Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Jassy (1947)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Jassy (1947)
35mm, Technicolor, 102 mins
DirectorBernard Knowles
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
ProducerSydney Box
ScreenplayDorothy Christie, Campbell Christie, Geoffrey Kerr
Original NovelNorah Lofts
PhotographyGeoffrey Unsworth

Cast: Margaret Lockwood (Jassy Woodroofe); Patricia Roc (Dilys Helmar); Dennis Price (Christopher Hatton); Basil Sydney (Nick Helmar); Dermot Walsh (Barney Hatton)

Show full cast and credits

A gypsy girl with the gift of second sight is initially shunned as a witch but uses her talent to raise her social standing by marrying into the aristocracy and inheriting a vast stately home.

Show full synopsis

The last "official" Gainsborough costume drama was the only one produced entirely under the aegis of Sydney Box, who took over from Maurice Ostrer as the head of Gainsborough Pictures in 1946. He was never especially enamoured of the costume melodramas, and openly disliked Jassy, which only went into production because of a dearth of alternative scripts and the need to keep studio technicians and facilities in constant use.

Truth be told, Jassy is a pale shadow of its predecessors, most notably The Wicked Lady (d. Leslie Arliss, 1945), which it superficially resembles in its casting of Margaret Lockwood and Patricia Roc as love rivals and its sudden explosions of often gratuitous violence. Both Jassy and the independent Ostrer-produced Idol of Paris (d. Leslie Arliss, 1948) have a rather disturbing fondness for whipping, with women often the victims.

But Jassy as a character is far less psychologically intriguing than Lockwood's Lady Barbara Skelton in The Wicked Lady - her second sight gives her an "otherness" that prevents much audience empathy, and this isn't helped by her passivity in the face of blatant injustice.

By any yardstick, Dilys (Roc) behaves appallingly towards both Jassy and Barney, but Jassy barely bats an eyelid. The climactic courtroom scene also lacks passion, especially as the film's ending was changed from that of Norah Lofts' novel, where Jassy is indeed hanged for a murder she didn't commit.

As with other postwar Gainsborough melodramas such as Caravan (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1946), the men take the lion's share of the acting honours: Basil Sydney and Dennis Price make the strongest impression as members of the dissolute landed gentry, whose reckless gambling leads directly to everything else.

Like his Gainsborough colleague Arthur Crabtree, director Bernard Knowles started out as a cinematographer, so it's not surprising that Jassy's visual strengths comfortably outweigh its dramatic and psychological ones and that the real stars of the film are Geoffrey Unsworth, Maurice Carter and Elizabeth Haffenden, responsible for cinematography, sets and costumes. The architect of Blickling Hall at Aylsham in Norfolk, which doubled for Mordelaine, deserves a nod too.

This was the first Gainsborough film in Technicolor (Christopher Columbus (d. David MacDonald, 1949) being the only other), and it takes full advantage of the process, best illustrated by the shift in Jassy's dresses from quiet blue to vivid crimson as she takes her first hesitant steps up the social ladder.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. A vision of murder (1:44)
2. The red dress (5:23)
3. Vengeful marriage (4:41)
Production stills
Publicity materials
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Caravan (1946)
Love Story (1944)
Man in Grey, The (1943)
Wicked Lady, The (1945)
Denham, Maurice (1909-2002)
Kalmus, Natalie (1887-1965)
Laurie, John (1897-1980)
Lockwood, Margaret (1916-1990)
Price, Dennis (1915-1973)
Roc, Patricia (1915-2003)
Rome, Stewart (1886-1965)
Thesiger, Ernest (1879-1961)
Unsworth, Geoffrey (1914-1978)
Gainsborough Melodrama