Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
London Belongs To Me (1948)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of London Belongs To Me (1948)
35mm, black and white, 112 mins
DirectorSidney Gilliat
Production CompanyIndividual Pictures, Independent Producers
ProducersFrank Launder, Sidney Gilliat
ScreenplaySidney Gilliat, J.B. Williams
Director of PhotographyWilkie Cooper
MusicBenjamin Frankel

Cast: Joyce Carey (Mrs Vizzard); Richard Attenborough (Percy Boon); Alastair Sim (Henry Squales); Fay Compton (Mrs Josser); Stephen Murray (Uncle Henry Knockell)

Show full cast and credits

A collection of people live in a boarding house in South London. One of them is arrested for murder and the others petition for his reprieve.

Show full synopsis

The third collaboration between director Sidney Gilliat and star Alastair Sim after Waterloo Road (1944) and Green For Danger (1946), London Belongs To Me (1948) is an even quirkier attempt at fusing Sim's eccentric persona with Gilliat's acute social observation and fondness for undermining generic conventions. Throughout the film, it's never quite clear whether it's a suspense thriller, a psychological drama, a comedy or a slice of social realism, and this ambiguity works to its advantage.

This time round, Sim's fake psychic Henry Squales is a genuinely seedy and unpleasant figure, opportunistically conning the credulous Mrs Vizzard (Joyce Carey) not only into believing in his nonexistent powers but also into agreeing to marry him, thus giving him the security that has clearly (and rightly) eluded him thus far.

Squales is a far more disreputable figure than young Percy Boon (Richard Attenborough), who at least has a well-meaning excuse for his various crimes, though not enough to prevent him from being tried for murder at the Old Bailey and sentenced by a jury who had clearly been influenced by the previous year's Brighton Rock (d. John Boulting, 1947), in which Attenborough played a physically similar but much nastier piece of work.

But the main narrative is largely a side issue, as Gilliat's primary concern is to capture a slice of South London life in the months before war broke out, with the boarding house and its surroundings lavishly populated with memorable characters - revolutionary socialist Uncle Henry (Stephen Murray), self-aggrandising cloakroom attendant Connie Coke (Ivy St Helier), blowsy fairground worker Myrna Watson (Eleanor Summerfield), villainous spiv Jack Rufus (Maurice Denham) and the harassed Mr & Mrs Josser (Wylie Watson and Faye Compton), who'd far sooner enjoy their retirement in peace and quiet but whose social conscience compels them to get involved: unlike the blustering, overly ideological Henry, they contribute to Percy's cause in a rather quieter fashion, raising a then-huge £200 for his legal fees from their planned retirement cottage.

Nearly thirty years later, Norman Collins' original novel was given a rather more elaborate adaptation in the form of a seven-part series for Thames Television (tx. 6/9/77 - 18/10/77), with Peter Jeffrey as Squales, Trevor Eve as Bill, Patricia Hayes as Connie and Terence Budd as Percy.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Squales' arrival (1:54)
2. Christmas lunch (4:18)
3. The new medium (3:17)
4. A tragic accident (2:30)
Production stills
Publicity materials
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Attenborough, Lord Richard (1923-)
Carey, Joyce (1898-1993)
Cooper, Wilkie (1911-2001)
Denham, Maurice (1909-2002)
Edwards, Henry (1883-1952)
Gilliat, Sidney (1908-1994)
Griffith, Hugh (1912-1980)
Launder, Frank (1906-1997)
Sim, Alastair (1900-1976)
Tafler, Sydney (1916-79)
Watson, Wylie (1889-1966)
Launder and Gilliat