Friday, 12 June 2015

Hindle Wakes (1952)

This production of Hindle Wakes by director Arthur Crabtree is the fourth and final film adaptation of Stanley Houghton's controversial play from the 1910s, having been produced twice in the silent era and as a very early talkie in the late 20s. This 1952 version is, to my shame, the only adaptation I have seen.

Houghton's play was a very bold and thought provoking piece that I suppose pre-empted much of what was to become known as 'kitchen sink' drama by a good forty years. It raised for perhaps the very first time the notion of  'The Single Standard' between sexes and daringly asked is it right that women should be denied the same sexual freedom and liberation as men?  I really wish I'd seen one or indeed all of the earlier adaptations prior to this because any controversy or boldness from the actions of characters on display here, specifically our heroine the mill worker Jenny played by the strikingly beautiful Lisa Daniely, are somewhat lost and dated by the 1952 it was made and set in; the edginess to the tale somewhat overtaken by the changes in post war society. As a result it works slightly better as a generation gap drama, comparing Jenny's freedom with the consternation and embarrassment it brings to her parents played by Leslie Dwyer and Joan Hickson, a solid working class couple who still hold on to the Victorian values they were no doubt brought up with.

More specifically, where this production utterly fails is in the depiction of the everyday working class mill workers. Daniely may as I say be beautiful but she is woefully miscast here as Jenny - her cut glass accent and debutante air offers no contrast whatsoever to Brian Worth's Alan Jeffcote, well-to-do son of the mill's owner she meets on a work's trip to Blackpool for the Wakes holiday and embarks on an illicit affair down in Llandudno with, nor her rival for his affections from 'the right class', the daughter of a rival mill owner. If Houghton's play pre-empts the kitchen sink drama, Crabtree's film resolutely fails to do the same and when the more realistic Albert Finney and Shirley Anne Field pushed themselves forward centre stage for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning eight years later it felt like a breath of fresh air.

I can imagine the earlier adaptations being more charged simply because they were made at a time when the controversy was still palpable. By 1952 Hindle Wakes was too late to capitalise on them and far too early to serve as a period piece that audiences can sympathise with the misfortune of a less enlightened age when independent and strong women who defied convention were dismissed as little more than tarts - that potential was filled with a 1970s TV adaptation. As it stands this production is not without some nostalgic value and its fun for a northerner like me to see Blackpool at a more prosperous, golden era. The cast also includes Bill Travers, Michael Medwin and Rita Webb.

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