Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Bank Holiday (1938)

The British film BANK HOLIDAY, also known in the United States as THREE ON A WEEKEND, is an interesting movie which mixes melodrama, romance, and observations of various characters vacationing at a seaside resort.

Catharine (Margaret Lockwood), a nurse, has planned to go away for a long holiday weekend at the beach with her boyfriend Geoffrey (Hugh Williams). Catharine's feelings for her beau seem tepid, at best, and while on holiday she is also haunted by thoughts of a young man named Stephen (John Lodge), who lost his wife in childbirth just before Catharine left for the weekend.

The film juxtaposes Catharine and Geoffrey's awkward weekend with Stephen walking the streets of London remembering his lost love. Catharine ultimately must decide whether to go ahead and share a hotel room with Geoffrey (not an issue one would expect in a U.S. film of this era) or follow her instincts and return to London to help Stephen.

The above scenes are interspersed with what was apparently meant to be comic relief, profiling a lower-class family with a pub-crawling father and ill-mannered urchins, as well as a couple of lovelorn ladies who are in town for a "Miss England" beauty contest. (As a side note, I suspect the name of the family's youngest child, Marina, was inspired by the popular Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, who married into the British royal family in 1934.) There are a few nice moments in these sequences, particularly near the end of the film, but they go on a bit long; Margaret Lockwood's character is the heart of the film.

I enjoyed the depiction of everyday British life, including the crowds on the escalators in the train station, the Loew's movie theater showing SILLY SYMPHONIES, and Stephen passing by landmarks such as Admiralty Arch. And I'm curious to know -- did holiday-ers at crowded resorts in that era really sleep on the beach, or was that dreamed up for the movie?

John Lodge, who played Stephen, was an American actor whose credits included playing John Brooke in the Katharine Hepburn version of LITTLE WOMEN. After WWII he left films for politics, becoming governor of Connecticut and then an ambassador in the Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan administrations.

Linden Travers (from THE LADY VANISHES) plays Stephen's wife. The cast also includes Felix Aylmer, Rene Ray, and Merle Tottenham. Michael Rennie is credited as being a guardsman -- I need to rewind and take another look!

This movie was shot in black and white. It runs 86 minutes.

BANK HOLIDAY is one of several films in which Margaret Lockwood was directed by Carol Reed. Their other notable titles included THE STARS LOOK DOWN (1940), with Lockwood's costar from THE LADY VANISHES (1938), Michael Redgrave; and NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940) with Rex Harrison.

BANK HOLIDAY is not available on DVD or VHS in the United States. It's available in the UK on Region 2 DVD as part of the Margaret Lockwood Collection.

This film was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies so it may turn up there again in the future.

All in all, BANK HOLIDAY is a pleasant film which is worth the investment of time.

November 2013 Update: BANK HOLIDAY is now available on DVD in the U.S. from VCI.


Blogger panavia999 said...

I don't think a British movie would invent campers on the beach because a british audience wouldn't buy it. Camping is popular in the UK and the poorer people scraped every penny to have a little holiday. With very long summer days, it makes sense that people would do that and not be fazed if a fog rolls in. As a person who lives in a foggy climate, I know from personal experience that camping in fog is no big deal. :-) (If you have read "Of Human Bondage" an important part of the story takes place when a large poor family goes to Kent for a month where they earn small wages picking hops and camp out the entire time. It was the only way a poor family could have a long holiday in the country.)
I'm sorry I missed this on TCM because I like Lockwood and Carol Reed a lot. The depiction of everyday life on holiday reminds me of the odd, intriguing and very touching "Passing of the Third Floor Back" with Conrad Veidt, Anna Lee, Rene Ray and Frank Vosper. It's a religious allegory based on the short story be Jerome K Jerome (which is rather mawkish).
It's sort of off topic except it gives an idea of the extreme class distinctions of the day and what people do in ordinary life.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on sleeping on the beach! It was an interesting segment in the movie and made the film distinctively different, as I'd never seen a scene like that before. I guess maybe the closest thing would be Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker honeymooning on the beach when they can't get a hotel room in THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944)!

Class distinctions were a very big issue in BANK HOLIDAY as well, such as the lower-class wife shocking her family by dancing with a "college boy."

Best wishes,

6:35 PM  

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