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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Classic Film Review: Millions Like Us (1943)

Millions Like Us focuses on Celia Crowson (Patricia Roc), the put-upon housekeeper of her father, sister and sister-in-law who is called up to work in a factory during the war. At least, that's what the film turns out to be about. At the beginning it's difficult to tell. In a bid to make the film appeal to the widest audience (the 'millions' like them), it has a rather haphazard beginning, with no real guidance on who the main character's supposed to be. Two of these characters, Tom (John Boxer) and Elsie (Valentine Dunn), are barely mentioned again. There is some consistency with Celia's father, Jim (Moore Marriott, who I enjoyed greatly in his brief appearance in The History of Mr Polly (1949)), and her sister, Phyllis (Joy Shelton), but the amount of screen time they have in the first portion of the film is no way matched in the second.

Celia meets new pilot Fred (Gordon Jackson) when he's touring the factory that helps make the components in the fighter planes he uses. To say that this romance is a fundamental part of the plot it takes some time to emerge but there are some amusing scenes of awkward dialogue when it does. There is also a subplot of a romance between factory foreman, Charlie (Eric Portman) and hoity-toity worker, Jenny (Anne Crawford), which works far better as a subplot than any of the family scenes. In addition, there's the marvellous Megs Jenkins (also of The History of Mr Polly and Indiscreet (1958)) who I can't fail to enjoy in any role. As Gwen she lightens up some of the drearier, intentional and otherwise, moments of the film and was certainly my highlight.

Perhaps the problem with Millions Like Us is that it was a film about war made during the war. The propaganda scenes are numerous and it stifles what could have been an interesting story with tangents that in no way add to the narrative as a whole. It was developed in a way to please the war office and their recruitment rather than as a story in its own right. With a few adjustments this could've been a good film but it ended up being a mediocre piece of propaganda with a couple of plus points. The failure to foreground the protagonist didn't help one bit.

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