3 user 3 critic

Spare Time (1939)

A look at how industry workers spend their time when they are not at work.





Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | War | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A tribute to the courage and resiliency of Britons during the darkest days of the London Blitz.

Directors: Humphrey Jennings, Harry Watt
Stars: Quentin Reynolds, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Director: Humphrey Jennings
Stars: Edward R. Murrow
Borom sarret (1963)
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Boron Sarret is arguably the first film made by a black African. It illustrates poverty in Senegal, particularly for the working man

Director: Ousmane Sembene
Stars: Ly Abdoulay, Albourah
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Nostalgic documentary short about the dying days of the age of sail as shown by the ships transporting china clay made notable for its director Humphrey Jennings and for being filmed in color.

Director: Humphrey Jennings
Letzte Worte (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

The story of a solitary man who refuses to leave a Greek island (at one time a leper colony) is told by a strange variety of characters who don't have much to say except to repeat their ... See full summary »

Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Lefteris Daskalakis, Antonis Papadakis
Simple Men (1992)
Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Bitter about being double-crossed by the women he loved, (and with the police after him to boot), Bill vows to seduce the next woman he sees, then throw her away. His brother Dennis, ... See full summary »

Director: Hal Hartley
Stars: Robert John Burke, Bill Sage, Martin Donovan
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

When he learns his days are numbered old count Hervé de Kéraudren decides to hide in a secret alcove and to die there, just to annoy his heirs. As a result of his body not being found the ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch
Rangierer (1984)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A shunter's job is to slow down, link, and unlink train wagons at a central station. The film documents - without any commentary - the working hours of few shunters at the shunting-station ... See full summary »

Director: Jürgen Böttcher
Short | Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A social commentary on post-war France's urban developments.

Director: Maurice Pialat
Stars: Jean-Loup Reynold
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Back from the US to his village in Niger, a man brings western outfits to his close friends, who immediately identify with cow-boys. A bloody western begins in the savannah...

Director: Moustapha Alassane
Stars: Harouna Diarra, Djingareye Maiga, Zalika Souley
Drama | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

In this story set at a seaside fishing village and inspired by a Charles Kingsley poem, a young couple's happy life is turned about by an accident. The husband, although saved from drowning... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith
Stars: Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Arvidson, Gladys Egan
The Clouds (1989)
Short | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
Director: Patrick Keiller
Stars: Iain Cuthbertson, Christine Dawe, Derek Devereux


Complete credited cast:
Laurie Lee ... Himself - Commentary (voice)


A look at how industry workers spend their time when they are not at work.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

June 1939 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Britain Through a Lens - The Documentary Film Mob (2011) See more »


Kazoo Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

In which we learn that, in Bolton, the kazoo is regarded as a jazz instrument
28 September 2012 | by See all my reviews

"Spare Time" was one of a number of documentary films produce in the 1930s by the GPO Film Unit. The original purpose of the unit was to make films publicising the work of the British Post Office, and it did indeed make a number of films on this theme, such as the famous "Night Mail". Many of its film-makers, however, interpreted their brief much more widely, producing a series of documentaries about all aspects of British life, and "Spare Time" is one of these.

The director was Humphrey Jennings, also a founder of Mass-Observation. Although this organisation existed purely to carry out sociological research, its title has always struck me as slightly sinister, as though it had been set up because someone somewhere felt that the masses needed to be kept under close observation otherwise who knows what they might get up to. "Spare Time" reflects Jennings' fascination with the everyday life of the Common Man. It was made in 1939, just before the outbreak of war, and details the leisure-time activities of three working-class communities, the steel workers of Sheffield, the cotton workers of Bolton and the miners of South Wales. Information is mostly conveyed through pictures alone; there is very little commentary. (What there is is provided by Laurie Lee, at the time working as a scriptwriter for the Film Unit but later to become famous as the author of "Cider with Rosie").

I must admit that I couldn't see what the point of this film was. The interest of old documentary films like these is generally the insights they give into social history, but the running-time of "Spare Time" is far too short to give a comprehensive picture of Britain's leisure habits in the thirties, and does little more than recycle a few clichés which were probably over-familiar even at the time. It has, for example, long been a widely-held view in Southern England that every working- class Northerner spends his leisure hours racing pigeons, breeding whippets or playing in a brass band, and the typical Englishman's mental picture of Wales includes the information that every self-respecting Welshman, and certainly every self-respecting Welsh miner, is a member of a male voice choir. (Or, as Flanders and Swann were to put it "He works underground with a lamp in his hat, And sings far too often, too loudly and flat").

There are a few striking visual images, but these are mostly of the industrial background to the film rather than of the leisure activities which are its subject. On the whole, however, this was not a film which told me anything I did not know already, and I doubt if it told people in 1939 anything they did not know already. Except that in Bolton jazz music was for some reason equated with a rendition of "Rule Britannia" on massed kazoos. Evidently recordings of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman were in short supply in the record shops of the Lancashire cotton towns.

0 of 0 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 3 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed