Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Blue Scar (1949)

Courtesy of William MacQuitty

Main image of Blue Scar (1949)
35mm, black and white, 90 mins
DirectorJill Craigie
Production CompanyOutlook Films
ProducerWilliam MacQuitty
ScriptJill Craigie
PhotographyJo Jago
MusicGrace Williams

Cast: Emrys Jones (Tom Thomas); Gwyneth Vaughan (Olwen Williams); Rachel Thomas (Gwenneth Williams); Anthony Pendrell (Alfred Collins); Prysor Williams (Ted Williams)

Show full cast and credits

Miner's daughter Olwen Williams leaves her small Welsh village and her sweetheart, Tom, to take up a singing scholarship, and eventually marries a collar-and-tie man. Tom has ambitions of his own and becomes manager of the colliery.

Show full synopsis

The south Wales mining drama Blue Scar (1949) was Jill Craigie's only feature. After a string of compelling documentaries, she became disaffected with the industry and with her struggles (with producer William MacQuitty), to obtain distribution for Blue Scar. She also felt dissatisfied with her own standards and the lack of training opportunities for women.

But Blue Scar, a film exploring the implications of coal industry nationalisation in 1947, is a considerable achievement. It's also remarkably forthright, considering that half the £45,000 budget was met by the National Coal Board. Despite gauche performances from Emrys Jones and Gwyneth Vaughan, and an unconvincing scene set among London's artistic bourgeoisie, the film remains distinctive, emphasising south Wales miners' main concerns at a seminal moment in coalfield history.

Scenes on location in Abergwynfi, south west Wales, demonstrate the director's skill and sensitivity, and sequences involving the central Williams family convey impressive authenticity. The south Wales interiors are generally more impressive than might be expected, with the crew using a Port Talbot cinema, rented for £1 a day, as a makeshift studio.

A Socialist, Craigie stresses the need for coal owners to respect difficult working conditions, reward miners properly and ensure safety. The pitfall scene in which Thomas is injured demonstrates the fragility of employers' precautions. Craigie also uses as a mouthpiece a cynical management representative who questions the benefits of state control. Here, nationalisation is not seen as an instant industry saviour: indeed it leads to longer working hours in the short run, during a coal crisis.

Craigie maintains a commendably even stance towards her characters - militant young Thomas Williams is presented as indolent, and she clearly empathises more with veteran Ted Williams, despite his implied acquiescence with management. The scene in which he collapses and dies after struggling with a coal scuttle is an obvious metaphor, but Craigie cleverly deflects attention from this awkward device, choreographing the scene with panache. Surprisingly, given Craigie's feminism, she seems less assured in her treatment of women, in particular the embarrassingly compliant physiotherapist Glenis, who accepts Tom Thomas's marriage offer knowing she has always been second choice.

Blue Scar was only released on the ABC circuit after two 'sneak' previews, a campaigning review from Daily Herald critic Richard Winnington, and 'pilot' screenings at seven cinemas around Britain. It stands alongside Craigie's equal-pay-for-women documentary To Be A Woman (1950) as the high point of her film career.

David Berry, National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Olwen's scholarship (3:25)
2. Ted's accident (5:00)
3. Ted's death (2:51)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
David (1951)
Stars Look Down, The (1939)
Craigie, Jill (1911-1999)
Griffith, Kenneth (1921-2006)
National Coal Board Film Unit (1952-84)
From Pit to Screen
King Coal
Social Realism
Women and Film