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Granny Gets the Point (1971)


Main image of Granny Gets the Point (1971)
35mm, 26 mins, colour
DirectorJeff Inman
Production CompanyRay Elton & Partners
SponsorCentral Office of Information
SponsorDecimal Currency Board
ProducerRay Elton
PhotographyMartin Curtis
CommentatorMichael Ingrams

Cast: Doris Hare (Granny); Christopher Ellis (Grandson)

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How the members of the Collins family cope with the conversion to the new decimal currency.

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The introduction of decimalisation on 15 February 1971 marked the beginning of the end for guineas, ten-bob notes, half-crowns and those chunky brass threepenny bits. But the changeover to the supposedly simplified system, based on 100 new pence in a pound rather than 20 shillings to the pound, was fraught with much confusion for many. The transfer took the Decimal Currency Board five years to plan and an 18-month period of dual pricing was decreed to allow people time to adjust to the new system.

Centring around the Collins family, who occupy a flat on the 13th floor of a London high-rise, this film breaks no conventions in its depiction of the varying degrees of understanding and acceptance of the currency revolution by different generations. For the teenage son, Peter, with his youthful voracity for change and an aptitude for maths, the adjustment is painless. However, old habits die hard for Granny Collins, (played by Doris Hare of On the Buses (ITV, 1969-73) fame), and the notion of a floating decimal point proves somewhat impenetrable.

The film draws heavily on the tools of the TV sitcom to disguise its primarily instructive function, the juxtaposition of conflicting generational attitudes being a stalwart of this genre, as exemplified by Steptoe and Son (BBC, 1962-74). The well-crafted humour reaches surreal heights when Granny's mounting anxiety culminates in a nightmare involving a milkman and decimal bullets being fired at her from all sides. The well-scripted dialogue tends towards the naturalistic rather than the expositional, lending dramatic fluidity which is further reinforced by a strong narrative framework driven by the central premise: will Granny Collins ever get the point?

Replete with tan and beige-clad living-rooms; mum speaking through the kitchen hatch; false eyelashes in the cornflakes; elevated hem-lines and the signature milkman joke, for today's audience the film is a valuable reference for everyday style and attitudes of the early 1970s.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
1. Nightmare (0:51)
2. In the classroom (1:30)
3. Decimal only (1:06)
4. Oh! The new fifty pence (2:02)
Decimal Coinage: New Decimal Coinage (1968)
Central Office of Information (1946-2012)
Public Information Fillers