British Cinema of the 1950s: A Celebration

By Ian MacKillop; Neil Sinyard | Go to book overview

Women of Twilight

KERRY KIDD

WOMEN OF T WILIGHT (Daniel Angel, 1952) was adapted from the play of the same name by Sylvia Rayman. The play was first performed at the Embassy Theatre, London, in July 1951, going on to the Vaudeville Theatre. Theatre World Annual called the stage set `painfully squalid' and many people would have applied the phrase to the piece as a whole. It might have been used, too, of J. Lee Thompson's Yield to the Night a few years later in 1956. It is a gritty and still shocking portrayal of the lives of those `women of twilight' who, mostly as a consequence of unmarried pregnancy, find themselves shunned by respectable society, unable to find homes and prey to exploitation by `baby-farmers' and unscrupulous land- lords. A melodramatic opening finds pregnant Viviane (sic) (Renée Ray) searching for accommodation after her boyfriend Jerry (a cocktail of macho aggression and petulant vulnerability created by Laurence Harvey) is arrested for murder. Repeatedly recognised and rejected by landladies, Viviane eventually sees and answers the advertisement `Room To Let, No. 4 Albion Road, No References Required'. It turns out to be a boarding-house for unmarried mothers, run by unscrupulous and tyrannical landlady Helen Allistair (Freda Jackson). Squalid and overcrowded, it nonetheless functions for Viviane as an anonymous place of sanctuary, where she can temporarily conceal herself from the prying gaze of the outside world. Whilst she is there, Jerry is sentenced to death and executed. Initially, her despair at losing him means that she is lost in her own misery and able to ignore the blatant exploitation surrounding her. Less fortunate is Christine (Lois Maxwell), who arrives for what she hopes will be `just one night' and is horror-struck at the conditions in which she is forced to live. As the incidents of brutality and neglect increase, Rosie's (Joan Dowling) baby is announced by the

____________________
I was a graduate student in the English Literature Department at Sheffield University in 2001 where I completed a doctoral thesis on the Royal Court Theatre and British culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have been actively involved in theatre work, in Africa and in Britain. I am currently working on a research project at Nottingham University on the effects of TV on its audiences. Kerry Kidd

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