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All Hands (1940)


Main image of All Hands (1940)
35mm, 10 min, black & white
DirectorJohn Paddy Carstairs
Production CompanyEaling Studios
SponsorMinistry of Information
ProducerMichael Balcon
Written byJohn Paddy Carstairs

Cast: John Mills (Jack); Leueen McGrath (Joan); Eliot Makeham (spy); Gertrude Musgrove (waitress); Annie Esmond (manageress);

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A sailor carelessly reveals details of his ship's departure to his sweetheart in a cafe, with disastrous consequences.

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A mini-thriller designed to impress upon citizens the dangers of careless talk in wartime, All Hands was commissioned from Ealing Studios by the Ministry of Information as part of a wider national publicity campaign that generated such iconic slogans as 'careless talk costs lives' and 'loose lips sink ships'.

Convincing citizens of the importance of holding their tongues was deemed so vital to national security that three films were made to target different segments of society. With its well-spoken sailor protagonist, played by rising star John Mills, and its everyday locations (café, cinema) All Hands was intended to speak to a middle-class audience and enjoyed the widest distribution of the three. Now You're Talking targeted the working classes, while Dangerous Comment was tailored to more wealthy cinemagoers.

John Paddy Carstairs was a prolific director who made just one feature at Ealing - the George Formby vehicle Spare a Copper (1940) - and is mainly remembered today for family entertainment features such as Norman Wisdom comedies in the 1950s. Carstairs resented having to churn the films out so quickly - all three were produced in a couple of months - and felt that the resulting trilogy lacked polish. But while the films were criticised as sensationalist by some reviewers, they were seen by some 20 million people in 2,000 cinemas and paved the way for Ealing's similarly-themed, more highly regarded feature film, The Next of Kin (d. Thorold Dickinson, 1942).

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (10:44)
Dangerous Comment (1940)
Next of Kin, The (1942)
Now You're Talking (1940)
Carstairs, John Paddy (1910-1970)
Ealing Studios (1938-59)
Ealing Propaganda Shorts