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This is a good film in which to play spot-the-cameo, with a host of
'borrowed' actors making appearances in a very crowded cast list; there
are echoes of the 'Carry On' films, with Sid James and Joan Hickson
turning up and Vera Day delivering a very Barbara Windsoresque piece of
totty, not to mention Talbot Rothwell (regular 'Carry On' writer)
providing the script, and shades of "Genevieve" in the casting of John
Gregson as a vintage-car-obsessed male lead.
It is not, however, primarily a comedy, in the sense of those other films. It is a well-written ensemble piece that sets out to depict one (admittedly very crowded) day in the life of a department store in the run-up to Christmas. Most of the escapades are reasonably light-hearted, but some of the staff are concerned by deeper secrets, and at least one character isn't precisely who he pretends to be! The interweaving of the various different plot strands is done without any imbalance to the story, and the film manages to switch smoothly through a wide range of different moods. Acting is good from all concerned.
This was an ambitious attempt by the small independent Adelphi Films to break into the top league; and although it is perhaps a good film rather than a great one, it doesn't appear to have deserved its fate, to sink on release and be quickly forgotten.
The lives of shop girls stripped bare. The Crowded Day (AKA: Shop
Spoiled) is directed by John Guillermin and adapted to screenplay by
Talbot Rothwell from a story by John Paddy Carstairs and Moie Charles.
It stars John Gregson, Joan Rice, Freda Jackson, Patricia Marmont,
Josephine Griffin, Sonia Holm, Patricia Plunket, Rachael Roberts and
Vera Day. Music is by Edwin Astley and cinematography by Gordon Dines.
Bunting and Hobbs Department Store, Christmas week, and the shop girls deal with what life has to throw at them this yuletide season.
A rare British movie that if only for the fine ensemble cast of actors gathered, should see it more widely known. By definition it's a bitter- sweet picture, blending comedy with drama is never easy to do, but the makers here manage to pull it off with some skill. The focus is on the post-war working women of this particular department store, this provides the story with a number of different character threads, all intelligently scripted by Rothwell.
From the heavy duty angle of an unmarried pregnancy and the desperation that can cause, to more lighter themes of jealously as a weapon and getting one's own back on the supervisor, there's enough here to either tug the heart or put a smile on the face. Guillermin does a fine job with his direction, with his camera work very effective for each character strand.
When the story is of the dramatic kind, he (and Dines) brings noir visuals into play, with foreboding shadows reflecting the mood of the players and canted angles enhancing psychological discord. For the more fluffy aspects of plotting, the camera is mobile and breezy, the lighting perky as Christmas comes forth from the screen.
The Crowded Day is a twin axis thing at heart, it shows us all that the holiday season often works on different levels for many. Where some have the world at their feet, others are prone to misery. Food for thought. 8/10
Print I viewed was absolutely pristine, showed on the UK Sky Arts Channel. BFI have released it as part of their Adelphi Collection in a double Blu-ray and DVD package that also contains Guillermin's Song of Paris.
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.
For some reason in the 1950s films that were based on a day in the life of an institution were very popular.This allowed a number of stories to be crammed into 80 or so minutes.Most of this film could be described as romantic comedy with the exception of one story which quite frankly feels rather out of place.John Gregson is the main star and is quite good as the salesman who seems able to bluff his way to a good job.Vera Day seems to be a prototype Barbara Windsor.She is no great actress but has a winning way about her and her scenes with Sidney Tafler are quite funny.However a rather gloomy note is struck by the story of the shopgirl who is going to have a baby but cannot locate the father and who contemplates suicide.Shows how attitudes have changed.In the end she is literally chased into a church by a would be rapist.An interesting look at life in the fifties.
Yes I was just starting my junior education in 1954 and it was the year
we fist owned a Murphy TV one channel (BBC only) and a
refrigerator.Britain was just getting onto her feet again after WWII
and we still endured rationing.This is a film very much directed at us
British audiences and the references made in the film will chime with
many of us UK citizens of a certain age.The other reviewers have noted
the well known cavalcade cast of British actors & actresses from the
lead (John Gregson of "Genevieve" fame 1953) to the slightly lesser
known Dandy Nichols ("Till Death Do Us Part") 1960s TV comedy with the
late Warren Mitchell, to the Barbara "Windsoresque" Vera Day - a
temporary secretary in ("I was Monty's Double") with John Mills &
Clifton James (1955} and Michael Goodliffe (Thomas Andrews in A Night
to Remember 1958) not forgetting Richard Wattis (Sykes 1970s TV
Yes the departmental store concept is changing from its traditional concept, indeed I read only yesterday that John Lewis Stores plc. is investing £250,000,000 in building up its internet sales division which is gradually overtaking its store led sales.How times have changed over 61 years!For someone of my vintage years this will be a trip down memory lane remembering shopping trips with your mother buying school uniforms.Enjoyable, my rating 7/10
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