Saturday, 9 November 2013

I Believe In You (1952)
Stanley Escane (centre) and Harry Fowler (right)
This is one of too-often ignored films to come out of Ealing Studios in the post-war years. All too often when people think of Ealing they automatically think of the comedies, rather then the quite-often equally as impressive dramas. Based on a memoir entitled Court Circular by Sewell Stokes, I Believe in You is the story of probation officers in South London in the late 1940s and focuses on the period's popular theme of the rising menace of juvenile delinquency. Stokes had worked as a probation officer at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London during World War 2, giving him an intimate knowledge of the trials and tribulations of those attempting to guide troubled teenagers away from crime.
 
Cecil Parker stars as Henry Phipps, recently retired from the Colonial Office (since the Colonial Office was finding itself short of colonies) who is bored and decides to try his hand at working as a probation officer after he meets Norma Hart and her probation officer Matty Matheson (Joan Collins and Celia Johnson).

Joan Collins and Celia Johnson
 
Collins literally crashes into his life after her criminal boyfriend crashes a stolen car whilst being chased by the police. She clumsily attempts seduction, but merely arouses his curiosity in the world of juvenile delinquents.
Joan Collins & Cecil Parker

Joan Collins
And so he starts work, taking on the case of Charlie Hooker (Ealing regular, Harry Fowler), among others.
Harry Fowler
Hooker is initially antagonistic towards Phipps but the two soon grow to understand each other. As Johnson and Parker slowly grow friendly, so too do their charges Collins and Fowler.
 
Harry Fowler & Joan Collins

Harry Fowler & Joan Collins
The film doesn't preach too loudly, despite its obvious sympathy for the petty criminals who pass through the courts. The impact of war on their lives is shown: Hooker's father died in the war yet the subject isn't pursued or analysed. Instead, the subject of bereavement is shown in a balance manner: another of Matty's clients, the Honourable Ursula (played by Ursula Howells) turned to drink after he fiancée was killed, whilst Matty herself had lost her husband to war. The message is clear: everyone copes with these things in their own way, and some people need more help than others to cope.
 
Much of the film looks at contrasts within society: Parker's comfortable life is far different from that of his clients. He lives in a smart flat ...
Cecil Parker
 ... yet they live on rubbish strewn streets, in crumbling houses or small flats ...
 
Cecil Parker


Cecil Parker

... theirs is a world of bombsites and endless smoky railway yards:

 
As Mr Phipps narrates: "'I'd always thought of London in terms of Knightsbridge and St James." The contrast between these two world's is highlighted by Matty who accuses him of dressing so posh that he "frightens the horses." Acting on her advise, he abandons his tailored overcoat and bowler hat, replacing them with a far less conspicuous combination of raincoat and trilby:
Cecil Parker & Joan Collins
The film is a good introduction to Joan Collins, in only her third credited role. She conveys her character's sensitivities well: showing both her soft and her hard side.
Joan Collins
She is naïve in her clumsy attempts seduce Phipps and brash with growing relationship with Hooker. In a scene shot at the Endell Street Baths in Central London, Collins switches from girlish giggling to convincing sensuality in seconds. And she does it well:
Harry Fowler & Joan Collins


Harry Fowler & Joan Collins
So what else is there to point out:
 
Let's see who else appears:
George Relph (the father of the film's director Michael Relph) appears as Mr Dove, a kindly senior probation officer
Mandy Miller (who also starred in the film Mandy)
 
Stanley Escane, who had previous featured with Harry Fowler in Hue & Cry
An early appearance of Laurence Harvey, as Edna's criminal boyfriend, Jordie Bennett.
N.B. this image appeared on some posters for the film:
This poster is currently available from film poster dealer Greg Edwards



Ada Reeves appears as a former artist's model whose glory days are far behind her. Reeves was herself a former Music hall star whose glory days had passed.

 

One of the portraits that she shows to Mr Phipps, making him realise how this seemingly dotty old lady had an interesting story to tell.
 
Gladys Henson
Glyn Houston
 
Ursula Howells

Sid James


Katie Johnson as a dotty old lady who believes her neighbours are trying to poison her
A couple of things to note: The photograph of Matty's dead husband keeps changing:
Blue uniform


White Uniform
Also, a hole in Harry Fowler's jacket manages to disappear halfway through a scene:
Before (complete with hole on left breast)

After (with hole gone)
You might also like to see the drawing of Mr Phipps done by the judge during a hearing:


 And, just in case anyone is interested, here's the shoes Joan Collins wears:
 

2 comments:

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  2. Phil,

    thanks for your kind comments. Dearden & Relph's films might not have been perfect but they reflected the era they were working in. I think they made a genuine contribution to British cinema and certainly desere greater recognition.

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