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as Frank Gibbons
as Ethel Gibbons
as Billy Mitchell
as Queenie Gibbons
as Bob Mitchell
as Mrs. Flint
as Aunt Sylvia
as Sam Ledbetter
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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This Happy Breed is Noel Coward's proud and loving tribute to the unbreakable British backbone.
Though Lean and Coward are less happy here than in the brittle, refined atmosphere of Brief Encounter, their adventurous excursion into suburban Clapham remains endlessly fascinating.
While not exacty up to contemporary standards of social realism this domestic saga was ground-breaking in its day and still captivates.
It's quite the study in domesticity and acceptance, and it even presents socialist activism and union strikes as some sort of idealistic fling...
The film is really about the evolution of a country between times of war, set against a families own personal ups and downs. The most dramatic events happen off screen. All deaths happen either off screen and many between different time periods, as do marriages and other "main" events other films would exploit. It captures the constant momentum of life in a very slow and thoughtful manner. Lean and Coward once again make a brilliant team with Lean's direction being the most ingenious counterpart to Coward's words. It sometimes feels not adapted enough from its stage play origins, and sometimes feels a bit too patriotic though it certainly offers up different views from different characters. It shows the constant worries of parents in a supposedly less dangerous time. It works as a very English drama and is powerful in that repressed kind of way. Lean's first use of colour is a triumph and there are some amazingly beautiful moments that will be forever eclipsed by his more obvious epics. The parents wondering back into a room in silence at some tragic news is wonderful cinema.
Its predictable, but that may be the result of the fact that this kind of decade sprawling melodrama is a lot more common nowadays. You can see the seeds of the type of visual brilliance that David Lean was known for pop up occasionally here and there and Cowards dialogue is always enjoyable.
Another David Lean, Noel Coward adaption, This Happy Breed follows the life of a suburban family between the two world wars. A two decade long epic this film has great character development and shows marriage, death, abandonment, and the rest of the occasions a family goes through. It has some funny snip bits of dialogue, and I especially like the communist/anarchists discussion. The film is somewhat dry, but it remains touching and relevant.
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