Made during Ealing Studios's peak period from the early 40s to the mid-1950s, Dance Hall is virtually the only movie produced by that male-dominated studio that might be considered a feminist work.
Co-scripted by Diana Morgan, the sole woman admitted by Ealing boss Michael Balcon to his elite creative team, it looks at the world from the point of view of four young working-class women (Natasha Parry, Petula Clark, Jane Hylton and Diana Dors). They live in council flats, work in the same west London factory, and find romance and an escape from their drab lives at the local dance hall. Except for the middle-class accents, the film presents an honest, down-to-earth portrait of Britain in the postwar age of austerity. Typically for its time, Parry (future wife of the director Peter Brook) is torn between glamorous sports car-driving spiv Bonar Colleano and dull, decent motorcyclist Donald Houston.
Director Charles Crichton is best known for the Ealing comedies Hue and Cry and The Lavender Hill Mob; there's an excellent supporting cast; the music is provided by Ted Heath and Geraldo, leaders of the most fashionable big bands of the day; and the dramatic black-and-white lighting is by the studio's versatile chief cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. In his introduction to this DVD, Charles Barr argues that Dance Hall was unfairly neglected when it appeared in 1950, and that he himself gave it insufficient attention in his classic book on Ealing Studios.
Production year: 1950, Country: UK, Runtime: 80 mins, Directors: Charles Crichton, Cast: Bonar Colleano, Diana Dors, Donald Houston, Jane Hylton, Natasha Parry, Petula Clark