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Wind of Change (1961)

Courtesy of Euro London Films

Main image of Wind of Change (1961)
35mm, black and white, 64 mins
DirectorVernon Sewell
Production CompanyBryanston Films
ProducerJohn Dark
ScreenplayAlexander Doré
 John McLaren
PhotographyBasil Emmott
MusicNorman Percival

Cast: Donald Pleasence (Pop); Johnny Briggs (Frank); Ann Lynn (Josie); Hilda Fenemore (Gladys); Glyn Houston (Sergeant Parker); Norman Gunn (Ron)

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Frank, a young Teddy boy consumed by racial hatred, carries out a vicious assault on a black man and his white girlfriend. The attack has repercussions for Frank and his family.

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Taking its title from Harold Macmillan's widely-reported Cape Town speech about the process of decolonisation in Africa, The Wind of Change showed the other side of the coin: the impact of colonial immigration at 'home'. The film deals with the 'colour problem' within the context of Teddy boy violence.

The restless son of a respectable working-class family, Frank, has a deep hatred of black people which explodes into violence when he and his gang beat up a black boy and his white girlfriend at night. Set around the Portobello Road and Notting Hill's coffee bars, the film consciously evokes the still recent memories of the 1958 race riots. The chase of the black man by Frank and his gang into the dark streets of night-lit London echoes a widely reported image of 'nigger-chasing' men and 'nigger-baiting' incidents, while Frank's use of improvised weapons, such as a bicycle chain and knives, corresponds with post-war ideas of 'primitive' Teddy boy violence.

Although The Wind of Change recalls Sapphire (d. Basil Dearden, 1959) in the way that it raises the issue of interracial relationships through a crime theme, the two films differ considerably in their treatment of the role of the police. In Sapphire, the police are instrumental in reinstating the social order. By contrast, the policeman's authority in The Wind of Change is fused with his paternal feelings, and it is Frank's family (his sister, Josie, in particular) who finally resolve the problem.

Produced as a supporting feature by Michael Balcon's independent Bryanston Films, The Wind of Change tackled the kind of unusual subject that the main studios very often neglected. Through some poignant family scenes, the film exposes the underbelly of Macmillan's 'affluent society', in which the delinquency of a teenage culture had more to do with educational failure, lack of occupational aspiration, the 'pall of boredom' and the economic struggles of the English working class than any deep racial clash.

The casting of actors who were already popular television regulars - Donald Pleasence, Hilda Fenemore and Glyn Houston - was believed to help at the box office but also betrayed the white bias against the casting of black actors. Although they are portrayed in a positive light, black characters are very briefly presented. Only white people can speak for and about them, indicating that the 'wind of change' the film was envisaging was still blowing in one direction.

Eleni Liarou

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Video Clips
1. Ted's cafe (3:00)
2. Edgy talks (3:00)
3. Uneasy views (3:35)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Cosh Boy (1953)
Sapphire (1959)
Sewell, Vernon (1903-2001)
B Pictures