Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday's Scribe - hutesium et clamor

"hutesium et clamor" - literally "a horn and shouting," has it basis in Common Law and is a process by which bystanders are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who has been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.

There! Bet some of you didn't know that, did you? Well, here's a bit more background. Did you also know that by the statute of Winchester, 13 Edw. I cc. 1 and 4, (1285) it was provided that:
  •  anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and,
  • that the hue and cry must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county,
  • until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff.
  • All able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts, were obliged to assist in the pursuit of the criminal, which makes it comparable to the posse comitatus (more about that another day, p'raps).

It was moreover provided that:
  • a hundred that failed to give pursuit on the hue and cry would become liable in case of any theft or robbery.
  • Those who raised a hue and cry falsely were themselves guilty of a crime.

 All very interesting stuff but not really what I want to write about today. I want to write about London's Ealing Studios.
Ealing Studios is the oldest continuously working film studio in the world. The stages and offices are steeped in history having survived the onset of the talkies, two world wars and the more recent technological advances in film and TV. The Ealing Comedies of the 1950s are considered a high point of British cinema. The spirits of Alec Guiness, Alastair Sim and Peter Sellars pervade the stages, which are constantly in demand to shoot films like Dorian Gray, Nowhere Boy, and both St Trinians films. BBC broadcast Let’s Dance live from Studio 2 as part of Sports Relief and the BBC’s Cranford, Woody Allen and Gurinder Chadha recently based productions on the lot.

Will Barker, a pioneer of British cinema, originally acquired the site in 1902. Basil Dean, owner of Associated Talking Pictures took over from Barker in the early 1930s and Ealing Studios was established. In 1938, Michael Balcon joined Dean as Head of Production. The golden era of Ealing Studios had begun.

This fabulous period of creativity began with a series of real life dramas, such as Went The Day Well and Nine Men, that sustained Britain during the war. As Britain laboured under post war rationing, Balcon and his close-knit team produced a series of classic comedies that captured the spirit of the age. The audience saw themselves in films like The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets, and they thronged to see them.

These pictures contained recurring themes which resonated with the social upheaval that followed the war: the little people up against the establishment; an anarchic whimsy that was born often out of real events; a cast of characters drawn from the confusion and moral ambiguity of the times: a soft spot for raffish charm. It is this latter part that is the subject of this week's "Saturday's Scribe".

I had a bad night last night, what with the aches and pains in my knee and leg and also from a bout of sleep apnoea, a nasty condition where one stops breathing in their sleep, it wasn't a nice night's sleep. I woke up feeling like I wanted to breathe but I couldn't draw breath. I managed to get the doona of my body and push myself upright on to the edge of the bed and was then able to suck in some breath. Must do something about it, one day! (sighhhh!).

Anyway, I got out of bed and suitably rugged up against the night chill (2C last night and a frost) I made my way to the kitchen, made a cup of tea, settled into my recliner chair and turned on the TV. As you would expect at 3am in the morning there was not much on but as I 'channel-jumped' I came across an old English movie - J Arther Rank's production of "Hue and Cry" a post-war film made through Ealing Studios, London and it included a lot of actual scenes of post-war London going through the re-build post Blitz. In particular were scenes shot along the Thames River showing warehouses and docks in various stage of de-construction, being readied for re-building and lots of shots of London City and its residential areas also being rebuilt.

"Hue and Cry", the movie was made in 1947 when Britain was trying to re-establish it industry and the entertainment industry was considered to be an important one for Britain, not only for morale but also for cash-flow, something desperately needed by Britain and her post-war debt. Directed by Charles Crichton it starred Alastair Sim, Frederick Piper, Harry Fowler, Douglas Barr, Valerie White, Jack Warner and a whole host of other actors who were to play an important part in re-building the British movie industry. By today's standard it is a 'corny' movie, however, it does assume epic proportions in its portrayal of life in London post-WWII.

"Hue and Cry", was about a gang of street boys who foil a master crook who sends commands for robberies by cunningly altering a comic strip's wording each week, unknown to writer and printer. It was the first of the Ealing comedies. The final scenes, filmed on London's Thames and demolished docks and warehouses, shows how the 'Boy Gangs of London' foiled the thieves from getting away with their loot as the call of the "Hue and Cry" was sent out across the streets and rooftops of London to rally all boys to the cause!  Excellent "Boy's Own" stuff!

It was a starting point for Ealing Studios to go on and make many of the great post-war early black and white (and later colour) movies of the day - The Ladykillers (1955), The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Blue Lamp (1950), Passport to Pimlico (1949), Whisky Galore (1949), Kind hearts and Coronets (1949), and many more!

OK - If you have 1 hour and 20 minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy this movie and, for those old enough to remember, reminisce over those days when the cloud of darkness lifted off the world and we were able to laugh, play and enjoy the sunshine again!

Well, if you are in for it, just click on the link below and go to the full movie download on YouTube!

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