Thursday, August 06, 2020

We were once used to living with infectious diseases

The minor Ealing comedy The Magnet from 1950 is proving to be a mine of social history.

I blogged about its attitude to children playing on bombsites the other day and a couple of years ago I wrote about the way it displayed middle-class distrust of the new National Health Service.

The latter post was illustrated with the clip above. Why is the film's hero, played by an 11-year-old called William Fox who grew up to be the actor James Fox, covering his mouth?

Fox has been sent home from his prep school because of an outbreak of scarlet fever and is under a form of quarantine. He is allowed to wander the genteel streets of The Wirral but is not meant to talk to anyone. When he does, his handkerchief comes out.

This is a reminder that we were once used to living with infectious diseases.

Children who caught scarlet fever, as an article I once included in a Six of the Best made clear, could be sent to an isolation hospital.


Frank Little said...

allowed to wander the genteel streets of The Wirral
! Only the then county borough of Wallasey, as I recall.

Frank Little said...

One wonders how this present junto would have coped when we last had an outbreak of rabies in Britain. :-(

Jonathan Calder said...

Yes, the Reelstreets page on The Magnet identifies locations in Wallasey. Disappointingly, some of the street scenes were shot in Ealing.

There are also good shots of New Brighton and Liverpool.

Frank Little said...

New Brighton is of course part of Wallasey. Admittedly, the Overhead Railway was not - but it was not in Wirral either.

Interesting that some street scenes were shot in Ealing. If in the studia, the set dressers made a good job of matching the garden walls. Wallasey streets of that period were distinctive because of the ubiquity of the locally-made Autumntint textured bricks, mixed with walls of the bright shiny Ruabon brick.