The intertwined lives of employees of a department store
This is a fascinating ensemble film, with many fine performances of the large cast, about people working in a London department store in the early 1950s. As such, it is an important 'social document'. The film was shot in the real London department store of Bourne & Hollingsworth, so that the location and settings are wholly accurate. The film is a mixture of comedy and tragedy, but the comic part of it may have been the origin of the hilarious television series ARE YOU BEING SERVED? (1972-1985), which was one of the funniest comedy series ever made for British television and ran for 69 half-hour episodes. Some incidents in the film, such as the love note dropped on the floor and trampled by the feet of customers so that it does not make its way to the correct person, are studies in the cruelty of fate. Particularly unsettling is the depiction of 'commission stealing' by supervisors from the sales girls under them. Although department stores still exist, at this time they were full of throngs of people, perhaps one should say rampant hordes, since the smaller boutique shops had not yet been invented. Queues of impatient women with shopping bags are shown pouring into the store as soon as the doors open in the morning. Commercialism was also still at an early stage and had hot yet strangled everyone with a lust for things which they do not need. The film features popular leading man of the day, John Gregson, and a marvellous cast of well-known character actors and actresses, including Dora Bryan, Thora Hird, Sid James, Joan Hickson, Prunella Scales, and Dandy Nichols uncredited as a charwoman. Rachel Roberts was in only her second year as a screen actress. The film is ably directed by John Guillermin, well known for numerous important British films, such as the excellent GUNS AT BATASI (1964) and DEATH ON THE NILE (1978); he retired from films in 1988 but is still alive, aged 86. This film is well worth watching, like stepping into a time machine.
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