Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

United Kingdom 1944
Directed by
David Lean
114 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

This Happy Breed

This Happy Breed, a celebration of Englishness as embodied in the 'tween wars lives of a Clapham lower-middle class family, is a treat for nostalgia buffs and Anglophiles.

With fine direction by David Lean from Noel Coward's play, it's a carefully detailed production although surprisingly in its historical survey it leap-frogs almost entirely over the Great Depression. The self-conscious patriotism is delivered without visible irony with the hard-working women loyally keeping the home fires burning whilst the cheerily dutiful men trot off to work, occasionally indulging in alcohol-nurtured camaraderie, their collective existences punctuated by interminable cups of tea.

There's a creepily fascinating aspect to it all insofar as chronic dullness should engender such narcissism (Johnny Speight would have much fun with this class-ridden Weltanschauung in the late 60s with the less benign character of Alf Garnett) but this over-arching self-awareness is very much part of Coward's appeal (he came from such a background himself and no doubt had a kind of hate-love relationship to it). 

Robert Newton and Celia Johnson play in the leads, Frank and Ethel Gibbons, whilst Stanley Holloway and John Mills (who rather ludicrously starts off playing a 21 year old, indeed, most of the young’uns appear to be about decade older than they should be) lend thei dutifully cheery support. Its put-the-kettle-on-mother smallness is enough to drive one mad, or in the case of one of the Gibbons daughters, Vi (Eileen Erskine) into the arms of a married man and from thence to a shameful flight to France, that well-known land of unbridled carnality ("disgusting" as Grandma puts it when a letter arrives with a French stamp on it).

With WWII not yet over, the film was clearly propagandistic in intent and as such does justice to its title and can be enjoyed on that level.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst