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.
Chapter 4 covers Charles Crichton’s career in the latter part of the forties. Following the end of World War II, Alberto Cavalcanti, the man who had recruited Crichton, quit Ealing Studios, reportedly in a dispute over money. Studio boss Michael Balcon proceeded to outline an approach to film-making that aimed to explore all elements of post-war British society while keeping costs low enough to be sustainable on the domestic market alone. Crichton, meanwhile, remained busy racking up more directorial credits on the trail-blazing Ealing comedy Hue and Cry (1947), the ‘mistimed’ war film Against the Wind (1948) and the tonally inconsistent Another Shore (1948), a whimsical ‘comedy-tragedy’ that Crichton himself preferred to forget. One of his most important contributions to the Ealing brand, however, was his uncredited intervention in Alexander Mackendrick’s Whisky Galore (1949), which helped turn around a troubled production and led to what may be the studio’s biggest global hit.
Chapter 3 recounts Charles Crichton’s activities during World War II. Crichton expected to be called up at the beginning of the conflict, but instead he was recruited by the Brazilian émigré film-maker Alberto Cavalcanti to edit a short documentary called Young Veteran (1940). This was to be the first in a series of such films that Crichton worked on at the new Ealing Shorts Unit. He made his feature-length debut for Ealing as editor of The Big Blockade (1942), and soon after was elevated to the role of ‘associate producer’ on the film Nine Men (1943). His directorial debut, the well-received For Those in Peril, followed in 1944, and he went on to direct Painted Boats and a segment of the Ealing classic Dead of Night (both 1945).
The introduction begins by noting the lack of scholarly attention that has been given to Charles Crichton up to now. Despite his numerous cinematic successes, including A Fish Called Wanda, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, the general attitude remains that he was a capable journeyman at the creative end of the film industry. This is largely due to his being closely associated with ‘Ealing comedy’, a series of films that are unfairly viewed as being effective variations on an established formula. In fact, Crichton was a highly versatile film-maker, equally adept at directing dramas and film noir. However, he was not an adherent of auteur theory, but instead saw film as a collaborative medium.
Chapter 9 recounts Charles Crichton’s activities through the seventies. This was the first decade of his career in which he did not work on a feature film. Instead, he focused on television. His first productions were episodes of the children’s adventure sitcom Here Come the Double Deckers and the Shirley MacLaine vehicle Shirley’s Hour. These were followed by stints working on two Gerry Anderson projects, the derivative action show The Protectors and the more ambitious Space: 1999. Between 1974 and 1976 Crichton directed fourteen of the latter’s forty-eight episodes – more than any other contributor. But the programme he was to be most attached to in later years was ITV’s Black Beauty, inspired by but not based on the classic book, for which he directed eighteen episodes. The decade ended with Crichton realising his first successful collaboration with John Cleese, via Cleese’s production company Video Arts, which had embarked on a project creating professional training films with a comedic style. Crichton would go on to direct twenty-seven Video Arts titles over the next sixteen years.
Chapter 7 covers Charles Crichton’s activities in the early sixties. After a brief stint working on The Birdman of Alcatraz for Hollywood production company Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, Crichton found himself helming The Battle of the Sexes (1960) for Michael Balcon’s new company, Bryanston Films. This adaptation of the James Thurber short story ‘The Catbird Seat’ was generally well received, with particular credit going to Peter Sellers’s performance in the lead role. Crichton worked for Bryanston again on The Boy Who Stole a Million (1960), an Anglo-Spanish adventure comedy that was welcomed by American critics but fared less well at home. A three-year stint directing episodes of the undistinguished ITC series Man of the World followed, before Crichton returned to the big screen with The Third Secret (1964), an ambitious but flawed thriller that is notable for providing Judi Dench, already a star of the stage, her first film role at the age of twenty-nine. More TV work followed with the series Danger Man and The Human Jungle.
Chapter 8 follows Charles Crichton’s career through the second half of the sixties. He made only one feature film during this period, the thriller He Who Rides a Tiger (1965). Based on the experiences of cat burglar Peter Gulston (aka Peter Scott), the film was written by Trevor Peacock and starred Tom Bell and Judi Dench. The production was plagued by money problems and the erratic behaviour of producer David Newman, and the reviews were mixed. It would be more than two decades before Crichton directed another feature. The subsequent years were filled with TV work, notably on The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase and The Strange Report. There was, however, a suggestion of things to come when Crichton was briefly considered as director for a project being developed by future Monty Python’s Flying Circus stars John Cleese and Graham Chapman. The film, then titled Rentasleuth, went ahead without him, appearing in 1972 under the title Rentadick. It was a total flop, but the short-lived collaboration between Crichton, Cleese and Chapman would go on to bear fruit almost twenty years later with A Fish Called Wanda.
This penultimate chapter examines the various controversies surrounding Game of Thrones relating to issues of adaptation and to sex and violence, among other things. Focusing on the Red Wedding and the rape of Sansa Stark, it shows how participants spoke about scenes that they found memorable and those that made them feel uncomfortable or angry. The chapter examines how moments of shock generated by the series could be accepted and appreciated as characteristics of ‘extreme storytelling’, whereas angry responses were associated with rejection of the TV show’s storylines, aesthetics or politics. It explores in detail the characteristics of responses to Sansa’s rape, placing these in the wider context of the way that debates about representations of violence – particularly sexual violence and ‘rape culture’ – have developed.
How do we move from talking in vague terms about ‘the audience’, without falling into the vacuous opposite of saying that ‘everyone is different’? This chapter explains how the project’s qualiquantitative methodology, coupled with an idea developed from the sociologist Max Weber, enabled the identification of seven distinct kinds of audience for Game of Thrones, each with its own orientation to the TV show.
A great deal of theoretical work, notably from media psychology and cognitive film theory, has addressed the ways that audiences relate to characters within fictional works. This chapter reviews the main tendencies within this work, before testing some of its main claims by close examination of the ways that the project’s respondents chose, and talked about, their favourite characters and favourite survivors (notably Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Sansa Stark, Petyr Baelish, Lord Varys, and Cersei Lannister). The results reveal the very complex ways that audiences affiliate with characters, doing so in highly patterned but also selective ways (sidelining uncomfortable features).