Review: ‘This Happy Breed’

Based on Noel Coward's London legit hit, film soundly captures the spirit of the 1920s and 1930s reviving the era of the British general strike, the jazz dress style, the Charleston, and the depression. It touches on the troubled sphere of the class struggle and labor strife, although it has a dubious note once or twice, such as in an apparent defense of strike-breaking. But it is so much more the history of an average British family, with its pleasures and pains, to make this the paramount interest.

Based on Noel Coward’s London legit hit, film soundly captures the spirit of the 1920s and 1930s reviving the era of the British general strike, the jazz dress style, the Charleston, and the depression. It touches on the troubled sphere of the class struggle and labor strife, although it has a dubious note once or twice, such as in an apparent defense of strike-breaking. But it is so much more the history of an average British family, with its pleasures and pains, to make this the paramount interest.

Film is a bit episodic and choppy at the start, as it unwinds in cavalcadish fashion, but it settles down soon to an absorbing chronicle.

Film’s excellence comes mainly in the performances. Celia Johnson, as the mother of three grown children and the rock around which the family revolves, presents a masterful, poignant portrayal.

Robert Newton, who has almost as important a role as the head of the house, is also a superb presentation as the steady, earth-bound but intelligent Britisher. Kay Walsh, as the flighty daughter dissatisfied with her lot; John Mills as the loyal sailor in love with the errant daughter; and Stanley Holloway as the nextdoor neighbor, give fine support.

This Happy Breed

UK

Production

Two Cities/Cineguild. Director David Lean; Producer Noel Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan; Screenplay Ronald Neame, David Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan; Camera Ronald Neame; Editor Jack Harris; Music Muir Mathieson (dir.); Art Director C. P. Norman

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1944. Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Robert Newton Celia Johnson John Mills Kay Walsh Stanley Holloway Amy Veness

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