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Mandy (1952)


Main image of Mandy (1952)
35mm, black and white, 93 mins
DirectorAlexander Mackendrick
Production CompanyEaling Studios
ProducerLeslie Norman
ScreenplayNigel Balchin
 Jack Whittingham
From the novel byHilda Lewis
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe

Cast: Phyllis Calvert (Christine Garland); Jack Hawkins (Dick Searle); Terence Morgan (Harry Garland); Godfrey Tearle (Mr Garland); Mandy Miller (Mandy Garland)

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Mandy is diagnosed profoundly deaf at the age of two. Her parents struggle to come to terms with her condition, but when her mother decides to send her away to a school for the deaf, the family begins to splinter.

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Sandwiched between two pairs of comedies, Mandy (1952) was the only 'serious' work of the five films Alexander Mackendrick directed at Ealing Studios. A powerful and affecting drama about a deaf child and her parents' attempts to come to terms with her condition, it is remarkably free of the sentimentality which might so easily have weakened its impact.

Mackendrick's previous film, The Man in the White Suit (1951), combined humour with a bitter criticism of contemporary British society. Similarly, Mandy uses a simple melodramatic story to examine the stagnant conservatism of middle-class family life in a postwar Britain already turning its back on change - the film was released in July 1952, nine months after a general election in which the country had turned its back on a Labour government which had created the National Health Service, and laid the foundations for the Welfare State.

Cut off as she is by her deafness, Mandy is as much a victim of the suffocating love of her parents, Christine (Phyllis Calvert) and Harry (Terence Morgan), and of an overprotective grandmother (Marjorie Fielding) and an emotionally distant grandfather (Godfrey Tearle). Realising that Mandy's best hope is to leave prison of her family in London for a Manchester school for the deaf, where she might learn to lip-read and, eventually, talk, Christine has to battle both Harry and his parents, and ultimately to leave her husband, until she finds herself accused of adultery with the school's headmaster, Mr Searle (Jack Hawkins).

The film ends on an apparently positive note, as Mandy speaks her name for the first time and is invited to play with a group of hearing children. For Christine, however, this breakthrough comes at the expense of her own freedom as she rejoins the family she briefly escaped.

Much of Mandy's impact is due to the extraordinary performance of its seven year-old star. Mackendrick had already decided against casting a truly deaf child in the lead role: "deaf-mute children can be extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive; but they have this terrible desire to make you feel they've understood you when they haven't really," he later explained. Mandy Miller had made a brief but memorable appearance in The Man in the White Suit, but even Mackendrick was surprised at the intensity of the young girl's performance.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. A congenital condition (2:14)
2. The road (2:00)
3. The school (1:06)
4. A breakthrough (3:40)
Original Posters
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Man in the White Suit, The (1951)
Sammy Going South (1963)
Together (1956)
Asher, Jane (1946-)
Calvert, Phyllis (1915-2002)
Hawkins, Jack (1910-1973)
Mackendrick, Alexander (1912-1993)
Norman, Leslie (1911-1993)
Slocombe, Douglas (1913-)
Children on Film
Social Problem Films