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Hue and Cry (1947)


Main image of Hue and Cry (1947)
35mm, black and white, 82 mins
DirectorCharles Crichton
Production CompanyEaling Studios
ProducerMichael Balcon
ScreenplayT.E.B. Clarke
Director of PhotographyDouglas Slocombe
MusicGeorges Auric

Cast: Alastair Sim (Felix H Wilkinson); Jack Warner (Nightingale); Valerie White (Rhona); Frederick Piper (Mr Kirby); Harry Fowler (Joe Kirby)

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A gang of schoolboys happens upon a group of conspirators using a children's comic strip to plot their crimes. When the police refuse to take them seriously, the children decide to take their own action.

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Though by no means the first comedy to emerge from Ealing studios, Hue and Cry (d. Charles Crichton, 1947) was among the first British comedies after the war, and is generally considered the first of what are now remembered as the 'Ealing comedies' - although the cycle really got underway two years later with the release of Passport to Pimlico (d. Henry Cornelius), Whisky Galore! (d. Alexander Mackendrick) Kind Hearts and Coronets (d. Robert Hamer).

The story of a group of East End kids who foil a gang of robbers who are using a children's comic to communicate their plans, Hue and Cry borrows something of its premise from the popular children's story Emil and the Detectives (first filmed in Germany in 1931).

While the story has an appealing Boy's Own quality, perhaps the film's most distinctive feature is its use of bombed-out locations in London's East End and Docklands. These rubble-strewn sites become the background for one grand boy's adventure (the children include only one girl - who is just about tolerated by the others), culminating in the film's best known image, in which hundreds of boys from all over London converge on a handful of unfortunate petty criminals.

In keeping with Ealing's tendency in the last years of the war to foster inclusive images of British society, the children are mostly working-class, and include a young Scottish boy, Alec (Douglas Barr).

Jack Warner, who within a few years would be well-known to TV audiences as the honest and steadfast PC George Dixon in Ealing's The Blue Lamp (d. Basil Dearden, 1950) and the TV series Dixon of Dock Green (BBC, 1955-76), took the most substantial adult role as the villain, Nightingale. Apart from a memorable cameo from Alastair Sim as The Trump's eccentric author, the rest of the major parts are taken by the children, led by Harry Fowler as Joe, the fantasist whose daydreams become real.

Hue and Cry was the first of seven comedies for the studio by T.E.B. Clarke, the writer whose work, including Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob (d. Crichton, 1951), did most to shape the way the Ealing comedies are usually remembered today - as cheery celebrations of English (even though two of the films are set in Scotland) community spirit and mild eccentricity.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Old dark house (3:05)
2. Interrogation and torture (1:48)
3. Final battle (3:25)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Men of Tomorrow (1942)
Auric, Georges (1899-1983)
Clarke, T.E.B. (1907-1989)
Cornelius, Henry (1913-1958)
Crichton, Charles (1910-1999)
Fowler, Harry (1926-2012)
Sim, Alastair (1900-1976)
Slocombe, Douglas (1913-)
Warner, Jack (1896-1981)
Children on Film
Ealing Comedy