By ‘quoting’ from the film is meant that scenes from the 1945 black-and-white
classic are inserted into the films’ narratives or, in the case of The
History Boys, the last moments of Brief Encounter are acted out by some
film-mad schoolboys. When Lean’s film is being quoted, there is discussion
about which excerpts are inserted into the new film – and just how the
chosen excerpt bears on the rest of the film. This chapter considers the
specific episodes ‘quoted’ in the relevant films, the point in the narrative
of the film concerned at which such episodes are glimpsed on screens large
or small, and how this quotation reflects on the moments of its insertion.
It can even be used for comedy, as in The History Boys or the TV series
Far from being cinematically backward, 1950s British film had dashes of imagination that outdid more famous or prestigious examples from the cinematic canon. In his contribution to this book, Dave Rolinson, particularly in his recovery of the neglected The Horse's Mouth, aptly draws attention to a sharper edge to 1950s British film comedy than is always acknowledged. British film of this period is not often credited with that kind of audacity or comic cheek. The comedy is often characterised as postcard or parochial, with the likeable but limited registers of, say, Henry Cornelius's Genevieve or Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth being typical of the range. Again a classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity.