Sunday, June 25, 2017

It Always Rains on Sunday

It Always Rains on Sunday. The Sandigate family. Second from left: Googie Withers (Rose Sandigate).

Sunnuntaisin sataa aina / Drama i East End. Director: Robert Hamer. Year: 1947. Country: Gran Bretagna. A Sunday in Bologna.
    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′
    From BFI National Archive.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Introduce Neil McGlone.
    DCP with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti viewed at Cinema Jolly, 25 June 2017.

Alexander Payne and Neil McGone (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "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."
Alexander Payne and Neil McGone (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: I saw for the first time It Always Rains on Sunday, for William K. Everson the greatest British film noir. As a crime film it is completely different from Alfred Hitchcock's British films of the 1920s and the 1930s. But there are affinities with other contemporary Brit Noir films as well as the films of the "Angry Young Men" ten years later. I was also thinking about the British crime films of Joseph Losey.

A kitchen sink thriller, a criminal investigation, a chase story, a multi-character study, and a cross-section film with a flashback structure. There is some resemblance with the fatalistic French Jean Gabin thrillers of the 1930s such as Le Jour se lève. And Odd Man Out, also influenced by Frenchmen.

In 1947 Robert Hamer was in the middle of his golden period as a director at Ealing Studios under Michael Balcon. He had directed masterfully the The Haunted Mirror sequence in Dead of Night, also with Googie Withers, and he would soon direct the classic black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Also the cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (who died last year at the age of 103) was already at his best here, also having recently gotten started at the Ealing Studios, and also having worked with Hamer in Dead of Night for whom he would also shoot Kind Hearts and Coronets. This is film noir cinematography at its best, especially in the thrilling, fatalistic finale at the railyard.

The composer Georges Auric had an interesting French-British career at the time, switching between Jean Cocteau and Ealing Studios. His sense of la zone brings a special frisson to the British kitchen sink thriller.

Neil McGlone in his introduction told us that the leading actors Googie Withers and John McCallum actually fell in love during the production, and in contrast to the film's tragic finale stayed married all their lives, for 62 years.

A competent and obviously digital look in a professionally remastered DCP of a film with a particularly dark and ambitious cinematography, a difficult case for the definition of light.


It Always Rains On Sunday (1947)

35mm, black and white, 92 mins
Director    Robert Hamer
Production Company    Ealing Studios
Producer    Michael Balcon
Screenplay    Angus MacPhail, Robert Hamer, Henry Cornelius
Director of Photography    Douglas Slocombe
Music    Georges Auric

Cast: Googie Withers (Rose Sandigate); Edward Chapman (George Sandigate); John McCallum (Tommy Swann); Jack Warner (Det. Sgt. Fothergill); Susan Shaw (Vi Sandigate)

A married woman shelters her former lover in her London home after he has escaped from prison. Discontented with her dull marriage, she begins to rediscover her former love for him.

Robert Hamer's third Ealing film as director is a bleak, claustrophobic melodrama, showing a seamy side of life. Beautifully shot, with film noir-ish touches and a final pursuit sequence up there with the best. What we see is a morally bankrupt microcosm of post-WWII society, where most characters grab what they can, with no regard for anyone else. Lighter moments can be found, mostly surfacing as sarcastic asides.

Very early in the film, and reprised at the end, the locked grilles of Whitechapel Underground station stand indicative of enclosure, of being trapped; whether it be by prison (Swann), domesticity (the Sandigates), the rain (everyone). Escape, even by suicide, is (perhaps) impossible - even the parallel but entirely separate attempts by the two leading characters are doomed to failure.

Tensions between notions of decency, and of family (mainly the Sandigates and the Hyams) permeate the film. There are few 'decent' characters: George (Edward Chapman) is one, as is daughter Doris (Patricia Plunkett), and Ted (Nigel Stock). The Sandigates act like a family, but one which may be on shakey ground once we know that Rose (Googie Withers) isn't the mother of the two daughters, particularly as Rose is the one who, in choosing between George and Tommy Swann (John McCallum), could tear the family to shreds. While it is perhaps too fanciful to suggest the ripping of Vi's (Susan Shaw) smart dress by Rose as they struggle for control of the bedroom door could serve as a metaphor for the tearing apart of the family unit, the skirmish emphasises the problems beneath the surface. The Hyams family, meanwhile, is tested by Morry's (Sydney Tafler) womanising, with its older generation scandalised by Lou's (John Slater) apparent wheeling and dealing.

Apparently, Bethnal Green residents of the time protested at their portrayal (many of the characters are crooks or chancers, and at least one kills), and there were censorship problems. The Cinematograph Exhibitors Association's reviewer declared it "an unsavoury film... with appeal only to those with very broad minds". Despite this it was Ealing's box office hit of the year.

David Sharp

Rose Sandigate    WITHERS, Googie
George Sandigate    CHAPMAN, Edward
Tommy Swann    McCALLUM, John
Det. Sgt. Fothergill    WARNER, Jack
Vi Sandigate    SHAW, Susan
Doris Sandigate    PLUNKETT, Patricia
Whitey    HANLEY, Jimmy
Lou Hyams    SLATER, John
Mrs Spry    BADDELEY, Hermione
barmaid of the 'Two Compasses'    BASKCOMB, Betty
Dicey    BASS, Alfie
Morry Hyams    TAFLER, Sydney
Sadie Hyams    DAVIES, Betty Ann
Bessie, Morry's sister    HYLTON, Jane
Freddie    CAROL, John
Det. Sgt. Leech    PIPER, Frederick
Slopey Collins    HOWARD, Michael
Alfie Sandigate    LINES, David
Solly Hyams    TZELNIKER, Meier
Ted Edwards    STOCK, Nigel
Caleb Neesley    SALEW, John
Mrs Neesley    HENSON, Gladys
Mrs Watson    MARTIN, Edie
governor of the 'Two Compasses'    DAVIS, Gilbert
Bill Hawkins    MILLEN, Al
Mrs Wallis    HOPE, Vida
yardmaster    HAMBLING, Arthur
Ted's landlady    ARNOLD, Grace
Rev. Black    VERE, John
Chuck Evans    JONES, Patrick
Joe    CARR, Joe
Sam    GRIFFITHS, Fred
Bertie Potts    O'RAWE, Francis
newspaper boy    KNOX, David


Director    HAMER, Robert
Production Company    Ealing Studios
Producer    BALCON, Michael
Director of Photography    SLOCOMBE, Douglas
Screenplay    MacPHAIL, Angus
Screenplay    HAMER, Robert
Screenplay    CORNELIUS, Henry
Incidental Music    AURIC, Georges
From the novel by    LA BERN, Arthur
Studio    Ealing Studios
Associate Producer    CORNELIUS, Henry
Editor    TRUMAN, Michael
Production Supervisor    MASON, Hal
Art Director    SUTHERLAND, Duncan
Sound Supervisor    DALBY, Stephen
Recordist    DIAMOND, George
Camera Operator    SEAHOLME, Jeff
Unit Manager    HAND, Harry
Make-up    TAYLOR, Ernest
Hair Styles    HART, Doreen
Special Effects    RICHARDSON, Cliff
Special Effects    DENDY, Richard
Wardrobe Supervisor    MENDLESON, Anthony
Miss Googie Withers' Frocks designed by    Horrockses Fashions Ltd.
Music played by    Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor    IRVING, Ernest
Song 'Theme Without Words' composed by    SPOLIANSKY, Mischa
Dance music arranged and played by    BLACK, Stanley
Dance music arranged and played by    POGSON, W.


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Sunday in London's drab East End, shortly after World War II. Rain starts to fall. In Coronet Grove, a young woman, Vi, is seen by her father, George Sandigate, dashing from a car in the early hours. At a nearby coffee-stall, three low-life types, Whitey, Dicey, and Freddie, prepare to go off on a 'job'. As morning arrives, ex-barmaid Rose Sandigate wakes her stepdaughter Doris to fetch tea and the paper. Her humdrum life is disrupted by the news - and soon the arrival - of escaped convict Tommy Swann, her former fiancé, whom she'd met while working at the local pub. She remembers her time with Tommy, and the ring he gave her, shortly before his arrest.

Over breakfast the family relations are tense, and Rose goes to retrieve some old black-out material from the air-raid shelter, where she finds Tommy hiding. Promising to help, she returns to the kitchen on edge, and then has to suffer delays while the family run through the Sunday rituals (son Alfie going out to play, George bathing, Doris preparing for a day trip, and Vi off to meet the driver of the sports car) before she finally succeeds in smuggling him into the house to feed him and dry his clothes, all the while risking discovery. She takes him food and he asks for money. When Rose offers him the ring, kept in her drawer, he is grateful, but fails to recall its significance to her.

Meanwhile, Vi visits the sports car driver, Morry Hyams, a local bandleader/music-store owner who regularly cheats on his wife; she goes to his shop following up last night's invitation. Doris encounters Morry's brother Lou at his amusement arcade, but eventually rejects his advances, preferring her rather stolid boyfriend and a 'safe' job, though not before she and her boyfriend row about it. Alfie gets drawn into blackmailing Morry for a free mouth organ when he spots Vi and Morry embracing in the record booth.

The police have two cases to follow: looking out for Swann, and following up a robbery the night before. They encounter most of the colourful characters in the area, including a doss-house proprietor, the inept local villains Whitey, Dicey, and Freddie, a fence and Slopey Collins, the local reporter.

Rose sits anxiously through the family Sunday dinner, with Swann still upstairs. His presence is nearly revealed several times, particularly following a row involving Vi, Doris and Rose which takes place outside the locked bedroom where Swann is hiding. Evening finally arrives and, with George at a darts match and the girls out, Swann can make his get-away. Rose is wrestling with the idea of resuming their former relationship, but local reporter Slopey Collins has worked out where Swann has been hiding and calls at the Sandigate's: Alfie opens the door and as Rose shoos him back to bed Swann rushes Slopey and his cover is blown.

A chase follows with Swann's path crossing the police as well as that of the murderous Whitey and his victim. Meanwhile, Rose attempts to gas herself in the kitchen. Finally Swann is trapped in a railway goods yard and recaptured.

George visits Rose in hospital and entreats her to get better quickly, before walking home down the wet streets.

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