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Your Very Good Health (1948)


Main image of Your Very Good Health (1948)
35mm, colour, 9 mins
DirectorsJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
Production CompanyHalas & Batchelor
ProducersJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
ScriptJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
MusicMátyás Seiber

Animated public information film advising citizens on how the new National Health Service will work.

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As the star of seven cartoons commissioned by government departments to communicate important information about the new Labour government's legislative reforms, Charley (1946-1948), the cartoon character designed by Joy Batchelor, became the familiar face of official propaganda in the postwar era. Endowed with an average man-on-the-street's everyday charm, he had popular appeal and his habitual cheeky ripostes to authoritative commentary served to anticipate and, it was hoped, overcome the British public's characteristic scepticism about government-imposed changes.

Here, Halas and Batchelor's customary vibrant action sequences and polished storytelling are called upon to communicate the complex workings of the government's new National Health Service and the result is an immensely intelligible and entertaining piece of propaganda. The film is simply structured, with the majority of screen time taken up with Charley cycling through the streets of his neighbourhood while challenging the commentator's announcements about the new public health system. His route from A to B is hindered by hypothetical 'what if' sequences as suggested by the commentator ("Suppose you fall off your bike," or "Suppose your wife falls ill suddenly"), the enactment of which affords entertaining visual comparisons of the present system with the new 'free' system. Animation's power of illusion is further exploited in a succession of imaginary health-threatening scenarios, which are depicted in faded colour to differentiate them from the film's 'real' events. The beautifully choreographed slapstick action, characteristic of popular Disney or MGM cartoons, injects a freshness and immediacy into the dissemination of important official information to the masses.

Before the NHS Act came into effect, being ill meant daunting healthcare bills for great swathes of the population. Mrs Charley's dour quip 'We mothers can't afford to be ill' is a resonant reminder of what life must have been like without free health care and the difference that the arrival of the NHS made to people's lives.

Katy McGahan

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (8:34)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Charley Junior's Schooldays (1949)
Charley in New Town (1948)
Health Services in Britain (1962)
Robinson Charley (1948)
Halas, John (1912-1995) and Batchelor, Joy (1914-1991)