Friday, May 8, 2020

FAVOURITE MOVIES: It Always Rains on Sunday, 1947


Arthur La Bern's 1945 debut novel It Always Rains on Sunday shone a realistic spotlight on the East London the journalist knew so well from his upbringing. The 1947 film from Ealing Studios written and directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and Angus MacPhail (The Captive Heart) would prove to be influential in the crime film genre. Moving the setting from pre-war to post-war, the 1947 film takes advantage of bombed out buildings to highlight the atmosphere it creates. 

Patricia Plunket, Googie Withers, Edward Chapman, Susan Shaw, David Liney

During the course of an eventful day, two families' lives will intersect due to unforeseen circumstances. The Sandigates live in a tiny rowhouse on Coronet Grove. Rose (Googie Withers) married the 15-years-older George (Edward Chapman) and is stepmother to his three children. Daughter Vi (Susan Shaw) is anxious for glamour she sees in the outside world. Doris (Patricia Plunkett) is hardworking, dutiful, and involved with Ted (Nigel Stock). Alfie (David Liney) is a youngster who is basically ignored as he grows up.

Living in close quarters has not brought understanding and tolerance to the Sandigates. Rose, in particular snaps at everyone. She can take offense when it is intended, and when it isn't. Vi refuses to call her father's wife "mum" and resents it in her siblings. She will be ready for any sort of a quarrel. Doris basically stays out of everyone's way while Alfie struggles to be heard. Head of the household, George has his rights and routines and rarely seems to involve himself in the hullabaloo. Nonetheless, he sees much and knows when to pick his battles. 

Googie Withers, John McCallum

Shocking newspaper headlines announce an escapee from Dartmoor prison. Tommy Swann (John McCallum) is Rose's former lover for whom she still carries a torch. Counting on those memories, Tommy seeks sanctuary on Cornet Grove on this rainy Sunday.

Rose has no compunction about helping Tommy when she discovers his presence. We live her memory of their meeting and exciting relationship which led to a proposal prior to his arrest. When Rose offers the secretly kept engagement ring to Tommy as a source of cash for his getaway, he doesn't even remember it. Googie Withers has shown us Rose's heart and this rejection is like a kick in the teeth.

Patricia Plunkett, John Slater

Lou Hyams (John Slater) runs an arcade and has a hand in every criminal enterprise in the area. He has a deceptively charming way about him that enables his success. Morry Hyams (Sydney Tafler), Lou's brother is married with a baby. He runs a music shop and plays saxophone in a band. He also plays around with girls to the dismay of his wife Sadie (Betty Ann Davies).

Susan Shaw, Sydney Tafler

Morry's latest conquest is Vi Sandigate. Lou can see Morry is headed for trouble and has some advice, "Sadie's a nice girl. You should get to know her." It may already be too late.

Lou and Morry's sister Bessie (Jane Hylton) and their father Solly (Meier Tzelniker) run a club to keep kids off the streets and away from bad influences, like Lou. Times being what they are, they still accept his ill-gotten donations. 

Alfie Bass, Jimmy Hanley, John Carol

Det. Sgt. Fothergill (Jack Warner) will be keeping an eye on everyone, including the landlady Mrs. Spry (Hermione Baddely) who used to house Swan, and three crooks whose latest job did not turn out as hoped. The petty crooks are Whitey (Jimmy Hanley), Dicey (Alfie Bass), and Freddie (John Carol). Conflict arises between natural leader Freddie, and hotheaded Whitey. Some decisions made will be irrevocable.

Reporter Slopey Collins (Michael Howard) is on the prowl for a good story. He won't get anything out of the pious fence Caleb Neesley (John Salew), however, a barmaid will give him a tip about Rose Sandigate that may lead to something.

A day such as this one in the East End will find many lives upended and was destined to end in murder, but perhaps not the one you were expecting.

Tommy on the run

Tommy has been brutalized by the "cat" in prison and bears those scars. His hurt runs deep and his desperation to avoid recapture is palpable.

It rains off and on throughout this Sunday. The residents learn to accept it as it comes, umbrellas go up or not at all. It is all the same. The gloom is brightened by occasional sunshine which is not expected to last.

The script and direction expertly juggle the myriad of characters introduced to us in It Always Rains on Sunday. A look or an attitude expertly reveals much about thoughts and intention, perhaps even more than dialogue. The audience understands what the characters themselves do not comprehend about themselves. 

The gloomy atmosphere of It Always Rains on Sunday keeps the audience as on edge as the characters. The slick pavement reflected off of streetlights adds to the tension of the exciting police chase. Does Tommy Swann really expect freedom? Will any lessons be learned by people we have gotten to know or will it be just another rainy Sunday? You will wonder about these characters long after watching this essential film-noir.


Of note:


Googie Withers and John McCallum married January 24, 1948 - February 3, 2010 (his death).












22 comments:

  1. This is a noir? Sounds more like a domestic drama with a crime subplot.

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    1. While It Always Rains on Sunday may not check off all the "official" noir boxes, it is definitely told in the noir style and was influential in British films.

      I have come to accept the reach of noir beyond the femme fatale where I used to be more stringent regarding a definition.

      Perhaps I should add Googie Withers/Rose Sandigate to my "Desperate Housewives of Film Noir" which include Loretta Young in Cause for Alarm!, Barbara Stanwyck in Crime of Passion, and Laraine Day in Without Honor. https://www.caftanwoman.com/2012/02/desperate-housewives-of-film-noir.html Adding Evelyn Keyes in The Prowler and we've got a sub-genre worth exploring.

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  2. I remember this as an excellent film (and what a great, gloomy title!), not the least of it being Googie Withers, whom I ADORE - Loved her in the movies Miranda and On Approval. She wasn't a classic beauty, but she had glamour and style, and a witty way with a line. She also makes an indelible impression in Night and The City. One of those underrated, subtly splendid actresses.

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    1. "Subtly splendid" - that's our Googie.

      I agree with your opinion on those movies mentioned, and will throw in Dead of Night. Would it be OK to watch it when it isn't Hallowe'en?

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  3. I remember HERMIONE BADDELY from the sitcom MAUDE where she played the housekeeper. She won a GOLDEN GLOBE for that role. She was also on 3 eps of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE as an eccentric woman named KENZIA. P.S. I didn't see the movie HARLOW with CAROL LYNLEY but I saw some clips. Hermione played MARIE DRESSLER. If you ever get a chance to watch HARLOW with CARROLL BAKER I think you will like it because of the performances of Carroll, ANGELA LANSBURY, RED BUTTONS, PETER LAWFORD, MIKE CONNORS(and others).

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    1. It is interesting how acting runs in some families. Hermione Baddely's sister Angela played Mrs. Hudson on Upstairs, Downstairs.

      I haven't seen either Harlow film, but will follow your advice the next time it comes around.

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  4. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Thank you for illuminating it with your post!

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    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comment. Thank you.

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  5. This title I've really been after but haven't seen yet. Heard a lot of good things about it. Googie Withers (what a name) was certainly a very interesting actress. I only know her from Night and the City.

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    1. It Always Rains on Sunday recently ran on a Canadian classic movie channel. Like you, it had been on my radar for years and I was so happy to catch up with it.

      Your 2020 goal will be Get to Know Googie. GrandOldMovies, above, mentioned some great movies that I know you will like.

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  6. Speaking of the BADDELY sisters I want to name some other acting sisters. CONSTANCE & JOAN BENNETT(plus BARBARA), ZSA ZSA & EVA GABOR(plus MAGDA), LILLIAN & DOROTHY GISH, JAYNE & AUDREY MEADOWS. Also KIM & KYLE RICHARDS, AUDREY & JUDY LANDERS, JOELY & TRICIA LEIGH FISHER and JULIET & HAYLEY MILLS. (Speaking of JULIET MILLS she and her husband MAXWELL CAULFIELD will be married 40 years in December.)

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    1. That's quite a list. Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave come to mind as well. And Loretta Young, Pollyanna Young, Georgiana Young and Sally Blane. Talent and looks runs in some families.

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  7. Some more acting sisters. NATASHA & JOELY RICHARDSON(the daughters of VANESSA REDGRAVE), NATALIE & LANA WOOD, VERONICA & ANGELA CARTWRIGHT, ROSANNA & PATRICIA ARQUETTE and LIZA MINNELLI & her half-sister LORNA LUFT.

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  8. Speaking of acting families JERRY STILLER died today at the age of 92. He was the widower of ANNE MEARA. Their two children are also in show business-BEN & AMY. I know Anne from TV probably more than Jerry. I saw Jerry guest star on ARCHIE BUNKERS PLACE with Anne who was a regular. I don't like the show SEINFELD(or the actor JERRY SEINFELD) that JERRY STILLER was on. I see KING OF QUEENS sometimes on TV LAND. My favorite on the show is STILLER as ARTHUR SPOONER then KEVIN JAMES as DOUG. I just saw some of it last night where there was a scene where Arthur-in a flashback scene-went to the hospital where his wife was getting ready to have their baby(CARRIE). Anne later had a role on that show paired up with Jerry.

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    1. I grew up watching Stiller and Meara on television and enjoyed their humour very much. It is nice to think of the couple together again.

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  9. ANNE MEARA was good on her MURDER, SHE WROTE ep where she played WINNIE TUPPER BANNER, the sister of SHERIFF AMOS TUPPER(TOM BOSLEY). It had the memorable title WHO THREW THE BARBITALS IN MRS. FLETCHERS CHOWDER? GUY STOCKWELL, the older brother of DEAN STOCKWELL, played her husband ELMO. Guy was good on all three of his M.S.W. episodes.

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    1. It strikes me as odd in the "Barbital" episode that Amos's family is from the south while he has that down east accent.

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  10. BARBARA RHOADES was also on that M.S.W. ep. I mostly remember Barbara from her MATCH GAME eps when I was a kid. She was a tall glamorous redhead.

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    1. I associate Barbara Rhoades with 1970s TV - Ironside, Ellery Queen, Columbo, Mannix, etc. Good memories.

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  11. I like what you said about the audience understanding the characters in ways the characters themselves don't understand (but you put it much more eloquently). This sounds like an expertly-crafted film, and you've got me wanting to read the novel too.

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    1. I feel the same thing. Watching the movie, I wish I had read the book. The experience made me want more.

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