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Class-based British films

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  • Class-based British films

    Traditionally in the 1930s and 1940 and perhaps even 1950s, working class folk in British films were portrayed as comical, or not very bright, or both. Occasionally they might be portrayed as dangerous lefties. That began to change in the 1960s, with films such as A Taste of Honey and Room at the Top, where working class people were portrayed as complex characters with lives worthy of consideration too. Which films fit into this category? Which films of this ilk have members especially enjoyed?

  • #2
    One of my favourites is Kes. Definitely working-class-based, with some grim moments and funny ones too. Who can forget Brian Glover's comic turn as the sadistic games teacher who was determined to win at football with his schoolkids, even if it meant cheating and pushing them out of the way? Later he turned up as the bluff Yorkshireman in the unwelcoming pub on the moors, in An American Werewolf in London.

    Then there was the famous scene where the schoolboys get the cane on their hands. The young actors were not told that this would be done for real! Nasty. And the grim ending, which shocked me as an animal lover, in which the young schoolboy retrieves his beloved kestrel from the bin after his adult older brother has killed it in an act of revenge.

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    • #3
      Anything with Michael Caine...

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Tigon Man View Post
        Anything with Michael Caine...
        He's always a good watch. I love Alfie. There's one much later film (the name eludes me) where he plays a bit part as a criminal, and he is absolutely chilling. He said there were some villains in his family and he modelled it on them!

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        • #5
          My favourite would have to be Saturday Night And Sunday Morning from 1960. Finney's finest hour as Arthur Seaton, surely the angriest of the "angry young men". Personified the frustration of being straitjacketed by the class system.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Tonch View Post
            My favourite would have to be Saturday Night And Sunday Morning from 1960. Finney's finest hour as Arthur Seaton, surely the angriest of the "angry young men". Personified the frustration of being straitjacketed by the class system.
            You've made me want to watch it now. So many years since I saw it, that I can't remember it at all. I've found it on a foreign site. Mr Finney is always well worth watching.

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            • #7
              In Which We Serve would certainly qualify what with the class divisions between upper and lower decks

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              • #8
                Originally posted by orpheum View Post
                In Which We Serve would certainly qualify what with the class divisions between upper and lower decks
                That's another one I've never seen. It goes on my list. World War 2 is an interesting time for British film, as all sections of society are shown doing their bit. As a result, the working classes are taken more seriously. Think of a gritty Thora Hird, doing her duty by shooting "Jerries" in Went the Day Well?

                One of Our Aircraft Is Missing is another example of British war time propaganda, in which the different classes of Brits, this time all in the military, on a secret mission in the Netherlands, are all shown getting on perfectly with one another and are all treated respectfully by the script.

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                • #9
                  I think 'Vera Drake' would fit into this category.

                  A working class family where Mum cleans for 'posh' folk, and also carries out (then) illegal abortions on the side.

                  The class distinction being when the daughter of the upper-class family, finds herself pregnant (after her boyfriend forced himself on her), she obtains an abortion much more easily (by paying a £100 for one, in a Clinic, with the excuse for termination being one of her ancestors was 'dotty', which was a lie) than the other girls who have found themselves in the family way.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by garth View Post
                    One of Our Aircraft Is Missing is another example of British war time propaganda, in which the different classes of Brits, this time all in the military, on a secret mission in the Netherlands, are all shown getting on perfectly with one another and are all treated respectfully by the script.
                    They aren't "on a secret mission" to the Netherlands, they're a bomber crew who have baled out over the Netherlands. They don't want to be there. But yes, they all get on very well and are all treated respectfully by the script.

                    Steve

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                    • #11
                      I'm All Right Jack, with Ian Carmichael

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by zabadak View Post
                        I'm All Right Jack, with Ian Carmichael
                        Actually, it’s predecessor Private’s Progress (1956) is essentially about class as well

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                        • #13
                          The Guinea Pig with Richard Attenborough

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                          • Pelican
                            Pelican commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Yes, very good film. Schoolboy Richard Attenborough is the guinea pig in question, an experiment in mixing a boy from an ordinary background into a private school. Oddly, Attenborough's wife, Sheila Sim, is in it but is engaged to a master while Dickie is a schoolboy. The head, who initially is opposed to the experiment, ultimately comes to accept the changes going on after meeting the boy's father (Bernard Miles) who impresses him as a sergeant-major who also molded boys, albeit during the exigencies of war. I have this somewhere on VHS but, alas, no means with which to enjoy it.
                            Excellent cast in this 1948 film includes, from memory, Robert Flemyng, Anthony Newley and (as the lad's mother) Joan Hickson.

                        • #14
                          There is class conflict in Pygmalion.

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                          • #15
                            And then there is that cult classic "If....", set in an English public school - a boarding school. Here the upper-middle class teenagers encounter the excitement of their developing sexuality and their first exploration of (rather idealistic/revolutionary) politics. Most notable is when Mick Travis and his schoolmate nick a motorbike and visit the cafe. Mick has a thing for the young working class girl at the cafe. His fantasy runs wild, and a rather feral scene, set to rather feral music, ensues, in which he fantasises that they are tigers. Search YouTube for: "If.... I'm Like a Tiger (1968)" - perhaps a little bit too much nudity for the forum.

                            Rather shocking for its time, it had gays in it too. Here you see one of the gang eying up his beau during gymnastics. Scroll to about 50 seconds in. Time seems to slow down for him, as he watches, entranced, while his friend goes through his paces on the gymnastic bars, and all set to beautifully ethereal music that captures his mood.

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