Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CRACKER? Hope and Glory (1987)

         “Hope and Glory” is a war movie set in London during the Blitz of WWII. It was directed by John Boorman and was based on his own experiences as an eight year old boy. It was a British-American endeavor that was released in 1987. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Director, and Picture. It won the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy.

         The movie opens with newsreel footage about the opening of the war (the “footage” is actually from the movie “Battle of Britain”). The movie follows the Rowan family, but concentrates on the little boy named Billy (Sebastian Rice-Edwards). The father Clive (David Hayman) enlists in the Army so his wife Grace (Sarah Miles) has to take care of the three kids during the bombardment. She decides at the last moment not to send the kids off to Australia.

        The movie does an excellent job portraying the effects of the Blitz on a typical London neighborhood. An entire street with its houses was constructed for the film (the largest set ever constructed in England up until then). The first bombardment is spent claustrophobically under some stairs. The camera focuses on them and the sound effects are awesome. In the middle, the teenage daughter Dawn (Sammi Davis) runs out and dances on the lawn. She sobers up when the neighbors house goes up in flames.

        At school, the head master recites a patriotic prayer. There is an air raid that puts the kids in a bomb shelter. Their excitement is evident. Gas masks and recitation go together. Later, when the school gets hit by a stray bomb, the students yell “Thank you, Adolf!” Very realistic.

        Billy is “recruited” into a gang of vandals. They go around the rubble strewn streets making more rubble. His initiation is to say the lewd phrase “Bugger off, you bloody sod” which apparently was very naughty back then. Later, in the movie's most memorable scene, the gang convinces a girl to show them her private parts. The movie is good at showing the effects of the war on the morals of children.

        A major subplot is the loose Dawn and her affair with a Canadian soldier. She and her mother butt heads when she finds out. When they return from a beach outing, they find their home aflame. Surprisingly, the fire was not caused by a bomb. It’s just a regular fire. A fireman tells them “it happens in wartime as well.” They go to live with Grace’s crusty grandfather (Ian Bannen) in the country. He’s your typically eccentric British coot. He shoots at rats in his garden from his breakfast table. It’s an amazing contrast to their previous life. The tension of the first half dissipates.

        The film is filled with interesting vignettes. Putting up a barrage balloon. A German parachutes into the neighborhood. A rogue barrage balloon. The king gives a speech and they comment on his improved stutter. Playing cricket with grandpa.

         “Hope and Glory” is one of the best movies depicting the effects of war on children. Everything Billy experiences feels real. The excitement instead of fear is apparent. The school and gang scenes are authentic. It also does an excellent job showing the variety of effects on different family members. The characters are vivid and human. The actors help make them so. Special kudos to Miles, Bannen, and Davis. The child actors are strong.

       This is a wonderful little movie. The best word to describe the humor is it is “droll”. Not laugh out loud. More smile out loud. There is no better movie about the Blitz from a family point of view. There are few movies about the home front in any war better than “Hope and Glory”.

Will it crack the 100 Best? Probably

Rating: 8



  1. "Smile out loud". I like that.
    It's a cracker. I liked it a lot, one of the best war movies with Children in it and just generally a good movie.
    I can imagine how the war could at time bee like a huge adventure for children.
    No school...

  2. the war movie buffMay 31, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Yeah, no school because there is no school. Get it?

    I love that poster.

  3. I had an off-topic question for you. (I couldn't find a way to email you, so I picked your most recent blog).

    I'm trying to find an old (maybe late 70s/80s) Vietnam war movie. When I was about four or five years old, I watched a movie where one of the characters was a scared soldier that was too afraid to fight. My memory fades a bit but his team doesn't respect him for this reason.

    At the end of the movie, there is an intense climax, with a radio tower, but everyone ultimately dies except for this fellow.

    I have a list of Vietnam war movies on Wikipedia, but I wouldn't know the title of the movie if it was shown to me.

    I figured I'd type in war movie experts on google, and I found your blog. If you happen to know what movie I'm referring to, I'd greatly appreciate it!

    1. Sounds like "Go Tell the Spartans". Only one soldier (Courcey) survives an attack on an outpost. I don't think I would describe him as being sacred or not respected though. Check it out on Wikipedia and let me know.

  4. I remember seeing this movie years ago in Atlanta when it first came out. Very well made with a nice personal British touch by the director. Boorman generally made very personal vision type movies. He has a good track record beginning way back with Point Blanke and on through Deliverance, Excaliber, Emerald Forest etc. Even Zardos is distinctive if strange. H & G is obviously based on memories he had from the war and the acting is spot on. I like coming of age movies in general and this is easily one of the best set during wartime. Its interesting to compare this one to Woody Allens Radio Days which is a similar personal work set in the 1940's but from the American standpoint. Of course Brooklyn/Queens was never blitzed. This one holds up better in the long run then, say, Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, in that its more narrowly focused then sprawling. But that is up to the director vision. I wonder, has Boorman done anything new lately? The last thing I remember him doing was The General and that was moons ago.

  5. His last movie was Tiger's Tail in 2006.

    Another similar movie is "King of the Hill". One of my favorites. Show it to my classes every year. Now available on You Tube!

    I agree on Empire.


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