The Loves of Joanna Godden
The Loves of Joanna Godden – 1947 | 89 mins | Drama | B&W
The Loves of Joanna Godden, which was adapted by H.E. Bates (with adjustments by Angus MacPhail, Ealing’s story supervisor) from a novel of Edwardian rural life by Sheila Kaye-Smith. Googie Withers played a high-spirited young woman whose father leaves her a sheep farm on Romney Marsh in Kent and who determines, against the odds, to run it herself. She refuses assistance from a neighbouring farmer, one Arthur Alce (John McCallum) and, encouraged by her new shepherd to whom she is attracted (Chips Rafferty, temporarily imported from Australia), she embarks on a disastrous breeding experiment which almost wipes out a pedigree flock. She becomes engaged to a pleasantly attractive man who is unlikely to dominate her (Derek Bond) but he is drowned before the marriage. She then realises that she would be best off with Alce, but learns that he has fallen for her flighty younger sister (Jean Kent) whom he marries. It is a total failure and, after the sister has run off, Alce and Joanna finally come together.
Much of the film, which was directed by Charles Frend (some sequences are by Robert Hamer who deputised during a period when Frend was ill), was made on location on Romney Marsh, and a creditable attempt was made to show something of farm life. A sequence on the handling of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Alce’s stock was realistic and uncompromising. Googie Withers was considered by some critics to be too elegantly accoutred to be a farmer, but she gave the role considerable strength, and must be regarded as one of Ealing’s best actresses. Lionel Collier in Picturegoer defended her: “There may be complaints about expensive dresses and perfect grooming… but in my experience I have met a farmer’s wife who could have given points to a Mayfair beauty. And why not?.” One of Ealing’s acknowledged weaknesses was its treatment of women – few are more than ciphers or supports for the male leads, but Googie Withers managed on most occasions to take a dominant part. The choice of a quasi-feminist subject was certainly unusual, but could be seen as another attempt to explore a type of film not characteristic of Ealing’s output.
ExtractŠ George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Charles Frend: Director
Duncan Sutherland: Art Direction
Sidney Cole: Associate Producer
Douglas Slocombe: Cinematography
Michael Truman: Editing
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Music
Ernest Irving: Musical Director
Michael Balcon: Producer
HE Bates: Script
Angus MacPhail: Script
Lionel Banes: Special Effects
Cliff John Richardson: Special Effects