They Came to a City (1944)

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Adapted from a J.B. Priestly play with many of the original actors. The tale of various people who have come to live in an "ideal" city and their hopes and reasons for doing so.


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Complete credited cast:
John Clements ...
Joe Dinmore
Raymond Huntley ...
Malcolm Stritton
Renee Gadd ...
Mrs. Stritton
A.E. Matthews ...
Sir George Gedney
Mabel Terry-Lewis ...
Lady Loxfield
Ada Reeve ...
Mrs Barley
Norman Shelley ...
Mr Cudworth
Fanny Rowe ...
Philippa (as Frances Rowe)
Ralph Michael ...
One of couple on hillside
Brenda Bruce ...
One of couple on hillside
J.B. Priestley ...


Adapted from a J.B. Priestly play with many of the original actors. The tale of various people who have come to live in an "ideal" city and their hopes and reasons for doing so.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

socialism | ealing | based on play | See All (3) »


Drama | Fantasy





Release Date:

5 February 1945 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Symphony No.3, op.43 (The Divine Poem)
(1905) (uncredited)
Music by Alexander Scriabin
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User Reviews

A Radiant Googie Withers
7 August 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

THEY CAME TO A CITY is based on a play by J.B. Preistley and stars Googie Withers and John Clements. It's sort of an "Outward Bound" story of disparate people who find themselves on a road that leads to a monolithic waiting room before a giant door. While waiting, each person explains his/her life, hopes, gripes, etc. When the door finally opens they descend in "the city." We never see it. As they emerge from the city, some are struck by the new social order, happiness of the people, the freedom, etc. while others are repelled by what they see. This utopia seems based on socialist views.

Coming toward the end of WWII, the story is framed by a couple sitting by a roadside overlooking a manufacturing city. They are arguing about what kind of world will emerge after the war. Will things be different. A man wanders by (J.B. Priestley himself) and he joins in, telling the story of his utopia.

Those who hate "the city" include a selfish dowager who browbeats her mousy daughter, a man of the landed gentry who lives on inherited money, a ruthless industrialist who makes money in order to make more money, and a jealous wife who hates anyone to has the things she wants. Those who like the city include the mousy daughter, an old charwoman, the henpecked husband, the world-weary barmaid (Withers), and the stoker (Clements) who has searched the world for a paradise.

While not very cinematic, the overall idea is quite interesting, and the actors (mostly from the stage play) are quite good. Besides Withers and Clements, the film co-stars Raymond Huntley and Renee Gadd as the Strittons, Ada Reeve as the charwoman, Mabel Terry-Lewis and Frances Rowe as the dowager and daughter, A.E. Matthews as the industrialist, Norman Shelley as the landed gentry.

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