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Cure For Love, The (1949)


Main image of Cure For Love, The (1949)
35mm, black and white, 98 mins
DirectorRobert Donat
Production CompaniesLondon Film Productions, Island Films
ProducerRobert Donat
ScreenplayRobert Donat, Alexander Shaw, Albert Fennell
Original playWalter Greenwood
PhotographyJack Cox
MusicWilliam Alwyn

Cast: Robert Donat (Sergeant Jack Hardacre), Renée Asherson (Milly Southern), Marjorie Rhodes (Mrs Sarah Hardacre), Charles Victor (Harry Lancaster), Thora Hird (Mrs Nancy Dorbell), Gladys Henson (Mrs Jenkins), Dora Bryan (Janey Jenkins)

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Sergeant Jack Hardacre returns from the war, intending to do the decent thing by his long-term fiancée Janey Jenkins, even though he can't stand her. But when he meets his mother's lodger, Millie Southern, his life and emotions are turned upside down.

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Very much a labour of love, Robert Donat's only film as director, producer and co-adapter was based on a play by his close friend, the Salford-born writer Walter Greenwood, who had originally made his reputation with the 1933 novel Love on the Dole (filmed 1941, d. John Baxter). Donat himself directed the 1945 stage premiere at the Westminster Theatre, and created the role of Sergeant Jack Hardacre opposite Renée Asherson as Millie Southern.

He spent several years trying to get the film version made, by which time Asherson had become his second wife. The script was modified slightly in the transition from stage to screen (at the end, Jack and Millie announce that they are secretly married, not that she is pregnant by him), but in most other respects Donat ensured that it remained true to the original's vividly-drawn atmosphere and dialect, with everyone but London-born Millie played by Lancashire or Yorkshire natives.

Though Donat's shy, hesitant performance as the confused, lovelorn but impeccably honourable Jack seems incongruous when set against his dashing screen image, it actually revived what the elocution training at the start of his career had been designed to suppress: his natural Manchester accent, and a pronounced stammer.

As with similar plays by Northern writers such as Harold Brighouse, Stanley Houghton and Alan Bennett, the women are particularly well-drawn, with Asherson a vivacious Millie, and Dora Bryan and Gladys Henson contributing a terrifying double act as the brassy Janey Jenkins and her opportunist mother (whose initial dirtying and subsequent neglect of her choirboy son's surplice provides a revealing running gag). Marjorie Rhodes is Jack's practical and no-nonsense mother Sarah, unmoved by the local publican's wooing, while Thora Hird provides one of the earliest onscreen examples of her extensive gallery of doughty Lancashire matriarchs. Despite her role as purveyor of aged wisdom to the gauche young Jack, she was six years younger than Donat in real life.

Aside from a few attractive location shots and an inventive use of distorted sound to highlight Janey's effect on Jack's psyche, Donat the director makes next to no attempt to disguise the piece's stage origins: like many actors in his position, he clearly regarded script and cast as paramount. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film opened to a low-key critical reception in London (the Monthly Film Bulletin's entire review: "Antediluvian regional farce"), but was a huge hit north of the Midlands.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. A shy romance (4:29)
2. Jack and Janey (3:08)
3. Fait accompli (2:21)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Bryan, Dora (1924-)
Donat, Robert (1905-1958)
Hird, Thora (1911-2003)