Launder & Gilliat – Feminist Icons?
Launder and Gilliat were the two men behind the first St Trinians films. Both wrote and produced ‘Belles’, and Launder directed it. The prolific pair had a long and successful career in films – as screenwriters, producers and directors in various combinations. There are far too many films to list here. But have a look at some of their work in the 1940s and 1950s:
· Millions Like Us (1943)
· Two Thousand Women (1944)
· The Happiest Days of your Life (1950)
· The Belles of St Trinians (1954)
‘Millions Like Us’ concentrated on the war effort of the women in the factories. The men are incidental. ‘2000 Women’ follows a group of female prisoners of war using a stellar female cast and hardly any men that you’ve ever heard of. ‘Happiest Days…’ shows a solid female teaching staff who have more sense and resourcefulness than their male counterparts. Then along comes ‘Belles’ where the male lead plays a female character and the entire population of a girls' school sticks two fingers up to authority and expectations.
Would a modern film studio come up with a new story idea that is so female orientated, I wonder?
Given the period, this is all quite remarkable. Despite war efforts, women were still ‘the weaker sex’ and were expected to retreat back into the home in 1945 and be good wives and mothers. Launder and Gilliat often reminded the world that this ‘weaker sex’ thing was poppycock. Thanks, lads.