Thursday, 25 February 2016

Stop Press

‘Vote for Huggett’ (1949) picks up where ‘Here Come The Huggetts’ left off. Britain’s favourite post war family are continuing to live happily in their suburban semi.  Mr Huggett (Jack Warner) has a good job.  Mrs Huggett (Kathleen Harrison) continues to muddle her way cheerily through life, taking care and pride in her family. The eldest daughter and the flighty niece (Diana Dors) are married off.  The second daughter is gainfully employed and the baby of the family is still Petula Clark, thank goodness.

Before I go any further, I must say how much I adore Kathleen Harrison in this film. As in ‘Here Come the Huggetts’ I believe that it is her talent rather than Jack’s that carries the film. She is side-splitting, and as with any actress of her calibre it is all done in a deceptively easy looking way. Just an expression at the right moment is enough to set you off.  Just watch the scene with the knickers near the beginning.
Jack by @aitchteee

Kathleen by @aitchteee

‘Vote for Huggett’ charts Mr Huggett’s foray into local politics. The adventure begins with a simple letter. Mr H decides that he wishes to share his opinion that their home town needs a lido (which they all pronounce “lee-doh” throughout – is this an old way of pronounciation or have I been saying it wrong? I always thought it was “lie-doh”) so he writes a letter to the local newspaper. They publish it, and it all kicks off.  The whole town sees it and comments on it – to each member of the family. People are in agreement, and the next thing you know, Mr H is being cajoled to stand for councillor.

If you are into politics, there is probably quite a lot of historical stuff that you could get out of this.  But the stand out thing for me was the power of a letter to the local newspaper, and the numbers of people who see it. Local papers are dying now.  We have seen them lose their grip in this generation. I used to buy them – but I no longer see them as something worth spending so much money on.  Prices have rocketed up and content has shrunk – and we already know much of it anyway through various internet portals. I even baulk at accessing the websites of our local papers – they are so weighed down with the advertising that they need to cover their costs that the pages take about a month to load and then jump all over the place. Local papers are obviously fighting for life- and who would see a letter that was printed in one these days?

In this respect, this film is a hark back to slower times, when information trickled out into the community rather than vomited a technicolour-headache- inducing mix of rumours, gossip and incident.  There is no going back, except in a Huggett induced reverie.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Wicked Women

‘The Weak and the Wicked’ (1954) has joined my list of must-see films. It stars Glynis Johns as a well-heeled lady who comes a-cropper due to her addiction to gambling. Her debts land her with a prison sentence of 12 months, and it is her journey through the prison system that forms the foundation of the film.  She meets a range of women, and we learn about their stories in a series of asides.

These small roles for some very familiar faces are wonderful vignettes.  Diana Dors plays the na├»ve young bombshell who has been dropped in it by her boyfriend – whom she pines after with tear filled doe eyes.  Jane Hilton plays the lonely single mother, desperate for love and approval. But best of all, Athene Seyler and Sybil Thorndike play a pair of friends who plot to poison Thorndike’s husband.  I so desperately wanted to see more of these two dotty old devils!  To say that this film is about prison and the desperation and frailty that leads people there, it is quite lighthearted. I never expected to laugh as much as I did – there are also small roles for the likes of Irene Handl and Sid James, bringing their own comic personas to the mix.

This film was another glimpse into 1950s attitudes to women.  All of the characters appear to have been led astray by men – it is their wickedness that puts the women in prison in the first place.  Their view of the prison system is sympathetic towards the women – they suffer separation from their children and even give birth there and it is awful.  Their future prospects are under threat.  When Glynis is moved to an open prison it suggests that this is what the prisoners need – not punishment, not sympathy, just training and trust.

It looks like it could be a case of “dear me, these poor little women led astray by man’s wickedness, we must not be too harsh on the dear things.”  They are not capable of thinking themselves into crime! I’m not sure whether this view is insulting or not!  But I suspect that it is a very romanticised view and not that true to real life. Take the film with a pinch of salt, and enjoy a cosy look at crime and punishment 1950s style.