Comprehensive Account of a Seminal Period in British Film History
Now forty-six years old, KIND HEARTS AND OVERDRAFTS is a fascinating account of that period in the Forties and Fifties when Ealing Studios established its identity as a powerhouse of the resurgent British film industry.
Under the benevolent patronage of Michael Balcon, the studio assembled a galaxy of creative talents - directors, writers, and producers including Charles Frend, Charles Crichton, Michael Relph, Basil Dearden, Diana Morgan and Alexander Mackendrick. They frequently worked collaboratively as well as individually on such seminal films as HUE AND CRY (1947), KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949), WHISKY GALORE! (1949), THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1951) and THE LADYKILLERS (1955). Many of the scripts were penned by T. E. B. Clarke, a unique talent who created original tales rather than adaptations, as was common at that time.
This documentary manages to collect first-hand reminiscences of many of those involved, as well as Balcon himself. We learn a lot about the way Ealing worked at that time; the studio did not have a lot of money, but allowed directors and other creative workers the kind of freedom not normally found in the studio system. While Balcon's range of interests was certainly limited (he favored patriotic material generally written from a middle class perspective), he understood the importance of commissioning diverse stories, frequently filmed on location in and around the London area as well as further afield. As a result the Ealing comedies offer fascinating snapshots of a long-vanished postwar world, where class- divisions still mattered, yet the whiff of change was still in the air in bomb-damaged cities.
Presenter Frank Muir cuts a sympathetic yet rather obtrusive presence in this documentary, reflecting a televisual style that now seems rather outmoded. He makes some penetrating comments about the impact of the Ealing comedies, even if his claim that they seem rather bourgeois to Seventies audiences now seems rather outmoded. The wheel has come full circle: what seemed quaint four and a half decades ago now seems more accessible.
This documentary is a valuable historical document, preserving for ever the comments of a group of creative artists, all of whom are no longer with us, about a period in British film that can justifiably be described as golden.
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