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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

Hue and Cry - the first Ealing comedy

Updated: May 5, 2023

As someone who writes and lectures about film I am frequently asked what my favourite film is, and it is a really tough question. There are so many! Over 100 years, from over 100 countries.

I was recently asked a slightly easier question, what's my favourite British film. Still tough, should I go for Shaun of the Dead? Trainspotting? A Matter of Life and Death? Carry on Screaming?

But I settled on Hue and Cry!

So why Hue and Cry? This 1947 film directed by Charles Chrichton is now considered to be the first in that unique British sub-genre ‘the Ealing Comedy’. These films effectively combine fantasy, social discourse, humour and crime. Following Hue and Cry the studio made a number of comedy crime capers all of which could have made it to the Number One slot including Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers.

Hue and Cry stars a host of Ealing favourites (Alastair Sim, Jack Warner and Joan Dowling) and tells the story of a young boy’s belief that a gang of crooks are passing coded messages within the pages of a weekly children’s comic book. Joe (Harry Fowler) easily convinces his friends that the lurid tales depicted in the comic are for real, but this gang of East London lads don’t find it quite so easy to convince the police. So, naturally they go in the search of the gang themselves. Along the way they meet the usual suspects and eccentric characters associated with this genre. The most eccentric being Alastair Sim playing Felix H. Wilkinson, the reclusive and somewhat barmy author of the children’s comic books in question and yet hates little children, especially snooping boys.

The film is beautifully shot in black and white, making effective use of locations across a shabby and war-damaged London. The most stunning of which is the film’s grand finale in the Riverside bombsite where thousands of boys converge for the fight of their life.

HUE AND CRY (1947) is regarded as the very first Ealing comedy and has be digitally restored and released on DVD, thanks to the BFI and StudioCanal.

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