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Percy Boon lives with his mother in a shared rented house with an assortment of characters in central London. Although well intentioned, Percy becomes mixed up with gangsters and a murder. The story focuses on the effects this has on Percy and the other residents. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
As such, and coming from the pen of a well-to-do gentleman who ran both ITV and BBC-TV during their infancy (Norman Collins, who wrote the novel upon which the film is based), it's more than a little patronizing, though its warmth is sincere.
The film concerns the doings of various denizens of the fictional Dulcimer Street, a once-grand neighborhood now considerably frayed at the sleeve.
"All the characters in this novel are imaginary," Collins wrote. "The London of the title is real enough - that's London all right. But Dulcimer Street and the lives of the people in it, like the other lives which cross with theirs, are all fictitious. And so are the various Funlands, cafés, Sprititualist Societies, agencies, hospitals and institutions, with which the story deals." The story concerns the true urban dwellers, Collin informs us: "plenty of real Londoners who sleep the night in London as well as work the day there - some in love, some in debt, some committing murders, some adultery, some trying to get on in the world, some looking forward to a pension, some getting drunk, and some holding up a new baby. This is about a few of them." At the center of the hubbub is a retired gentleman, pensioned off to get "a pound a week for doing nothing," his long-suffering wife who pines for a suburban cottage, and their attractive daughter of marriageable age. The young lady has two suitors, one Percy Boon (Attenborough), a young man of flexible morals (we know he is an "at-risk" youth from his first frame, as he is shown reading a comic book -- a notorious corrupter of the age), the other a police officer. Aside from the police officer, everyone this little family knows is unsavory; the criminal Attenborough, the con-man Sim, the venal, man-hungry widow Joyce Carey, the tramp St. Helier, and their Uncle Henry (Stephen Murray), a communist agitator.
Collins seems to grant that crime, suffering and unequal justice are the inescapable lot of the less privileged, but Uncle Henry's political buffoonery is there to let us know that radical politics are not his aim.
This environment, and the film's plot primarily concerning Attenborough's slippery slope to criminality, has the seeds of noir, but what springs from those seeds is half domestic drama, half screwball comedy.
It's clear early on that Collins forgives all of his characters for both their willful sins and their hapless mistakes. If you aren't too annoyed by the patronizing noblesse oblige of the author, you'll find yourself having a good time and perhaps, like myself, sufficiently curious about the characters to seek out the novel (five pounds, used, at Amazon.UK)
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