Three years ago, on The Wonderful World of Cinema, I gave myself the exciting challenge of watching and reviewing all the Carry On films in what became a blog series. It was not less than 32 films, and they instantly became huge (admittedly guilty) pleasures. They made me discover actors like no other, a ridiculous but endearing type of comedy and a piece of British film history nowadays a little forgotten. Today, I’ve decided to take the big plunge again and FINALLY begin a new blog series!
I thought a long time before starting a blog series around the Ealing comedies. The reasons mainly were a lack of motivation and time. Doing a blog series involves considerable dedication; you might not like or be inspired by everything you see. Most of all, you hope you’ll have readers. The idea of doing a blog series exploring the comedies produced by Ealing Studios from the late 40s to the late 50s was initially not my idea. Let’s give credit where it’s due. As I was doing my Carry On blog series, it was either another blogger or someone on my page who made the suggestion. I thought it was a brilliant idea and would almost make a “prequel” to the Carry On series (the last Ealing comedy and the first Carry On were both released in 1958). Of course, aside from their genre, they are very different types of comedies. But it remains a valid comparison to understand how British comedies evolved and the tendencies of their respective period.
In opposition to when I began the Carry On blog series, I had seen some Ealing comedies in the past before officially starting this blog series. These were, more precisely, Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius, 1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951) and Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949). With these estimated titles (especially the latter), I knew I was in for some quality time and that this would be an enjoyable project.
But what are the Ealing comedies? Well, as I said, these were comedies of the late 40s to late 50s produced by Ealing Studios in London. There was a total of 19 (some would argue 18). If both Carry On films and Ealing comedies had respectively a very British sense of humour, the Ealing comedies always felt a bit more “sophisticated”. However, they also had the particularity of using recurrent actors such as Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, etc. Interestingly, whereas some of the Carry On actors were often automatically associated with the franchise, the previously mentioned ones aren’t automatically remembered for the comedies they made with Ealing Studios. For example, most people associate Alec Guinness with Star Wars or The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957). However, we forget how great at comedy he could be, therefore showcasing his immense talent and versatility. Similarly, Ealing Comedies also had recurring directors such as Charles Crichton (whose last film was the excellent A Fish Called Wanda) or Alexander Mackendrick.
In opposition to the Carry On films, which were clearly established as such, the Ealing comedies series is more challenging to determine. Although Wikipedia lists 19, the BFI reduces the number to about eight. I, however, decided to go with the 19 listed by Wikipedia. These aren’t the only comedies produced by Ealing Studios, but since they were released in the space of around a decade, they correspond to a specific period of film history and the comedy codes of that period.
I plan to watch the 19 films in chronological order and make a review on my blog after each viewing. Simple as that. Since there are many films, they might not be very in-depth reviews. Still, I hope they will remain relevant commentaries surrounding the films. That will be a way to witness their evolution and compare them significantly. I will try not to take too much time between each review for me and the readers to really stay in the mood. I really haven’t blogged a lot in the past year, so I hope this will give a little boost of energy to The Wonderful World of Cinema!
Yesterday I watched what is often considered the film of the Ealing comedies series, Hue and Cry (Charles Crichton, 1947). As soon as this introductory article is published, I will start working on my comment!
I hope I’ll enjoy doing this series, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it!