Sunday, 15 March 2015

Kiss the Bride Goodbye (1944)

Jimmy Hanley & Patricia Medina
Although the print and sound quality are appalling (something the DVD company Reknown actually apologises for at the start of the film), it’s reassuring that a film like ‘Kiss the Bride Goodbye’ is available to view. Firstly, we have a good example of Jimmy Hanley (as Jack Fowler) ...
Jimmy Hanley
... playing the ‘everyman’ character: a forward thinking working class lad who has been overseas with the army and just wants to settle down to life with his girlfriend Joan Dodd (Patricia Medina).
Patricia Medina
Secondly, we have an early appearance by a 15 year old Jean Simmonds (in her 4th film) who manages to carry the film despite playing the leading lady’s little sister, Molly.
Jean Simmonds
Throw in a henpecked husband David Dodd(Wylie Watson) and his socially ambitious wife Gladys (Ellen Pollock) ...
Wylie Watson & Ellen Pollock
... and we have a recipe for what is a fairly good romantic comedy.
The story centres around the romance between Hanley and Medina which falters after he stops writing from overseas where he is serving with the Royal Artillery. Under pressure from her mother, Medina takes up with a much older man (Claud Allister) ...
Jean Simmonds & Claud Allister
... the manager of the company where her father works. It’s easy to read a message into this relationship that the entire audience is desperately hoping will fail: Hanley – with his desire to work hard to become an engineer and stop working in his mother’s shop - represents the modern world. He is ready for post-war world where the working classes want an opportunity to better themselves – to travel and enjoy the fruits of their wartime sacrifices. Mr Pickering represents the past – the pre-war world of undeserved privilege. Her mother looks back to this world and wants a share of this for her daughter, seeing it as a step up from her own existence as the wife of an accounts clerk.  Yet, after 25 years in an office, Watson supports his daughter and would rather see her happily married to a man who is looking forward than a man who already has it all. This may seem a deep message for a 1940s romantic comedy but you have to remember this is 1944 – one year on from the Beveridge report with its promise of a better life for all of British society. It’s a message of hope: the man returning from war should be able to return to his life and pick up where he left off. After all, isn’t that what a citizen army was fighting for?

Politics and society aside, Jean Simmonds is the film’s shining light. She’s Medina’s schoolgirl little sister who always has the comedy lines. She’s the cheeky little girl when in her school uniform and the strident young woman when she’s dressed up, and made-up, for dates.

Jean Simmonds & Ellen Pollock
The theme of the teenage girl on the brink of womanhood, whose precocious behaviour is set loose in the uncertain world of wartime London, is one that would have been familiar with audiences in the 1940s. It was a period when the tales of teenage girls going ‘off the rails’ in a world filled with men in uniform filled the newspapers. It’s a subject covered in my book Blitz Kids, The Children’s War Against Hitler:

And in Jon Savage’s book Teenage:

Another small detail that it’s nice to see is Jimmy Hanley’s belt: It was a fashion during World War 2 for soldiers to collect badges and fix them to their belts. Here Hanley shows off his collection:

And here’s Hitler’s image on a punchbag …
Frederick Leister

 … was there ever another politician whose image was so recognisable and could be quite so easily caricatured?
And, of course, Irene Handl appears as the Dodd family's maid:
Irene Handl

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