Saturday, 13 September 2014

Waterfront (1950)

Based on a novel by Liverpudlian author John Brophy, this film from 1950 is directed by Michael Anderson (The Dambusters, Around The World In 80 Days etc) and is set around the Liverpool docks and the lives of those who reside and work there. Its a story that manages to hold (or maybe create?) the template of a working class narrative of unemployment and love alongside a rich seam of melodrama, one that Liverpudlian fiction continues to excel in and employ to this very day.

Love in Liverpool; Richard Burton and Avis Scott

Waterfront is little more than a modest little b-movie with a slim running time of just 75 minutes that is perhaps notable now solely for its casting of the young Richard Burton as Ben Satterthwaite, an out of work ship's engineer during the Great Depression of the 30s desperate for a job so he can afford to marry Avis Scott's Nora McCabe. A curious twist of fate involving her troublesome father (Robert Newton) returning to the fold after fourteen years at sea may just give them that opportunity.

Robert Newton delivers another roguish turn

The authentic and very striking location shoot around the city is fascinating for those familiar with Liverpool (with scenes shot around the pier head, the docks, the Empire, George Henry Lee's, Derby Road and nearby Chester) but what is considerably less authentic but just as striking (for all the wrong reasons) are the accents the cast choose to adopt; with a very young Richard Burton and Kenneth Griffith seeming to want to convince us, against their intentions, that Liverpool is in fact in Wales, whilst London girls Avis Scott (one time BBC continuity announcer who, it was said, was fired for being 'too sexy for TV!') and Susan Shaw (star of the Huggetts films) play sisters and seem to mimic their characters' mother, Kathleen Harrison's natural Lancastrian accent. Playing the estranged husband/father, Robert Newton does as he pleases, with an accent that seems to lodge itself in broad cockney. Nonetheless, they are all very watchable and affecting in a film that doesn't outstay its welcome and is available to watch in full on YouTube.

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