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Launder and Gilliat

Writer-director team who enlivened three decades of British cinema

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Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat made such a huge contribution to over three decades of British cinema that it's surprising that they should be so neglected in comparison with contemporaries such as David Lean, Michael Powell and the creators of the great Ealing comedies.

There are several reasons for this. They were extraordinarily prolific (over a hundred films feature either Launder or Gilliat in the credits, nearly forty feature both), which may have created the unfair and inaccurate impression that this is at the expense of quality.

More seriously, the auteur theory which subsequently came to dominate film studies favoured individual directors with distinctive visual styles - and although Launder and Gilliat wrote some of the wittiest screenplays in British cinema history, as directors they were rarely more than competent (the stylish Green for Danger (1946) being a notable exception).

But they also made superb films, both as entertainment and as fascinating reflections of the culture that produced them. Millions Like Us (1943), Two Thousand Women, Waterloo Road (both 1944), The Rake's Progress (1945) and I See A Dark Stranger (1946) contain an encyclopaedia of information about the British at war. While others celebrated frontline heroes, they turned their keen social observation to the lives of women and the working classes: to them, the people who made the planes were as important as those who flew them.

Their pre- and post-war work was lighter in tone, often bordering on the farcical, but any filmography that includes the screenplay for Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), such classic comedies as The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) and The Green Man (1956) and career-best performances from Rex Harrison, Margaret Rutherford and especially Alastair Sim is one to celebrate. This collection aims to do just that.

Michael Brooke

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)

Anarchic comedy based on Ronald Searle's popular cartoons

Thumbnail image of Green Man, The (1956)Green Man, The (1956)

Comedy thriller with Alastair Sim as an eccentric assassin

Thumbnail image of Green for Danger (1946)Green for Danger (1946)

Whodunit with Alastair Sim as a less than Poirot-like detective

Thumbnail image of Happiest Days of Your Life, The (1950)Happiest Days of Your Life, The (1950)

Comedy with two very different schools forced to share a building

Thumbnail image of I See A Dark Stranger (1946)I See A Dark Stranger (1946)

A fiery Irishwoman becomes a spy for the Germans during World War II

Thumbnail image of Lady Vanishes, The (1938)Lady Vanishes, The (1938)

Glorious comic thriller about a mysteriously disappearing old woman

Thumbnail image of London Belongs To Me (1948)London Belongs To Me (1948)

Eccentric comedy-thriller about a fake psychic and an accidental murder

Thumbnail image of Millions Like Us (1943)Millions Like Us (1943)

Launder & Gilliat film about the lives of women during World War II

Thumbnail image of Rake's Progress, The (1945)Rake's Progress, The (1945)

Definitive Rex Harrison, as a carefree 1930s playboy confronted by war

Thumbnail image of Seven Sinners (1936)Seven Sinners (1936)

Comedy-thriller about train wreckers: a dry run for The Lady Vanishes

Thumbnail image of Two Thousand Women (1944)Two Thousand Women (1944)

Drama set in a women's internment camp during World War II

Thumbnail image of Waterloo Road (1944)Waterloo Road (1944)

Soldier John Mills goes AWOL to investigate rumours about his wife

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Thumbnail image of Gainsborough Pictures (1924-51)Gainsborough Pictures (1924-51)