In the 1930s, British film producers and critics championed the idea of ‘quality’ pictures - thoughtful, intelligent films that would project a particular and positive view of Britain. The result was to drive a wedge between ‘national’ cinema (which reflected middle-class values) and ‘popular’ cinema (which reflected the working-class values of the majority of cinema audiences). ‘Popular’ became a term of abuse, particularly directed at comedies, whose roots often lay in music-hall. A very different image of Britain emerges from these comedies, as this insightful analysis of two Will Hay films - Oh Mr Porter (1937) and Ask a Policeman (1939) reveals.
Keywords: Film Studies, Will Hay, Oh Mr Porter, Ask a Policeman, British film comedy, British film studios, British national identity, music-hall