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Hue and Cry (1947)

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A gang of street boys foil a master crook who sends commands for robberies by cunningly altering a comic strip's wording each week, unknown to writer and printer. The first of the Ealing ... See full summary »



(original screenplay) (as T.E.B.Clarke)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harry Fowler ...
Frederick Piper ...
Vida Hope ...
Heather Delaine ...
Dorrie Kirby
Douglas Barr ...
Stanley Escane ...
Ian Dawson ...
Gerald Fox ...
David Simpson ...
Albert Hughes ...
John Hudson ...
David Knox ...
Jeffrey Sirett ...
James Crabbe ...
Joan Dowling ...


A gang of street boys foil a master crook who sends commands for robberies by cunningly altering a comic strip's wording each week, unknown to writer and printer. The first of the Ealing comedies. Written by Michael Crew <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

writer | boy | gang | ealing | kid gang | See All (75) »


See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

February 1947 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Houdt den dief!  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The plot derives some inspiration from the story, 'Emil and the Detectives' by 'Erich Kastner'. Kastner's story has been filmed several times. See more »


When Joe Kirby first looks at the milk bar shop front (near the beginning, just after asking the man with the open top car if he is Selwyn Pike), the light fitting casts a very long shadow. But in the next shot of the shop, it is lit from a different direction, and the shadow has completely changed in length and position. See more »


Felix H. Wilkinson: Oh, how I loathe adventurous-minded boys.
See more »


Oh For the Wings of A Dove
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Arranged by Ernest Irving
See more »

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User Reviews

A wonderfully imaginative film about street kids in bombed-out London
20 November 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The word 'hue' is Middle English (derived from Old French) and means 'to shout or make an outcry'. 'Hue and cry' derives from the Anglo-Norman French dialect of a thousand years ago, 'hu e cri', and describes the outcry made to call for the pursuit of a felon, or the pursuit itself of such a criminal. By extension, it came later to be applied to the noise, blown horn, and shouting made when English hunters and their hounds spotted a fox and set off in pursuit of it. At the time this film was made, 'hue and cry' was a phrase known to everyone in England and was frequently used in conversation. It only died out in the 1980s. Before that, if there were a big fuss in the press over some political issue, people would say: 'What a hue and cry there has been in the papers today about the Prime Minister's policy,' or if justice were not seen to be done, they would say: 'They have set up a terrible hue and cry over that issue recently in legal circles'. In other words, by the 1960s 'make a hue and cry' had come to mean 'make a loud fuss'. It was a phrase that was used daily all over the country for decades, but is now as forgotten as the dodo, since most of the people who used it as a common expression are dead, and they did not perpetuate this usage amongst their children, who viewed it as old-fashioned, and dropped it. This film was shot on location in 1946 in London, and gives mind-boggling views of the extent of the ruins left after the wartime bombing. Anyone familiar with London simply gasps with disbelief at shot after shot of rubble and collapsed buildings, in which this gang of street kinds regularly play. The ruins are as extreme as those of bombed-out Germany which were shown in the newsreels and recur in documentaries about the War today. Seeing how extensive the devastation of London really was brings the issue of the British Bomber Command into better focus, and reminds us that the decision to bomb the German cities as flat as pancakes had something to do with rage. War is war, you know, a point often forgotten in our spoilt age of today. People today seem to think that war can be fought remotely with drones, or that war is something which takes place in distant deserts and mountains. But take the contemporary American outrage at 9/11 and multiply it by a thousand, and you will get some idea of how the British felt about the Germans, and many still do ('bloody Krauts, now running the European Union as a Fourth Reich!' as I have heard it said). So this film has an importance far beyond its story line, which is a charming one about children bringing criminals to justice and setting up a hue and cry about them when the police can and will do nothing. The one portion of the story which is really rather silly is the character of the writer of children's' comics played in an over-the-top doddering fashion by Alastair Sim. That was terribly overdone, and the excess of whimsy makes one queasy. The story involves children's comics being doctored to carry instructions to real criminal gangs for their next robberies, hence the children figuring it out and taking action. The British have always been inclined to believe that secret coded messages were carried in their newspapers. Harry Jonas the artist and Walter Sickert's illegitimate son whose name I have now forgotten used to tell me that the secret to Jack the Ripper's identity had been revealed in the crossword puzzles carried by the Daily Mail, which was also used to convey coded instructions to British secret agents. They believed all of this absolutely, and I have met others who did. The Americans thus do not have a monopoly on paranoia and conspiracy theories, as these were widespread in Britain long before they became fashionable in the USA. Here we have an entire film released in 1947 based upon one, and a semi-comedy at that. This film, an Ealing production, is often called the first Ealing comedy. I would not call it a comedy per se, but it has a definite comic side to it. Nor would I call it a fantasy film, as the setting and the kids are too 'real' for that. Many of the kids do brilliantly, especially the one tough street girl amongst the gang of boys, played by the truly inspired actress Joan Dowling, in her very first screen role at the age of 17 (she died at the age of 26). These kids represent the authentic Cockney tradition of the East End of London with their self-reliance, cheekiness, irreverence, and daring, and much of the action takes place at Chadwell near Tilbury in the East End. (An ancestor of mine lived at the manor house of Chadwell, called 'The Long House', in the seventeenth century when it was all farms, strangely enough. But it subsequently became a Cockney slum area when London expanded in the 19th century.) The film is superbly directed (except for the Alastair Sim sections) by Charles Crichton, whose last film which he directed at the age of 78, was the hilarious hit, A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988). He also directed part of the great classic film TRAIN OF EVENTS (1949, see my review, and my comments there about the spectacularly brilliant actress Joan Dowling, mentioned above), and is famous for THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1951). Another extraordinary aspect of this film is the section where the kids wander through the London sewer system, which I have never encountered in any other British film. Everything about this film makes it worth watching, and certainly enjoyable for anyone who does not require continuous 'smash bang' on a drip.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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