In March 1954, Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson submitted a proposal to the BFI Experimental Film Fund for a short documentary. At the time, Reisz was working for the BFI as programmer of the National Film Theatre, while Richardson was a young BBC television director. The film, originally titled Jazz, was about a Saturday evening in a North London jazz club.
The film was shot on 16mm film during Winter 1954-5 with a total grant of just £425 (the pair had requested only £232). By the time the it was completed in November 1955, its title had been changed to Momma Don't Allow.
On 25th January 1956, a few days before the Free Cinema event, Momma Don't Allow was screened as part of a programme of BFI-funded films for press and industry representatives at the NFT. Press reviews were very encouraging.
Momma Don't Allow was warmer and more sympathetic to its working-class subjects than Lindsay Anderson's earlier O Dreamland (1953), which also formed part of the first Free Cinema programme. The film captures the emerging 'youth culture' - a term unheard of before the 1950s - contrasting the relaxed, confident working-class Teddy Boys and their girlfriends with the more awkward 'toffs' whose arrival threatens to change the mood of the evening.
Following Momma Don't Allow, Richardson became increasingly involved in theatre and film production, and never made another Free Cinema film. He was, however, the first of the Free Cinema figures to make the move into feature films, setting up Woodfall Film Productions with playwright John Osborne. Woodfall's first release was an adaptation of Osborne's stage hit Look Back in Anger (1959), directed by Richardson.
Reisz was appointed film officer by car manufacturer Ford, which later funded Lindsay Anderson's Every Day Except Christmas (1957) and Reisz's own We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959).
*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Free Cinema'.