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Heart Within, The (1957)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Heart Within, The (1957)
35mm, black and white, 61 mins
DirectorDavid Eady
Production CompanyPenington-Eady Prod'ns
ProducerJon Penington
ScreenplayGeoffrey Orme
Original storyJohn Baxter
PhotographyErnest Palmer
MusicVivian Comma
 Edwin Astley

A West Indian dockworker is suspected of the murder of a shady compatriot. Convinced he will not be able to prove his innocence, he goes on the run from the police. However, a young boy and his grandfather come to his aid.

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Continuing the narrative theme and structure of Pool of London (1950), Jon Penington's near-forgotten The Heart Within is another crime melodrama set in London docklands, apparently the favoured location for representations of London's black community before it moved from the peripheries to the centre of the capital at the end of the decade.

Like Pool of London, the film's intermixing of crime genre conventions, a 'colour problem' storyline and documentary-style location photography places it closer to social realism than to the comparatively sensationalist 'social problem' films - Sapphire (d. Basil Dearden, 1959) and Flame in the Streets (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1961) - that followed the 1958 Notting Hill race riots.

The antagonistic relationship between the two compatriots, Victor Conway and Joe Martell represents an unusual departure from the period's dominant image of an undifferentiated West Indian community. Joe is a rogue in search of easy money; Victor is a conscientious, hard-working man. Both, though, are victims of white prejudice (vividly expressed in a policeman's words, "if I had my way, I'd send the lot of them packin'"), which, in turn, justifies Victor's belief that "a coloured man is guilty until he's proved innocent". It is, however, thanks to the generous help and conscience of white men (Danny and his grandfather) that Victor does manage to prove his innocence. Like Pool of London's Johnny, Victor is essentially dependent on the good will of 'white hands', in keeping with the paternalism of a Britain still shedding its Empire.

The crime theme, dockland settings, and warm rapport between foreign-born fugitive and child prefigure J. Lee Thompson's Tiger Bay (1959). In The Heart Within, paper-boy Danny (a 15-year-old David Hemmings) assists a West Indian docker; in Tiger Bay, Hayley Mills' wastrel befriends a Polish seaman-murderer. The Notting Hill riots took place during Tiger Bay's location shooting, which may partly explain why, unlike in The Heart Within, black faces appear only fleetingly. Television offered slightly better opportunities for black actors: Earl Cameron, Pauline Henriques and Gloria Simpson had all appeared in the dramatised documentary A Man from the Sun (BBC, tx. 8/11/1956); Simpson and Frank Singuineau were later the first black actress and actor to appear in a soap opera.

The use of the 'Kings of the Caribbean' calypso band not only adds a 'colourful' tone to the grubby locations, but was also a sound commercial choice given the popularity of such music at the time.

Eleni Liarou

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Video Clips
1. Violet (2:23)
2. Dockside suspect (3:06)
3. Victor and the paper boy (4:11)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Pool of London (1950)
Tiger Bay (1959)
Astley, Edwin (1922-1998)
Baxter, John (1896-1975)
Cameron, Earl (1917- )
Hemmings, David (1941-2003)
B Pictures