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This Happy Breed (1944)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  12 April 1947 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,880 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 23 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 »

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(adaptation), (adaptation), 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Celia Johnson ...
Amy Veness ...
Alison Leggatt ...
...
...
Kay Walsh ...
Eileen Erskine ...
Vi
John Blythe ...
Reg Gibbons
Guy Verney ...
Betty Fleetwood ...
Merle Tottenham ...
Edie
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Storyline

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 <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 April 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Heureux mortels  »

Box Office

Budget:

£200,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The comment early in the film about the cat and buttering its paws comes from a technique used when a cat moves house. According to this, if the cat has butter on its paws it will stop and lick it off. As cats are very clean creatures, the butter on its paws and the bits of dirt/ dust/ debris that will inevitably stick to it will annoy the cat. The cat will sit down to clean itself and, in doing so, will take in its new surroundings creating a mental map of where its new home is and helping it to make the adjustment to its new surroundings. See more »

Goofs

In the opening sequence (DVD Timing at 2.30) the bathroom window opens out to the right. Later when Reg opens to the window to talk to his father who is in the garden (DVD Timing at 46.35) the window opens out to the left. Then during the closing sequence the window reverts to being open to the right. See more »

Quotes

Frank Gibbons: She didn't pass on, pass over, or pass out! She died!
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Version of Ford Star Jubilee: This Happy Breed (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

A Life on the Ocean Wave
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Epes Sargent
Music by Henry Russell
Heard during the Victory Parade
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Twenty years between wars in the history of a British family
6 July 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Gibbons family is "This Happy Breed," a 1944 film starring Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Sterling Holloway, John Mills and Kay Walsh. The story begins with the end of World War I in 1919 with the return of Frank Gibbons (Newton) to his family - wife Ethel (Johnson), son Reg (John Blythe) and daughters Queenie (Kay Walsh) and Vi (Eileen Erskine) as they begin their life in a new home. The next 20 years bring weddings, births, tragedy, and death, as it does to all of us. Queenie is being courted by a sailor, Bill (Mills) who wants to marry her, but she wants to better her class and says she can't be happy with him; Vi falls in love and marries, as does Reg. Frank becomes a travel agent after the war and finds that one of his service friends (Holloway) lives next door. They become best buddies and provide the film's humor as they attempt to drink in secret. Ethel meanwhile has to cope with two somewhat difficult characters: the hypochondriacal Aunt Sylvia (Alison Leggatt) and Ethel's mother (Amy Veness) who live with them.

One thing interesting about British films that deal with the war - "In Which We Serve," "The 49th Parallel," and this one, for instance - one is made aware of the hardships, loss, sacrifice and sadness, while American films have a much more romantic quality to them. Though "This Happy Breed" ends just at the dawn of World War II, there is discussion of the European situation, fascism, and a general fear of another war in light of what they all went through in the last one.

"This Happy Breed" is another triumph, though an unsung one, for two wonderful artists - David Lean and Noel Coward, who worked together in this film, "Blithe Spirit" and "In Which We Serve" and had so many brilliant accomplishments on their own. The Gibbons feel like a real family, with a no-nonsense, hard-working matriarch, her more relaxed, emotional husband, and three children who go their separate ways in life and meet turmoil, normalcy, or tragedy. The most touching scene in the movie for me was the talk that Frank has with Reg before his wedding. "Always put your wife first," Frank says after he finally gets Reg to stop kidding around and listen to him.

I wasn't expecting this slice of life to be a tear-jerker, but it was, due to the beautiful acting of Celia Johnson and Robert Newton especially. They are the rocks of the film, providing its center. When Queenie runs off with a married man, she is shunned and disowned by Ethel, yet one can tell just by her movements that she is as heartbroken and worried as she is angry. Frank seems to accept what she says, yet once he's alone, he breaks down and sobs.

"This Happy Breed" sneaks up on you; before you know it, you're involved with the Gibbons. They're the stuff Britain is made of, the stuff that gets the country through its darkest times. A little gem; don't miss it. Oh, and I knew that was Laurence Olivier's voice in the beginning.


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