Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Two peoples separated by a common language. And some other stuff.

I ran across this review of the 1943 Ministry of Information film Welcome to Britain, a guide to American troops on how to make a good impression with the local population (or at least how to avoid making a really bad one).

The New Statesman and Nation had some very good things to say about it:

“The other film on my list, though it can’t yet be seen, is shown to every American soldier landing in England and has the official blessing of the M.O.I. Tells, in a very lively and endearing manner, the best way for Americans to take the English. Pub etiquette, the rations problem, scars of the Blitz, English grouchiness and hopes for future; a brilliant little elucidation of character, with Burgess Meredith interpreting the good and the bad American, and Bob Hope and Beatrice Lillie at their dazzling best. There aren’t so many friendly and helpful films about that we can afford to have this one buried in the files of the American War Office.”*

Not least since my father would have been one of those who were compelled to watch it, I find it an interesting little film, since I try to imagine what he would have made of it.

Corny and stilted at times, it remains pretty watchable. (From about 25:00 there is, for example, an extended section on race relations -- something I noted here recently -- which I hadn't expected.)

Actually, the Britain it depicts is probably as foreign for today's Britons as it ever was for the Yanks of the mid-1940s. Even those from New York City. 

But judge for yourselves.

*New Statesman and Nation, 15 January 1944, 39.

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