Friday, June 03, 2022

Now you can watch No Room at the Inn (1948)

You know that film I'm always going on about? Well a version of it has appeared on YouTube.

I say "a version" because this one last only an hour, whereas Talking Pictures TV has shown one ("with previously lost scenes restored") that lasts at least 20 minutes longer.

It's a dark film - in both senses of the word. As I blogged recently, like Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, No Room at the Inn was inspired by the death of Dennis O'Neill in 1945.

You can see this in the way that at least some of the children are not, as even the film seems to think, wartime evacuees but in local authority care and fostered. At the start of the film one of them is living in the town where she lived with her mother, while others - as the O'Neill brothers were - have been sent far from home.

You can also see it in the way the local councillors are pictured. In the case of Dennis O'Neill, it was the education committee of Newport council in South Wales, which had sent him and his brothers to Shropshire, that aroused the anger of the press.

And, in the film, the detail of Ronnie being locked in the coal shed is obviously inspired by the abuse of Dennis O'Neill too.

The film is dominated by the performance of Freda Jackson, a ferocious actress who was Mrs Joe in David Lean's Great Expectations and still around to appear in Blakes 7 more than thirty years later.

I've already told the story about audiences of the original play standing and cheering when her character, Mrs Voray, met her fate.

A Guardian interview with her son Julian Bird, who became an actor in his sixties, went further:

She was the lead in the play No Room at the Inn, about the abuse of evacuees during the second world war, which was so scandalous that she needed police protection when it transferred to the West End in 1946. "There were always women at the stage door wanting to kill her."

Notable too is Joan Dowling as Norma Bates. I find that I posted a film about her before I'd ever heard of No Room at the Inn. She was to marry her co-star from Hue and Cry, Harry Fowler, and take her own life when she was 26.

On a happier note, you can enjoy Dora Bryan's film debut. As the girl in the bar she steals Freda Jackson's date and the scene.

The original play No Room at the Inn was written by Joan Temple, but the film's screenplay is by Ivan Foxwell and Dylan Thomas. Temple's best line survives almost intact though.

In the film Mrs Voray says:

"There ain't much you can tell me about kids. I've buried two of my own."

Whereas in the play it was three., but then jokes in the theatre tend to be broader.

No Room at the Inn is an extraordinary film and certainly not, in that critical cliché, ahead of its time. It's overwhelmingly of its time. What we need now is a DVD of the longer version of the film.

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