The fifties: Exit Ealing, 1954– 59
in Charles Crichton
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Chapter 6 recounts Charles Crichton’s final years at Ealing Studios. Having received disappointing notices for his preceding two films, The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) and The Love Lottery (1954), Crichton would see his critical fortunes quickly revived by the drama The Divided Heart (1954). Based on the true story of a Slovenian woman’s legal battle to regain custody of the son who had been taken from her during World War II, the film might seem a strange match for a director best known for his comedies. But Crichton was deeply invested in the material, and his sensitive treatment was widely praised by critics. His thirteenth and final film for Ealing Studios, The Man in the Sky, followed in 1957. This tense drama about a crisis during a test flight was also well received, though its box office performance was lacklustre. By this point the studio had been bought by the BBC, and with the departure of Michael Balcon many stalwarts had begun to reconsider their positions. Crichton’s first non-Ealing feature since he’d joined the studio, Law and Disorder, was released by British Lion in 1958 to mixed reviews. He fared better with the disaster film Floods of Fear, also released in 1958, for which he received one of his few writing credits.

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