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This Happy Breed (1944)

 -  Comedy | Drama  -  12 April 1947 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,770 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 22 critic

Noel Coward's attempt to show how the ordinary people lived between the wars. Just after WWI the Gibbons family moves to a nice house in the suburbs. An ordinary sort of life is led by the ... See full summary »



(adaptation), (adaptation), 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Celia Johnson ...
Amy Veness ...
Alison Leggatt ...
Kay Walsh ...
Eileen Erskine ...
John Blythe ...
Reg Gibbons
Guy Verney ...
Betty Fleetwood ...
Merle Tottenham ...


Noel Coward's attempt to show how the ordinary people lived between the wars. Just after WWI the Gibbons family moves to a nice house in the suburbs. An ordinary sort of life is led by the family through the years with average number of triumphs and disasters until the outbreak of WWII. Written by Steve Crook <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

gas mask | cafe | twin | elopement | manicurist | See more »


Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 April 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Heureux mortels  »

Box Office


£200,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title 'This Happy Breed' is taken from a monologue of John of Gaunt's in William Shakespeare's "Richard II", act II, scene i, which is widely renowned for its stirring pro-Anglicism. It reads, in part, 'This happy breed of men, this little world, / This precious stone set in the silver sea, / Which serves it in the office of a wall, / Or as a moat defensive to a house, / Against the envy of less happier lands, / This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.' See more »


You can see the camera and the focus puller's hand (DVD Timing at 13.51) in the reflection of the window as the camera pulls out of the 'Ticklers Tours of the Battlefields' shop front. See more »


Frank Gibbons: [putting down the newspaper] Well, they're cutting down the navy, and they're cutting down the army. The only thing they don't seem to be cutting down is the unemployed!
See more »

Crazy Credits

"This is the story of a London family from 1919 to 1939." See more »


Version of This Happy Breed (1969) See more »


Over There
Written by George M. Cohan
Heard during the Victory Parade
See more »

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User Reviews

A Patriot For Me
16 July 2004 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

If Noel Coward WAS a queen then his tiara was studded with both emeralds and ironies and were the Man In The Street asked to design a coat of arms for Coward it would surely feature a silk, polka dot dressing gown with an amber cigarette holder a destra and a white grand piano rampant. Not a bad image for someone born in Teddington and raised in Clapham, both spiritually if not geographically light years away from the pavements of Mayfair sprinkled lightly with the stardust of his talent and neighborhoods where any extraneous avian noise would more likely be a 'sparrer' than a nightingale. Say the words 'Noel Coward song' and the phrase triggers memories of brittle, witty and intricate rhymes melded to staccato melodies (Mad Dogs and Englishmen, The Stately Homes Of England, Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs. Worthington)only a full minim later do we recall the soaring melodies and simple words of I'll Follow My Secret Heart, I'll See You Again, Someday I'll Find You. One of the great ironies of Coward's life was that he was a super-Patriot with a genuine and abiding love of England yet the crippling tax system of the time (that allowed him to keep the sterling equivalent of five cents in every dollar he earned) forced him to choose tax exile and establish homes in Jamaica and Switzerland, supreme irony indeed that the Establishment felt insufficient pride in the man whose hymn to the spirit of the Englishman, 'London Pride' had helped see us through the dark days of World War Two, to make an exception for him. Ironic, too, that his finest play, 'This Happy Breed', rooted deeply in the down-to-earth soil of Clapham Common should so often be overlooked in favor of the undeniable brilliance of the comedies. 'Finest', of course, does not always mean 'most famous', 'best-loved' etc, and Coward has many contenders in those stakes, Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever, Present Laughter and, let's face it, 'Private Lives', which even as I write is still playing in Paris in a bizarre translation by one Erich Emmanuel-Schmidt that transforms what is essentially a duet with two thankless supporting roles into a full-blown quartet. This Happy Breed is being revived this year, too, in fact I will be taking my place in the audience in just a few hours from now. Not, alas, in a beautiful theatre like Edouard VII but a much more prosaic Community Theatre in North London. This was Coward's second stab at a celebration of his native land, he had done it on a much grander scale a decade earlier in Cavalcade but that time around he had opted for the upstairs/downstairs aspect and given us a panorama stretching from the Boer War to the end of the twenties - he had also, in passing, given us one of his best ever songs, 20th Century Blues, but this time he was content to concentrate on Mr and Mrs Joe Soap in the shape of Frank and Ethel Gibbons, their three children, Vi, Reg and Queenie, Frank's mother-in-law, Mrs. Flint and Ethel's sister, Sylvia. I'm somewhat startled that in reading two resume's and one review in these pages no one mentioned the obvious: EVERYONE has a family with some, if not all, of those elements; what Coward has done, and done superbly, like the consummate craftsman he was, is to give us a metaphor for England. During the course of the action - approximately one decade from 1919 to 1939 - The Gibbons endure highs and lows, births, marriages, and, yes, deaths. We should not lose sight of the fact that Coward wrote this on the eve of World War II and his clear intention was to buck up English spirits and remind us that we can take anything that fate, life, or Adolf Shickelgreuber can throw at us. The performances throughout are magnificant, Robert Newton is a revelation in the role Coward wrote for himself, as is Celia Johnson in a complete volte-face of her Laura in Coward's own 'Brief Encounter' for which she will be remembered as long as movies are shown. But they are just the two best-known players in an exceptional cast; John Mills and Kay Walsh were, by then, emerging as major players but we must not overlook the Mrs Flint of Amy Veness, the snivelling Sylvia of Alison Leggatt, the quiet dependability of Eileen Erskine's Vi nor the two other juveniles, John Blyth as Reg and Guy Verney as Sam Leadbitter, who comes to lead Reg astray and stays to settle down with Vi. This is a superb portrait of a family who is also a nation, muddling through the ups and downs of existence. 10/10

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