Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Millions Like Us (1943)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Millions Like Us (1943)
35mm, black and white, 103 mins
Directed byFrank Launder, Sidney Gilliat
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
Produced byEdward Black
Original ScreenplaySidney Gilliat, Frank Launder
PhotographyJack Cox, Roy Fogwell

Cast: Patricia Roc (Celia Crowson); John Boxer (Tom Crowson); Gordon Jackson (Fred Blake); Anne Crawford (Jennifer Knowles)

Show full cast and credits

During World War II, young Celia is separated from her family when she is called up to work in an aircraft components factory, but finds love in the arms of an RAF pilot.

Show full synopsis

Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat shared a directing credit for their debut in that capacity, a film that looks at the effect of World War II on ordinary British people (especially women), where anyone could be called up and pressed into service.

Much of the film is set in an aeroplane factory, where daydreaming Celia (Patricia Roc) works alongside down-to-earth Gwen (Megs Jenkins) and snobbish Jennifer (Anne Crawford), who arrives dressed to the nines and who feels that her new job is beneath her. But their no-nonsense boss Charlie Forbes (Eric Portman) is adamant that petty class distinctions are no longer relevant during wartime - something the refugee families crowding into trains' first-class compartments would readily agree with.

The characters in the film are resolutely ordinary, and therefore all too believable - Fred (Gordon Jackson), the RAF pilot that Celia meets, marries and tragically loses, is no dashing hero but a shy, awkward youth barely out of his teens. This is the point emphasised by the film's title - the war won't be won just by the elite (Churchill's "the few"): everyone has a contribution to make, and that insignificant-looking aircraft component might mean the difference between life and death for a pilot.

The central situation, though, is merely a line on which to hang a whole encyclopaedia of references to life during wartime: shortages of both luxuries (stockings, oranges) and necessities (drawing pins - for sticking up blackout material), how to make the best use of ration coupons, the blare of the air-raid siren, the overnight destruction of lives and livelihoods in bombing raids, the evacuation of Dunkirk. And the Home Guard uniform sported by Jim Crowson (Moore Marriott) reminds us that one didn't have to be young and fit to do one's bit for the war effort.

Despite the film's fundamental seriousness, there are still some cherishable gags: an orange is described as "a spherical pulpish fruit of reddish-yellow colour" for those who hadn't seen one in years, and Charters and Caldicott, the Englishmen abroad in The Lady Vanishes (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1938) return home to make three appearances, most memorably as soldiers laying mines on a beach ("Must remember not to bathe here after the war"). There's also a Gainsborough in-joke involving a reference to The Young Mr Pitt, their big hit of 1942 and the precursor to the costume melodramas that would dominate the studio's output over the next few years.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Blackout and Dunkirk (2:36)
2. Ministry of Labour (2:39)
3. Factory trainees (1:57)
4. Beethoven break-up (4:42)
Behind the scenes stills
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Jane Brown Changes her Job (1941)
Night Shift (1942)
They Keep the Wheels Turning (1942)
Two Thousand Women (1944)
Waterloo Road (1944)
Bryan, John (1911-1969)
Cox, Jack (1890-1960)
Gilliat, Sidney (1908-1994)
Handl, Irene (1901-1987)
Jackson, Gordon (1923-1990)
Launder, Frank (1906-1997)
Portman, Eric (1903-1969)
Radford, Basil (1897-1952)
Roc, Patricia (1915-2003)
Roome, Alfred (1908-1997)
Slater, John (1916-1975)
Launder and Gilliat
Social Realism