This Happy Breed

1944

This Happy Breed (1944)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

With This Happy Breed, playwright Noel Coward hoped to glorify the British working class in the same manner that he'd celebrated the "higher orders" in Cavalcade. The film begins just after World War I. Middle-class Londoner Robert Newton hopes to improve his family's lot by moving them into a comparatively posh house in the suburbs. The house is large enough for each family member to claim a corner or room as his or her own, allowing Coward to spotlight the characters' highly individual strengths, shortcomings and emotions. Twenty years go by, filled with the sorts of triumphs and tragedies with which British audiences of the 1940s could readily identify. Finally, left alone after their children and relatives have moved on, Newton and his wife (Celia Johnson) leave the house behind for a smaller, more practical apartment. This was the second of four collaborations between author Noel Coward and director David Lean. While Coward can't completely disguise his patronizing attitude towards "regular folks," Lean is successful in conveying the essential warmth, humanity and value of the film's characters.

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Cast

Robert Newton
as Frank Gibbons
Celia Johnson
as Ethel Gibbons
John Mills
as Billy Mitchell
Kay Walsh
as Queenie Gibbons
Stanley Holloway
as Bob Mitchell
Amy Veness
as Mrs. Flint
Alison Leggatt
as Aunt Sylvia
Guy Verney
as Sam Ledbetter
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Critic Reviews for This Happy Breed

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3)

This Happy Breed is Noel Coward's proud and loving tribute to the unbreakable British backbone.

May 1, 2013 | Full Review…

Film's excellence comes mainly in the performances.

Feb 23, 2012 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

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.

Nov 6, 2007 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

From the brilliant opening shot to the end, director Lean and photographer Ronald Neame have worked together, with originality and imagination, to produce some fine examples of camera angles and timing.

Feb 17, 2016 | Full Review…

While not exacty up to contemporary standards of social realism this domestic saga was ground-breaking in its day and still captivates.

May 1, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

It's quite the study in domesticity and acceptance, and it even presents socialist activism and union strikes as some sort of idealistic fling...

May 4, 2012 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for This Happy Breed

½

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.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

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.

Daniel Dolgin
Daniel Dolgin

Super Reviewer

This is a bit of a difficult creature from the other Lean/Coward film 'Brief Encounter' as it focuses on a whole family and is more of an ensemble piece. In many ways it's a precursor to the soaps we see on TV today like Eastenders and Coronation Street in that the main drama are family based and although the film is set between the two wars we don't deal with international affairs. I suppose it's more of a film of its time and seems a bit stilted now but the performances are all good and it's nice seeing Celia Johnson in a different type of role after 'Brief Encounter'. A cosy Sunday afternoon film.

David Sayers
David Sayers

Super Reviewer

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.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer

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