Robert Hamer’s third film for Ealing Studios – until then known primarily for war films and dramas before their celebrated comedies – It Always Rains on Sunday could arguably be considered the first British ‘kitchen-sink’ drama.
Based on Arthur La Bern’s novel of the same name, the story takes place over 24 hours in Bethnal Green, the East End of London, an area still ravaged by the after-effects of WWII and post-war deprivation. Rose Sandigate (Googie Withers) lives in meager conditions with her middle-aged husband and his two daughters from a previous marriage. When her former lover Tommy (John McCallum) turns up as a prison escapee and begs her to hide him, she is torn between her new life and her old.
Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe’s work is masterful. A photojournalist during the war, he’d caught the eye of Ealing director Alberto Cavalcanti, who brought him into the studio for For Those in Peril and Dead of Night. Location shooting in crowded streets and markets was at the time still quite experimental in British cinema, but Slocombe’s masterstroke is in the final scene of the convict chased between trains along a railway siding. The noirish chiaroscuro of this night sequence has often been compared with the poetic realism of French cinema of the 1930s, a reminder of Renoir and Carné.
At the time of its release, the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association declared it “an unsavoury film…with appeal only to those with very broad minds”. Undeterred, the British audience made it Ealing’s box office hit of the year. Novelist Arthur La Bern’s Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square would 25 years later become Hitchcock’s Frenzy.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Arthur La Bern. Scen.: Angus MacPhail, Robert Hamer, Henry Cornelius. F.: Douglas Slocombe. M.: Michael Truman. Scgf.: Duncan Sutherland. Int.: Googie Withers (Rose Sandigate), Jack Warner (detective Fothergill), John McCallum (Tommy Swann), Edward Chapman (George Sandigate), Jimmy Hanley (Whitey), John Carol (Freddie), John Slater (Lou Hyams), Susan Shaw (Vi Sandigate). Prod.: Michael Balcon per Ealing Studios DCP. D.: 92′
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