Depictions of Postwar London in British Fiction Films, 1946-1958
thesisposted on 20.02.2018, 11:17 by Jenny Stewart
London emerged from World War II victorious yet war-ravaged, as the Blitz of 1940-1 and 1944-5 destroyed vast swathes of the London landscape. The subsequent ruins and rubble exposed much the pre-war city and, due to a scarcity of materials, rebuilding was a slow process. Using primary sources, this thesis explores how filmmakers depicted and utilised London’s unique postwar landscape for fictional stories, through an examination of sixteen popular British fiction films produced between 1946 and 1958. Case study films, such as Hue and Cry, The Blue Lamp and Seven Days to Noon, are typified by extensive location shooting in inner-London districts, and were generally praised by critics for their ‘authentic’ evocation of London. These films have a historical value, as filmmakers captured and depicted now-demolished buildings, streets, ruins and wastelands of postwar London. This thesis invites film historians to consider these inner London-set films of the postwar period as a distinct corpus, with particular themes and motifs identifiable across the body of films. This thesis is structured thematically, to enable comparisons across films, and root selected films within their historical and critical contexts. It compares depictions of London in postwar fiction films with those found in newsreels, local histories and contemporary accounts. An empirical approach, using archival sources, examines how depictions of inner-London locations are shaped by the films’ production contexts. This thesis argues that the documentary impetus, developed in British cinema of the 1930s and during World War II, continued in fiction film with regards to location shooting. Analysis of the films’ critical reception and publicity materials enables an understanding of discourses around notions of what was considered by critics to be an ‘authentic’ depiction of London, and how real London locations were used by filmmakers as a key selling point.