidentally finds himself in Norway, as only George can do.”
5. Films With Spirit
Spiritualism was in the air after World War Two…how was this handled by film? This one looks at three of my favourite post war films- ‘Blithe Spirit’, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ and ‘The Ghosts of Berkeley Square’.
“Powell and Pressburger depict an afterlife which has all the trappings of the traditional idea of the place, including a misty position among the stars. One of the features of this otherworld is its unswerving bureaucracy. Peter’s time is up. That is an end to it and he must be called in. A Conductor is despatched to collect him. This, I think, is a reflection of a fatalism that must have been rife at that point in time. “