Monday 31 October 2016

The History Usherette Presents: The Beginner's Guide to British Cinema


The History Usherette has a new book out, which consolidates her musings on British Social History as seen through contemporary cinema. The Usherette’s blog has been going for a few years now, and has looked at over 100 films dating between the 1930s and the 1970s. Each blog post looks at what that particular film can tell us about what life was like at the time.

The book brings all of these thoughts together in one place. It might be handy for the history student who would like to use film as a historical resource – or it could just take those of us of a certain age on a trip down memory lane.

Of course the Carry On films get a mention!  Here’s an extract:

The best known British cinematic series is of course the ‘Carry On’ films.  Over twenty films had this prefix between 1958 and 1978.  Although several of these used a medical theme in the style of the ‘Doctor’ films, they sent up many aspects of contemporary British life and culture. A ‘Carry On’ team of actors was developed, guaranteeing familiar faces.  As evidenced by Charles Hawtrey in the previous chapter, these actors often played similar characters from film to film. Sid James became typecast as the gambling philanderer, and Hattie Jacques will always be the person that you think of when anyone mentions a hospital Matron.

It is possible to track British social change through the ‘Carry On’ films. In my book ‘Matinee Musings’ I dedicate one of my essays to an overview of how the development of the NHS is shown by those films set in a hospital – from ‘Carry on Nurse’ to ‘Carry on Matron’.  A look at the series as a whole also shows how society – and British film making changed over those two decades.   The first film in the series was ‘Carry on Sergeant’ (1958), a tale of men doing National Service in a country still living in the shadow of World War Two. It was a land of conscription, of respect for uniform and rank and a social hierarchy.  The final Carry On Film of the 1970s (there was a temporary revival in the 1990s) was bawdy and lewd in a desperate attempt to lure people into the cinema.  ‘Carry on Emmanuelle’ (1978) is a sad finale indeed. 

There are illustrations by Howard Taylor of some of the stars of the day.
To download or order a print copy, please visit Amazon:

You can find out more about The History Usherette here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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