Monday, October 21, 2013

Bank Holiday

Yesterday, I mentioned that I would be blogging today about one of the movies that's running as part of TCM's Margaret Lockwood salute. That film is Bank Holiday (also released as Three on a Weekend), which comes on at 9:00 AM tomorrow.

Those who remember their American history classes well will remember the "bank holiday" that Franklin Roosevelt instituted in 1933, shutting down the banks to prevent a run on more banks, but that's not what the title menas in Britain. In UK English, a "bank holiday" is nothing more than a public holiday giving people a long weekend. The action in our film takes place around one of those summer bank holiday weekends as various people go to one of those grand old seaside resort towns. This is back in the days before World War II when international travel wasn't very convenient, especially among everybody not in the upper classes, and the seaside resort towns still had a resplendent glory. Compare this to the town Laurence Olivier is working in in The Entertainer, 20 years later. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The main plot involves Catherine, a nurce at a fashionable London hospital played by the aforementioned Lockwood. Her boyfriend Geoffrey (Hugh Williams) wants to take her to the seaside for the upcoming bank holiday, promising her great things although he's got ulterior motives. There's still work to be done, and unfortunately for Catherine that means attending at an operation in whith the yound lady dies, leaving behind a grieving young husband, Stephen (John Lodge). He clearly isn't going to be enjoying his bank holiday. Eventually, Catherine and Geoffrey become two among the great throng of people making their way -- by train, of course!, as cheap air travel hadn't been developed yet -- to the sea for their vacation. So many that Catherine and Geoffrey aren't able to get the room that Geoffrey claimed to have reserved. He was probably lying about having taken a suite anyhow, and Catherine knows that's not a good thing. Besides, Catherine is still preoccupied with that poor widower back in London.

We'll get back to the Catherine and Stephen story line in a bit. Without a room for the first night, Catherine and Geoffrey are forced to camp out on the beach, which is where they meet the people who make up the movie's other subplots. One is a poor Cockney family, in which the father only seems to want to drink a pint at every bar along the shore, while the mother aspires to a higher socioeconomic status and giving her children a better life than she's had. The other major subplot involves some people down to the sea for the beauty pageant that one of the hotels is running. Winning the pageant would mean a nice sum in economically tought times. (Ah, another would-be beauty queen, just like in The Entertainer.) Those plots will intersect with Catherine and Geoffrey eventually. Meanwhile, Catherine somehow wound up with widower Stephen's cigarette lighter, and she keeps thinking about him. She has to get back to London to see whether he's all right, since she was already worried about his well-being when she left London.

Bank Holiday is a nice little movie. I don't know exactly how accurate the view of the seaside resorts is, being too young by decades and not British. But I'd presume the filmmakers (including director Carol Reed) weren't just making up an atmosphere out of whole cloth. Movies generally tend to focus more on the high-class stuff, but the scenes on the beach show hints there's also a darker side for the aspirational who want to hobnob with the upper crust but can't really afford it. (There are, however, movies like Brighton Rock and I believe Night Train to Munich which show this underside much more explicitly.) The stories are generally good, except that there's a predictably happy ending that seems trite. All in all, Bank Holiday is, for this American, a nice look at a time and a society that as far as I know don't really exist any longer.

Bank Holiday doesn't seem to be on DVD at all.

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