The Halfway House
The Halfway House – 1944 | 95 mins | Fantasy | B&W
Basil Dearden‘s The Halfway House was a curiosity, never really quite achieving what it set out to do, although the idea was intriguing. The story was about a group of travellers, each with a personal problem, who take shelter during a storm at a remote country inn in Wales. There is an indefinable strangeness in the atmosphere and in the conversation of the proprietor and his daughter (Mervyn Johns and his real daughter, Glynis Johns). Why are the only available newspapers a year old? Why does the landlord’s daughter not throw a shadow when she walks in the sun? It is because none of it is real, the Halfway House was bombed a year earlier and both were killed. As a result of their visit to the spectral hostelry, the assorted characters learn much about themselves, and have chance to rectify the problems in their lives.
The couple driven apart by grief over the death of their son are reunited, the embezzler and the black marketeer mend their ways, the sweethearts at odds with each other reconcile their differences. The film ends with a repetition of the conflagration, and the guests go their ways back to the real world with only a subconscious recollection of what has happened, but with a new strength to cope with their lives. Based on a play by Denis Ogden, The Peaceful Inn, Angus MacPhail, Diana Morgan and T.E.B. Clarke (Tibby to everyone at Ealing) did a satisfactory job in opening it up for the screen and, although one or two speeches sound stagey, the film’s main weakness lies in the absolute falsity of its premise. No matter how well-acted, the fantasy is hard to sustain and never develops beyond a theatrical morality tale.
Extract© George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Basil Dearden: Director
Michael Relph: Art Direction
Micky McCarthy: Assistant Director
Alberto Cavalcanti: Associate Producer
Wilkie Cooper: Cinematography
Bianca Mosca: Costumes/Costume Designer
Charles Hasse: Editing
Lord Berners: Music
Ernest Irving: Musical Director
Michael Balcon: Producer
Hal Mason: Production Manager
Angus MacPhail: Script
TEB Clarke: Script
Diana Morgan: Script
Eric Williams: Sound Supervisor
Roy Kellino: Special Effects
Sidney Cole: Supervising Editor