17 user 2 critic

The Gentle Sex (1943)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 23 May 1943 (UK)
This film tells the stories of seven 'gentle' British girls who decide to "do their bit" and help out during World War II.


Leslie Howard, Maurice Elvey (uncredited)


Moie Charles (original story and screenplay), Aimée Stuart (additional dialogue) (as Aimee Stuart) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joan Gates Joan Gates ... Gwen Hayden
Jean Gillie ... Dot Hopkins
Joan Greenwood ... Betty Miller
Joyce Howard ... Anne Lawrence
Rosamund John ... Maggie Fraser
Lilli Palmer ... Erna Debruski
Barbara Waring Barbara Waring ... Joan Simpson
John Justin ... Flying Officer David Sheridan
Elliott Mason Elliott Mason ... Mrs. Fraser (as Elliot Mason)
Tony Bazell Tony Bazell ... Ted (as Anthony Bazell)
Frederick Leister Frederick Leister ... Colonel Lawrence
Everley Gregg Everley Gregg ... Miss Simpson
John Laurie ... Scots Corporal
Mary Jerrold Mary Jerrold ... Mrs. Sheridan
Meriel Forbes Meriel Forbes ... Junior Commander Davis


During the War seven women from very different backgrounds find themselves together in the Auxiliary Territorial Services. They are soon drilling, driving lorries, and manning ack-ack batteries. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

propaganda | world war two | See All (2) »


Comedy | Drama | Romance | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

23 May 1943 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

7 flickor See more »

Filming Locations:

Carlisle, Cumbria, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The title sequence begins with a self-mocking message in the style of a needlework sampler: 1838 THE GENTLE SEX In whatever station in life a woman is placed, a spirit of modesty, humility, obedience & submission will always be required of her...

1938 ONWARDS. See more »


During the third shot of the scene of the women's first day of drill training, what appears to be a small insect crawls across the camera lens, upper left of the frame. See more »


[last lines]
Narrator: Let's give in at last and admit that we're really proud of you, you strange, wonderful, incalculable creatures. The world you're helping to shape is going to be a better world because you're helping to shape it. Pray silence gentlemen. I give you a toast - the gentle sex.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Prologue following opening credits: "Woman, when I behold thee, flippant, vain, inconstant, childish, proud and full of fancies" (spoken by Leslie Howard) See more »


Featured in Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn (2016) See more »


Don't Dilly Dally
Written by Charles Collins and Fred W. Leigh
[Incorrectly credited as "Traditional"]
See more »

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User Reviews

"....now we have hatred, to fill the empty spaces in our hearts......"
28 January 2019 | by Brucey_DSee all my reviews

A mixed lot of young ladies put their differences aside and do their bit for the war effort.

This film is more than competently made mid- WWII, both produced and narrated by Leslie Howard. Obviously the film has a strong element of propaganda to it, but this isn't laid on with a trowel and doesn't dominate proceedings.

Some reviewers complain that there is a lack of plot. Well, this is meant to be a slice of life for average folk in wartime; there isn't meant to be 'a plot' for most protagonists, because mostly they are just following orders and not asking questions. You could argue 'nothing happens' because at the start of the film the war is on and at the end of the film the war is still on.

However to argue 'nothing happens' is to lose sight of the changes in the circumstances and internal make-up of each of the seven ladies; they all change and develop in their own way, and each is a little more revealed as a person by the end of the film; by the end we see that they are perhaps more disparate than we thought at the start, but for different reasons.

Given the film only runs for 90 minutes and there are seven ladies, the character development is arguably somewhat subtly done. A good number of their trials and tribulations were ones which, at the time, a good fraction of the audience would have been able to relate to. Particularly revealing is the reaction of the ladies to successful ack-ack gunnery late on in the film.

It would have been very easy to dwell exclusively on the matter in hand but this film also discusses the future, eg how society might change in future years. All this at a time when it was by no means clear what the outcome of the war might be.

If you watch this film you might conclude that you would be able to see where you were going by the light of blackout-specification headlamps. Well this is a piece of cinematic licence; the amount of light projected through the usual two tiny slits was barely enough to be seen by let alone see by. Accident rates on wartime roads in the UK skyrocketed; some believe that the loss of life so incurred was greater than if the headlights had been left unmodified (and visible to enemy aircraft).

This film is particularly bittersweet because it was Leslie Howard's last film. Just weeks after it was released, he was lost; the Luftwaffe shot down a scheduled BOAC flight over the bay of Biscay which had only civilians on board. A great loss to cinema; we only have films like this to stand tribute to him, and the recently made (and rather good) 'The Man Who Gave a Damn' documentary.

Given the sort of film this is and when it was made, I'm giving it eight out of ten.

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