|Morrissey mourns the passing of Googie Withers.|
(Quick sidebar, and open note to Criterion: Please, please, please make BluRay versions of It Always Rains On Sunday, Dead of Night, The Blue Lamp, Hue and Cry, Pink String and Sealing Wax, Whiskey Galore, Went the Day Well?, The Man in the White Suit, Passport to Pimlico, etc, ... )
Ealing Studios made a lot of very bad films, quite a few good ones, a few very good films, and one definite masterpiece: Kind Hearts and Coronets, also dir by Robert Hamer.
Hamer was the alcoholic bad boy at the puritan Ealing. Michael Balcon, who ran the studio, was not fond of Hamer or his work, especially the amount of sex Hamer liked to inject in to his pictures. Kind Hearts has a fair amount of sexiness, centered around the lispy, lovely Joan Greenwood. But Kind Hearts also had Alec Guiness, playing eight different roles, and a great deal of literary comedy in it, too. This was not a concession to Balcon, at all. The script and film are perfect in every way, absolutely true to its' purpose. It was not an act of subversion, either. Still, despite it being one of Ealing's biggest international hits, Balcon hated it.
I believe Balcon had already written Hamer off a few years before Kind Hearts, due to Hamer's Googie Withers films. Hamer made two features with Ms Withers, and a shorter film, as part of an omnibus horror film, Dead of Night. (Hamer's section in Dead of Night is miles better than any other section of that very good film.) The two full-length films he made with Ms Withers were Pink String and Sealing Wax, which I have not seen, and am desperate to watch, in which Withers plays a Victorian-era poisoner (Balcon must have hated that, for sure); and It Always Rains On Sunday.
You just have to believe that It Always Rains On Sunday has got to be one of Morrissey's favourite films of all-time. Even the title of the film sounds like a Smiths song. Though set in London, and not The North, the subject matter and plot are right up Morrisey's alley, as well. Googie Withers' Rose is not a happy housewife. She resents her husband, loathes the stepchildren, and hates her shabby London, East End hovel. She wishes she had married Tommy, the East End bad boy, instead. But he is in prison now for a bit of Smash and Grab. When Tommy escapes from prison, though, and hides out in Rose's bomb shelter, Rose somehow manages to keep the entire family shuttling in and out of the house, and away from the upstairs bedroom, where she has Tommy hid. This juggling act is v difficult, indeed, and Rose is an absolute monster to the entire family all the while, incl one scene where she shreds the "hot, loose" stepdaughter's favorite frock right in front of the closed bedroom door. When the entire family is finally dispatched for the evening, Hubby has been convinced to play in the the local pub Darts Tourney, Rose spends a last few hours with Tommy upstairs, doing you know what. By the way, Tommy is played by John McCallum, who Ms Withers married soon after. They eventually moved to Australia and were married until their deaths. McCallum died in 2010.
I am not going to spoil it any further, but you can imagine how the extremely puritan, Carry On, stiff upper lip, pro-England Balcon felt about It Always Rains On Sunday. It is a wonder that two years later Hamer would be able to make Kind Hearts at Ealing, period.
After, Kind Hearts, Hamer's career went swiftly down hill. A closeted gay, Hamer eventually lost his battle with the bottle and died far too young for someone of such immense talent. A real loss.