‘’Mid Pleasures and Palaces’: Domestic Life and Re-imagining Modernity in British 1940s Film.
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This thesis investigates the aesthetic construction of domestic life in British feature films made and released in the 1940s. It situates the depiction of domesticity in a selection of films as a re-imagining of interwar modernity: at a time of social upheaval during the war and in the immediate postwar years, images of the home onscreen both looked back to prewar peace and forward to the future. Developing a methodology which examines both film aesthetics and cultural context, I contend that the modes of address used to construct domestic life in 1940s films can be resituated in a wider cultural construction of modernity in the interwar years, evidenced in magazines including Picture Post, Ideal Home and Modern Woman, furniture catalogues, advertisements, colour-books and the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition. This thesis considers a range of films from different genres: Love on the Dole, It Always Rains on Sunday, This Happy Breed, The Captive Heart, Spring in Park Lane, The Glass Mountain and The Small Back Room. I reassess four modes of address used to depict domesticity in these films: realism and romance, pastoralism and preservation, escapism and restraint, and modernism and melodrama. In doing so, I propose that the pictorial composition of domestic life in this selection of films is characterised by a sense of compromise or balance, and therefore that these constructions create visual narratives demonstrating a middlebrow engagement with modernity in the 1940s.
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