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  Thursday's Child Picture Imperfect
Year: 1943
Director: Rodney Ackland
Stars: Sally Ann Howes, Wilfrid Lawson, Kathleen O'Regan, Stewart Granger, Eileen Bennett, Marianne Davis, Gerhard Kempinski, Felix Aylmer, Margaret Yarde, Vera Bogetti, Percy Walsh, Michael Allen, Margaret Drummond, Ronald Shiner, Anthony Holles
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mr Lennox (Percy Walsh) will be here soon, he's sent a telegram and everything, in fact he's at the front door. Mrs Williams (Kathleen O'Regan) sees to it that her two daughters are nearly ready, then invites him in, bringing him through to the back garden for high tea and a chance to catch up. Mr Lennox is an influential man, and could use his contacts to make life easier for the Williams during this time of war, with eldest daughter Phoebe (Eileen Bennett) very keen to exploit his connections in the film industry as she would dearly love to become a movie star, all she thinks she needs is a way in that he could provide. Her younger sister Fennis (Sally Ann Howes) on the other hand is seeking a more academic career - but what if she turned out to be more photogenic than Phoebe?

Hollywood has no shortage of films that tell you the process of working in Tinseltown is nothing short of a pain in the arse at best, but its British equivalent, if you could be so grand as to make those comparisons, was more reluctant to burst that particular bubble, hence a kind of awe about the dealings from across the Atlantic, as if not wishing to admit it was a real slog for dubious rewards, this whole showbiz kerfuffle. This made Thursday's Child a shade more interesting than some British films about the industry (television seemed to be of more interest to the filmmakers, all the better to lampoon its great rival) as it made no bones about informing the audience that the whole industry was packed to the rafters with freaks and snobs and bullies, and Fennis was wise not to take it too seriously. This jaded attitude resulted in a highly praised hit (and future star Stewart Granger's first major impression on audiences).

As played by Truly Scrumptious-to-be Howes in her film debut, much like her character, Fennis is a rather humourless twelve-year-old girl, but she does know her own mind better than anyone else in the story, therefore a "from the mouths of babes" strain of logic emerges when she recognises she would be better applying herself to study than to such frivolity as celebrity. What made it more interesting was at this point in the war, women were being encouraged to work in what often would be regarded as male jobs, which in turn encouraged an emancipation of sorts, albeit one that would take some passage of time to really take hold in society once the Second World War was over and won. You could envisage Fennis as a crusader for female rights if she gets her way and into a sensible job, something grinning for the camera is most definitely depicted as not.

This should have been the source of comedy, but while there were a few intentional laughs, director and screenwriter Rodney Ackland (a sometime actor at the helm of his sole feature) was more set on teaching us a lesson, a few harsh truths about how the movies can change people for the worst. By a series of chances, the girl is signed up to joint headline a new production starring Britain's biggest female actress, sort of an Anna Neagle type who condescends to Fennis and generally behaves as if her fame has gone straight to her head. As if that were not bad enough, the director (Gerhard Kempinski) is a European eccentric genius (we assume) and nobody can work him out, but closer to home Mrs Williams is on course for a nervous breakdown, her husband (Wilfrid Lawson) is deeply unsympathetic, and Phoebe feels her sister's opportunity is precisely what she has been robbed of. What had been an amusing takedown of the business in its last act turns melodramatic and a lot less entertaining; if nothing else you think Fennis was better off away from the lot of them. Music by Charles Wiliams.

[Network's DVD as part of their British Film collection has the re-release version as an extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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