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Glorious Sixth of June, The (1934)

Courtesy of Royal Mail Group Ltd

Main image of Glorious Sixth of June, The (1934)
35mm, black and white, 9 mins
DirectorAlberto Cavalcanti
Production CompanyGPO Film Unit

Cast: Humphrey Jennings (Albert Goodbody); W.H. Auden; Basil Wright; V.C. Clinton-Baddeley; Ralph Bond

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How news of a general reduction in GPO charges was finally brought to parliament and the people, despite attempts by the country's enemies to prevent the announcement.

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No point in summarising the plot of the GPO's second silliest flick. As with Pett and Pott (d. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1934) it's a flimsy excuse for the kind of film-making fun, on-set and in the cutting room that nonetheless paid off in the Unit's increasingly confident handling of sound and picture. The film incidentally illustrates Cavalcanti's temperamental differences from John Grierson, and it inadvertently prefigures a modern pattern in British advertising whereby the brand is sent up at the same time as being promoted. The announcement of reduced GPO charges is hokily jokey and preceded by five minutes of amiable ribbing of studio feature films, stage melodrama, am-dram, the British Establishment, and stiff upper lips in general. It's all too O.T.T. to count as biting satire, but enlivened by Cavalcanti's low-cost experiments with the medium and plenty of gleeful mugging by the Film Unit staff who appear on-screen.

Basil Wright plays one of the baddies. The central role of plucky GPO messenger Albert Goodbody is taken by one Humphrey Jennings, embarking at the time on his own directing career but still five years from the auteur that first clearly emerged in the GPO short Spare Time (1939). It's a likeable, ingenuous pantomime performance. It could be argued that the film's portrayal of the humble Goodbody (so improbably personified by the - far from working-class! - Jennings) and his mother betrays a certain snobbery on the part of the mostly middle-class film-makers (entirely in keeping with their more conscious lampooning of the upper classes). But we're already starting to read a little too much into the jolly jape.

Patrick Russell

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Addressing The Nation: The GPO Film Unit Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
1. Hatching the plot (1:52)
2. Goodbye England! (2:53)
3. Saving the Motherland (3:32)
Complete film (8:56)
Pett and Pott (1934)
Cavalcanti, Alberto (1897-1982)
Jennings, Humphrey (1907-1950)
Wright, Basil (1907-1987)
GPO Film Unit (1933-1940)
The GPO Film Unit: 1934