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Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.

Main image of Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)
35mm, black and white, 15 mins
DirectorAnthony Havelock-Allan
Production CompaniesD&P Studios, Ministry of Information
Focus Questions
In the Classroom

Troops from the Australia, Canada and New Zealand meet by chance in London and discuss their reasons for signing up.

Hollywood star Leslie Howard (Gone with the Wind) was one of the first to return to his native Britain to do his bit for the war effort. This fascinating propaganda film shows a chance encounter between him and three soldiers from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Over a pint in a pub (one of many carefully-chosen icons of 'Britishness') he hears why they enlisted before he takes them up to the dome of St Paul's Cathedral to give them a panoramic survey of London and its history. But the film is no simplistic flag-waver: Howard debunks clich├ęs about "fighting for the Motherland" by explaining that they're defending ideas rather than territory and fighting for the universal values of justice, tolerance and the rights of man.

Please note that the sound quality is poor during the first few minutes of the film.

Follow the link to In The Classroom at the top of this page for teaching suggestions linked to History and Citizenship. In Focus Questions you'll find suggestions for questions to focus students' attention while watching the film. These will also help to develop their understanding of film language.

Video Clips
1. Pub chat (3:16)
2. Typically English (1:03)
3. Hearts and minds (1:40)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related BFI Mediatheque Titles

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Bradford Coronation Procession (1902)Essentially British?: Bradford Coronation Procession (1902)
Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)

Related Films and TV Programmes

Thumbnail image of From the Four Corners (1941)From the Four Corners (1941)

Read more about this film

Related Lessons and Resources

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 1 (1940)KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 1 (1940)

1 of 2: Why did Commonwealth troops sign up to fight?

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 2 (1941)KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 2 (1941)

2 of 2: British values past and present

Thumbnail image of Howard, Leslie (1893-1943)Howard, Leslie (1893-1943)

Actor, Director, Producer