The story of British film censorship is inextricably linked with the system of censorship operated by the Lord Chamberlain over stage productions and the theatre. Both the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) and the Lord Chamberlain's Office employed a process of censorship which depended as much on the application of pre-production scrutiny as it did on post-production review. Moreover, both regularly informed each other of their respective activities and followed a policy of 'keeping in step'. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Terence Young's 1959 film, Serious Charge. The genesis of this film lay in Philip King's play of the same name which was first presented for consideration to the Lord Chamberlain's Office in March 1953 with an anticipated presentation date of November that year.
Stephen Frears's response to Woman in a Dressing Gown seems laughably inappropriate. Woman in a Dressing Gown is a drama that counterpoints two different kinds of women: if Georgie is the ideal of 1950s femininity, serene, sexually attractive and 'mature', then Amy Preston is its unacceptable face, scatty, scruffy and loud. The most useful touchstone for approaching Woman in a Dressing Gown as a 'proto-feminist' film is Betty Friedan's groundbreaking study of the disparity between the happy housewife image and the malaise and misery that lies beneath it, The Feminine Mystique. The Feminine Mystique often discusses and illuminates exactly the same problems that Woman in a Dressing Gown indirectly hints at or alludes to, through its presentation of the character of Amy. Throughout Woman in a Dressing Gown melodramatic tropes such as the use of lachrymose music are important.
For every 1950s British comedy assimilated into the academic canon, there are many which have fallen into obscurity, reinforcing the alleged disposability of the form. The Horse's Mouth is a fascinating starting point for a discussion of 1950s comedy, because of its treatment of the genre's defining themes: consensus and its breakdown through the alienating individualism of consumerism. It shares key characteristics with such 'canonical' Ealing comedies as The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit. Rather than harking back to wartime collectivism, the decade's comedies are shaped by the general election of 1951, particularly its anti-collectivist sub-texts. The communities of The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Mouse That Roared reflect the triumph of the British spirit over Nazi Germany's unsportingly ruthless professionalism, but their villains, rather than being.
In an interview in Films and Filming in October 1963, Joseph Losey had declared: 'The Servant is the only picture he have ever made in his life where there was no interference from beginning to end, either on script, casting, cutting, music or on anything else. This chapter focuses on his two British films prior to The Servant, The Criminal and The Damned. The Servant could be seen as the completion of the first phase of Losey's English period, which had begun in 1954 with his first film in England, The Sleeping Tiger. The film in which Losey's background is most obvious is The Intimate Stranger in which the hero Richard Basehart is a former American film editor who, partly through an advantageous marriage, has become an important executive producer in England.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers memory as a specific framework for the study of popular film, intervening in growing debates about the status and function of memory in cultural life and discourse. It examines the relationship between official and popular history and the constitution of memory narratives in and around the production and consumption of American cinema. The book explores the political stakes of cinematic discourse in its production of national memory. It also examines the discursive and institutional apparatus that has come to support the memory of Classic Hollywood in British cultural life. The book also considers both the presence of music and colour in nostalgia films of the 1990s and the impact of digital and video technologies on the representational determinants of mediated memory.
Sequence and the rise of auteurism in 1950s Britain
In 'Angles of Approach', Lindsay Anderson delivered a fierce attack on contemporary British film culture, outlining a model for a devoted politics of creation, well in line with what we would later understand as auteurism and art cinema aesthetics. Anderson was one of the editors of the journal Sequence, a continuation of the Oxford University Film Society magazine, along with, from time to time, for instance, Gavin Lambert, Penelope Houston and Karel Reisz. Auteurism and art cinema, for good and for bad, came to dominate the European cinema after the 1950s. For bad, it possibly caused, as Angus Finney claims in The State of European Cinema, disastrous financial decline in comparison to the American cinema. For good, it created some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces.
Robert Hamer's episode, 'The Haunted Mirror', locates him on the shadow side of Ealing, in the maverick strain that included Alberto Cavalcanti and Alexander Mackendrick. This chapter focuses on four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. Kind Hearts and Coronets confirmed Hamer as one of the most individual of British directors, only four years after his directorial debut. For his next film, Hamer embarked on an adaptation of The Shadow and the Peak, a novel by Richard Mason. He was even willing to reconsider The Shadow and the Peak, scheduling it among Ealing's forthcoming projects, and meantime Hamer was assigned to a filmed play, His Excellency. Throughout Hamer's later films he explores the Jekyll-and-Hyde theme of a man pitted against his doppelgänger, a person whom he opposes but feels tempted to resemble.
Memories of cinema-going in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood
This chapter explores formations of memory in a contemporary British context, specifically as it relates to memories of cinema-going that have been reproduced in local newspapers. It focuses on generational memories of cinema-going in what has been discursively construed as the 'Golden Age' of cinema, a period figured around the Hollywood studio era of the 1930s and 1940s. The chapter explains four main themes: identity, community, morality and decline. It examines these four areas in order to draw out their significance in terms of the process of framing memory in cultural terms. The psychologist Joseph Fitzgerald has argued that 'personal identity is a culturally and historically specific notion', which he locates within modern Western society. The morality evinced by films of the Golden Age is taken by many readers to explain the widespread level of audience participation.
As a technology able to picture and embody the temporality of the past, cinema has become central to the mediation of memory in modern cultural life. The memory of film scenes and movies screens, cinema and cinema-going, has become integral to the placement and location of film within the cultural imagination of this century and the last. This book is a sustained, interdisciplinary perspective on memory and film from early cinema to the present. The first section examines the relationship between official and popular history and the constitution of memory narratives in and around the production and consumption of American cinema. The second section examines the politics of memory in a series of chapters that take as their focus three pivotal sites of national conflict in postwar America. This includes the war in Vietnam, American race relations and the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of marginality in the geographic and cultural borderlands of the US. The book explores the articulation of Vietnam. The final section concentrates on the issue of mediation; it explores how technological and semiotic shifts in the cultural terrain have influenced the coding and experience of memory in contemporary cinema. It considers both the presence of music and colour in nostalgia films of the 1990s and the impact of digital and video technologies on the representational determinants of mediated memory. The book also examines the stakes of cultural remembering in the United States and the means by which memory has been figured through Hollywood cinema.
This chapter explores some of the implications of computer generated imagery for the cinematic representation of the past. It focuses on the most contested and controversial area of contemporary fiction cinema's representation of the past, the use of documentary images as a mode of imaginative reconstruction or re-enactment. The chapter presents an argument that has been made by Alison Landsberg, who has coined the term 'prosthetic memory' to describe the way mass cultural technologies of memory enable individuals to experience events through which they themselves did not live. These arguments appear to have a particular salience for understanding the popularity and the larger cultural significance of films such as Forrest Gump, JFK, Glory, The Hurricane and Saving Private Ryan. The most striking uses of digital compositing and morphing in film is found in Forrest Gump, which digitally rewrites some of the most sensitive scenes of the American past.