This Happy Breed (1944)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB

, 1944, .   Screenplay by , , , based on the play by .   Cinematography by Ronald Neame.  Produced by Noël Coward.  Music by , Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by

David Lean’s collaborations with Noel Coward produced some wonderful films, and while In Which We Serve is the best, this one is the warmest.  A top-rate cast embodies the members of a family who move into a London row house just after the first World War has ended and father has returned from service.  He opens a successful travel agency while mother Celia Johnson does her best to raise three children who become, as children do, a terrific challenge as they grow older: eldest daughter is the least worrisome, her squabbles with her suitor are how we know she’s going to be happily married to him, while son goes through his rebellious phase of fighting the establishment and thinking his parents are old-fashioned sell-outs.  The other daughter, played by the always luminous , is the biggest challenge, rejecting the love of the boy next door () who has ambitions in the navy, longing instead to get out and see the world and leave behind what she considers a crummy existence in a grimy neighbourhood.  The years pass and bring us closer to the second World War, the crises continuing as we watch Lean manage to make an intimate, limited setting feel intimate and cozy, throbbing with the exact right level of sentimental lushness.  The great director’s first film in colour, it strikes the exact right note as war propaganda, giving audiences a reminder of the uncomplicated, simple and noble existence that they are fighting to preserve.

The Criterion Collection:  #605


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