A boost for the War effort
Fabrisse | Dorchester, MA United States | 06/19/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Noel Coward and David Lean made several pictures together during WWII as a way of boosting the morale in Britain. The most famous is probably "Brief Encounter" and the most war themed is "In Which We Serve", but "This Happy Breed" is the homefront movie. It follows the life of one family from before the war to "the present." The men who go away to war aren't followed it's their loved ones at home. Great Britain went through far more during World War II than the United States, rationing started earlier, lasted longer, and was more severe there. They were under constant bombardment and as many civilians died as military men. This film brings it all home. By today's standards the pacing is a little slow, but it's a good movie and an interesting historical document. John Mills plays a young sailor and his daughter Juliet made her screen debut as the baby."
At Home Between The Wars
James L. | 11/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Newton and Celia Johnson star as the parents of the Gibbons family in this episodic David Lean film that charts the history of the family between the two World Wars. It tells the story of homefront re-adjustment following WWI, the family conflicts that arise as social and political pressures mount, and it demonstrates the need for solidarity and courage in the face of the imminent war. As always with a David Lean film, the British cast is exceptionally strong, with a notable performance by Celia Johnson. Although the story is slow in parts, the changes in the family as reflected by the events around them nonetheless maintains the viewer's attention. During the 1940's, Lean had an impressive record of quality films, and this certainly belongs on that list."
They couldn't have possibly drank that much tea.
JOHN GODFREY | Milwaukee ,WI USA | 03/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1st of all this is not a home front movie. To have that you need a war front & there was none. This movie may have been made in 1944 but was not released until 1947. 1919-39, was a time of peace for 20 years between the wars when The United Kingdom was trying to cope with the fact that they had lost 1 million men killed & a million more at least maimed & disabled. Frank is a vet who survived as is his neighbor & best friend Bob. They have settled in the suburbs & the traquility & comfort of the middle class. After 5 years of horror, they are satisfied with a quiet, maybe even a little boring, life. Frank's wife, Ethel is just thrilled to have her husband home & in one piece. Being English, she tries not to show it. Displays of strong emotions just wouldn't do. Her sister, a real head case since being widowed by the war, lives with them as does her crabby mother & their three children. Life happens, nothing spectacular & the kids are not so content. They fall in love, rebel, have babies & do all the things kids have always done to dismay their elders. Every crisis, in fact every minute of every day is faced with a cup of tea. In the larger world it's evident that England, though still a world power is tired. The years of peace bring strikes, riots, depression & disarmament through the 20's. Then there is the rise of facism & Hitler in the 30's &
the slow realization that Great Britain may have to fight again. This was a fine Noel Coward play probably better suited for the live stage because of long periods of inaction. It has been adapted by David Lean. Celia Johnson did a fine job as Ethel & is the heart of this movie. She is pretty much unknown in the United States. I was surprised & pleased by how enjoyable a movie this was."
The way we were
F. J. Harvey | Birmingham England | 01/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Happy Breed (the title is a quotation from Shakespeare)began as a play by Noel Coward and depicts life in blue collar England -specifically in relatively prosperous London - through the experiences of one family in a small row house in South London between 1919 and 1939 .The story is intended to typify a way of life and mindset ,a fact made evident in its closing shot as the camera pulls away to show the house as simply one small unit surrounded by other identical buildings ,each with its own tale to tell .
The father of the family is Frank Gibbons (an uncharacteristically restrained performance from Robert Newton -and all the better for it).His wife is Ethel (Celia Johnson),the real bedrock of the family and a full time housewife .They have two children in their 20's -a son, Reg (John Blythe)and a dsughter Queenie (Kay Walsh).Completing the household is Ethel's mother the cantankerous Mrs Flint(Amy Venness)and Ethel's sister Sylvia.
Their sre faamily discords-Mrs Flint and Amy bicker constantly ,and it is clear Amy is an unfulfilled woman who finds an outlet in what today would be described as "new age"ideas and Queenie is also unhappy.She aspires to a more elevated social station and rejects a proposal of marriage from Billy Mitchell (John Mills)the sailor son of their next door neighbour Bob Mitchell (Stanley Holloway)as she feels she could make a better marriage .She eventually scandalises the family by running away with a married man and "living in sin"
Tragedy strikes with the death of a family member in an automobile accident and the most moving scene in the movie comes when news of this is broken to the rest of the family .Its a powerful scene ,compelling in its restraint and gravitas .
In addition to the domestic situation ,the political background is etched in also.This was an era between two wars and begins with Frank being demobilised after serving in World War One .We see the rise of Nazism and the preparations for another war .Frank is uneasy at the appeasemnt policies of the Chamberlain government and speaks his mind on the matter .The 1926 General Strike is also dealt with and divided the family politically.However the emphasis is on family not politics
Johnson never quite convinces as a working class housewife and the character is played a litle to genteely but Venness is excellent as are Mills and Walsh .The best scenes are those between Newton and Holloway -two old friends at ease with each other and lounging around chewing the fat ,
It is a sentimental and nostalgic movie and at times feels rather patronising but while not the best of the four Coward-David Lean collaborations it is still a warm and touching picture.It shows a time of strong familial ties and an attachment to a community without glossing over the hard times
It works as an historical document and also as a well made tale of domestic life in a remote seeming era"