British Noir for a Rainy Day

Noir City San Francisco 12

it+always+rains+on+sunday+posterDid England win World War II? With a little help from their Yank friends, they did. One would never know it judging from 1947’s It Always Rains on Sunday and Brighton Rock.

It Always Rains on Sunday

Set in London’s East End, It Always Rains on Sunday finds the working folk scraping by, as they always have. No victory parades here and not a Union Jack in sight. As swing music plays in the night clubs, everyone is scheming to get ahead.

Rose (Googie Withers) is the barmaid at a local pub. As presenter Eddie Muller explained, Withers [Night and the City (1950)] was a huge star in England at the time. Rose has seen better days, though. She’s settled for a stable but unexciting life with husband George (Edward Chapman).

It Always Rains on Sunday.avi_snapshot_00.11.55_[2012.05.23_18.56.51]The hausfrau role doesn’t suit our girl Rose. She was formerly blonde and involved with a local criminal, Tommy Swann (John McCallum). Tommy was sent up for a heist. When he escapes and needs a hideout, the fun begins.McCallum_585x350_684646a

6a013486bdf9d8970c0162feba82f7970d-800wiMany of the supporting characters are part of the underworld or become involved with it through bad choices. There’s a not-so-subtle way of indicating Jewish characters by having them use Yiddish phrases. What rolls off the tongue with a Brooklyn accent (meshugah) sounds forced here. Of course, I have no way of knowing how people spoke in 1947 London. A subplot involves small time promoter Morrie Hyams (Syndey Tafler) and his long-suffering wife Sadie (Betty Ann Davies). Sadie finally gets fed up with his penchant for yet another young, blonde “shiksa” (Susan Shaw).

RICHARD ATTENBOROUGHIn Brighton Rock, based on a novel by Graham Greene, we move away from London to the resort town of Brighton, the place where mods and rockers battle it out in Quadrophenia (1979). The 2010 remake of Brighton Rock also had a mods and rockers theme but the earlier film takes place in the postwar when sharply dressed “spivs” were part of a flourishing black market. Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) is such a character, the leader of a razor gang.

BrightonRock-1TNPinkie is amoral, completely out for himself, possibly a psychopath. At least in the film, there isn’t any backstory explaining why Pinkie, the sweet-faced thug, became like he is. Rose (Carol Marsh) is a waitress who saw something she shouldn’t have. Pinkie will resort to anything, even marriage, to keep her quiet. From the start, the couple seems doomed to a fate that even a Hollywood ending couldn’t save.