Social History | 1950 | Sound | B/W
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A 1950s British film promoting the different ways in which housewives in all parts of the country can have a day out, either alone or in company. Most of the examples involve public transport of one kind or another.
Accompanied by light orchestral music, the credits appear on an item of washing hung out to dry. An animated figure pulls out more washing from a tub, which miraculously appears on a line, bearing further credits. The line slides leftwards and the figure throws up more linen bearing more credits.
A brief view moving along a green beyond which there is a row of 1930s suburban houses. A closer shot, moving along the front of a similar row, as if walking along the pavement beside them. A male English voice begins to recite a rhyme in praise of the hard-working housewife (''Twas on a Monday morning, / She looked so sweet and charming / In every high degree …'), as we see a housewife in front of a window washing linen in a deep sink, a pile of linen beside the sink and a steaming bucket on the hob nearer to us. A close shot of her wiping her brow. Another woman, cigarette in mouth, also in front of a window, but facing in the opposite direction, rightwards, lifts some steaming clothes with a wooden pole across to the sink beside her. Another housewife, with her back to us, as she washes at a sink beneath a window directly ahead, while one child stands on the side to the left of the sink with hands in a bowl, and another prods some washing in a large container behind, looks round and then goes to the container, into which she drops the linen that she has been washing at the sink, which she continues to scrub there.
We move from right to left on the screen along a suburban street, gardens in front of the houses. A housewife hanging out washing on a line is viewed through the silhouetted frame of a window. A close shot of the woman with the cigarette permanently in her mouth now hanging out washing. The woman that we saw through the window frame is now seen directly, trying to air the washing flapping on the line. A close shot of a woman in a paisley shirt, with her back to us, hanging up washing indoors; the male narrator continues to recite the verse all the while. Another housewife hangs out washing from a tub in the garden. A woman indoors turns the handle of a mangle, pulling an item of washing through it. Another irons. Another housewife carries towards us a tub of linen that she has just taken down from a line. A close up of a tub of linen from which one item is lifted out. The housewife continues to iron.
A view of the upper floors of some tall blocks of mansion flats against the sky, in front of which the top of a tree flutters. A woman, dressed in a coat, addresses someone, her face suggesting exasperation, as a female narrator now interrupts the male narrator's verse, just as it has reached 'Twas on a Wednesday morning …', with 'Oh stop!'; the male voice asks why, to which she replies 'Because I'm taking a day off, a rest, a day away from cooking and cleaning and all the other chores that keep a housewife running around from one day then to the next'; the camera follows the woman leading her daughter by the hand along the corridor, turning right herself, then returning with her son, dressed in coat and bow tie, putting a coat on her daughter and buttoning up the coat on her son; the female narrator explains, 'I'm going to lock up my workshop for a few hours and take a fresh look at life outside.' A close shot of the woman leaning over to button up the coat on her daughter, as the female voice argues that too many housewives 'are like pieces of cloth that have been soaked in housework and never properly wrung out … I want to get the wrinkles out of this brow before they become permanent.'
The mother walks towards us along a London street, holding the hands of each of her children, and turns into a gate leading up to a probably early nineteenth century house, number Thirty, as the female narrator explains that she'll leave the children with a friend, who also has children. A close shot of the girl rapping the knocker, before the door opens to reveal a mother talking animatedly and her young daughter. The first housewife's son runs to close the gate, before he is sent back to the front door by his mother, and the girl who lives there puts her face up to the railings of the gate, then runs off; the housewife planning a day out eventually passes through the gate.
The housewife approaches a request bus stop on a main road in North London (possibly Finchley Road), where a 13 routemaster bus going to London Bridge, facing us, pulls up and she steps aboard. The woman walks towards us with 'Waterloo Air Terminal' in the background, the camera moving up to her head against the sky, as the female narrator says that this marks her 'gateway to freedom', where she sometimes has second thoughts. Her head is seen against the top of the entrance to Waterloo Station. A view of her climbing a flight of steps up into the station. She walks through the main station concourse and eventually stands in a queue.
A view from within the ticket office of another woman asking for and purchasing a ticket through an iron grille. A view from the queue of another woman, with her back to us, buying a ticket, then moving away. Our housewife stands in the queue, with a blonde woman in front of her and a bespectacled, besuited man in a hat behind her. A close shot of the head and shoulders of the man behind against the station roof, as the male narrator imagines his thoughts, muttering 'Leave it to the last minute and you're foiled by females.' A shot of our housewife in front of the man, as the queue moves forward one, and the female narrator says 'I think I'll go into the country.' She is seen from inside the ticket office approaching the grille and purchasing a ticket. She appears among other people in front of a branch of Boots inside the station, peering at the departures board on the left of the screen; the camera follows her to a platform entrance, where an inspector lets her onto the platform before closing sliding iron gates, through which we see her get on the train. A close shot of the windows of the train, as it moves rightwards across the screen; the camera withdraws to watch it disappear from the platform.
It fades to the train slowing down as it passes under a bridge towards us, a door starting to open towards the back, as it comes to a halt. A close shot of the housewife opening the door, stepping out and closing it behind her, looking exhilirated, as the camera follows her up the steps to the right of the bridge, then follows another woman carrying a basket who passes her in the opposite direction and boards the train; the female voice wonders, 'I expect she thinks I'm playing truant. Well, perhaps I am.'
The housewife walks towards us in a field, as the female voice explains that she wants to take home something different today, 'an air of well-being, I suppose you'd call it', and she assumes that everybody is working except her.
A group of four women are seen laughing, as the male narrator interrupts, 'Well, not quite …', and adds that 'there are many different ways of having a day out'. A view from a height of Durham Cathedral and the surrounding town. Close ups of three of the women, who are members of a local Women's Institute. A view from above of two trains coming into the station from opposite directions. The four women with their backs to us look down, with the cathedral in the distance to the right; they turn towards us and run. A view from the station platform of men walking along, as a train pulls in on the left of the screen. Quite a distant view of the outside of a station entrance, into which the four women walk. Three women follow each other out of the train door. This new group of bustling, cheerful women approaches the ticket inspector, who has his back to us.
The camera follows all the women together side-on, as they walk away from the station, the male narrator explaining 'You'd be meeting each other in the party spirit, instead of across the garden fence, whilst you were beating mats or hanging out clothes.' A view from behind the women, most dressed in hats and coats, as they walk beside a river on the left of the screen. As the male narrator suggests that they might move across town, they walk towards a low stone bridge, where they stop, point and talk. A view of a small waterfall, beyond which can be seen a large old stone building, possibly the site of a mill. A close up of one of the women. The previous view again, the camera moving up to show the cathedral on a hill above. Two shots of women pointing and looking. A shot of the cathedral again. A closer view of the main bell tower, the camera moving down to show the group of women walking towards us and turning into the entrance of the cathedral office. A close up of a poster advertising 'The Colombo Plan' by Mrs Winifred Holt, as the male narrator remarks on the breadth of interests of such groups.
A view of two parents and their small daughter at a table in a smart tea room, with two elderly women at a table and an imposing fireplace visible behind; the camera moves leftwards to show a woman sitting alone at a table, facing us, with a couple at another table to the left, as the male voice explains that every town has its 'quota of shy and lonely people, who have to invent ways of cheering their loneliness.' A close up of the single woman, soon introduced as Miss Robertson, taking a sip from her teacup, reaching down for her gloves and handbag, getting up and walking ahead to a waitress at a counter, whom she pays.
A view of Miss R walking across in front of a fountain, a church tower visible in the background. We are told that she travels to Norwich 'and shares some hours with shoppers in the busy streets around St Peter Mancroft and the Town Hall', as we see her walking towards us down a narrow street, on the corner of which is a jeweller's and which has bicycles parked on either side, with the colonnaded front of the Town Hall and the market in front of it visible in the distance. A shot of Miss R walking away from us, along perhaps the other end of the same street, to her 'favourite spot, the castle on the hill', which can be seen rising in the distance. A side-on view of Miss R walking along a path, then seen from behind, as she walks up the wide steps leading upwards. A slightly more distant side-on view of her walking upwards, almost obscured by the hill itself.
The attendant stands by the turnstile inside Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, as a small boy dashes through, followed by Miss R carrying a small basket of shopping; we follow her along and she leaves her basket on a bench, to the left of which is a noticeboard on the wall, and to the right, a bronze bust, which leaves a slight shadow on the wall. Miss R walks towards us inside the gallery, and we follow her leftwards and then away from us into another room, as the male narrator tells us that 'Miss R doesn't know much about art' and 'talks only with diffidence of landscape, portrait and miniature', but she does know what is beautiful.
A closer view of her lingering in front of a portrait of an elderly man with a drooping moustache and a furrowed brow. A close shot of her looking side-on, at the left edge of the screen. A close up of the portrait itself. A view from over her right shoulder as she looks at the portrait, a rather distinguished, grey-haired man in a dark suit standing to her left. A close shot of the man and Miss R both looking upwards towards us. Miss R looking upwards, then glancing a smile to the left. The man glancing a faint smile to the right. Miss R's face again. A very close, head and shoulders shot of the portrait itself. A view over the shoulders of the two towards the portrait, Miss R on the left, the man on the right with his hat clasped behind him.
A close up of a man in a white naval-style cap. He is seen slotting boards bearing the destinations 'Innellon' and 'Rothesan' (among the Western Isles of Scotland) into a display stand that says 'Steamer for …' at the top. A small crowd of people walk down a flight of steps onto a steamer. A group walk towards us, with the sign 'Wemyss Bay' visible in the background. A view of them walking along, with a small steamer to the right. Another group come down the steps onto the steamer. An attendant, carrying luggage under each arm, walks down a small flight of steps, followed by passengers. The head of the man in the naval cap peers over a rail.
The head of a girl, as she looks over the edge of the moving boat. A view of the quay from the moving steamer. A view moving past a jetty, with woods visible beyond the water. A side-on view of children sandwiched between adults on a long seat on the steamer, as the male narrator reflects on the pleasure of a day out, whether to or from the mainland. A group of people look rightwards over a rail on the steamer. A mother and boy, in front of a huge rubber ring, looking and pointing rightwards. A distant view over the water of the boat passing away from us. A profile view of a woman leaning and looking leftwards across the screen.
A group in a punt on a river. A young woman trying to stand up at the back with the pole, and slipping into the water.
A close shot of a crowd moving towards us through a busy market. A view from above of the covered stalls of the market, with Victorian buildings either side and a hill in the distance. A stall-holder in a mortar board waving a cane of some kind. A close up of four budgerigars on a rope, surrounded by various props for pet birds. A sequence of shots amidst the market. Mrs Davies and her daughter, who we are told 'have come in from one of the valleys around Pontypridd', approach a stall. A close shot of Mrs D haggling over some linen. The trader replies. Mrs D appears to reject his offer. He reaches down and brings up what looks like a corset to offer her. Mrs D shakes her head, laughing, and dismisses his suggestion, before picking up something else. The trader, still talking, wraps her choice up. Mrs D smiles, gives him her money and receives the item. A younger woman, facing us, looks at some material being stretched by another stall-holder at the left of th screen, and she nods in acceptance.
The camera moves leftwards across a busy station platform. Two women emerge from the car park of Manchester Central Station, walking towards us and pointing, as the male narrator speaks of the vague notion of a day out shopping. Close ups first of Mrs Brown, who is going shopping, and then of Mrs Crawford, who is joining a music group. A view of the two women together again. Mrs B walks away from us towards the awning of a shop. The view from above of a street corner, the camera moving rightwards across a main road to Affleck and Brown's department store, in what is now known as the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Mrs B is sitting in an audience, talking to another woman. The view from behind them, as they face a drawn curtain, upon which a spotlight appears. There follow a series of shots of women modelling coats and dresses in a fashion parade across the stage; at one point there is a close up of high-heeled shoes. A series of shots of the entranced faces of women in the audience.
Mrs B is seen, from inside a shop, looking into the window. The view of the window display from outside, with Mrs B to the right, as she contemplates 'pyjamas for Herbert'. A sales assistant, pencil behind his ear, reaches for some wrapped pyjamas from a stack of storage trays behind the counter; the camera follows him turning round and laying them on the counter, before moving down to the pyjamas themselves, Mrs B fingering them, and the female voice deciding against them. Buildings and pedestrians silhouetted against the darkening sky, as the male narrator imagines her saying later, 'There was nothing really suitable, dear, but I'll try again next week.'
Mrs Crawford is playing the violin, with an older woman to the left at a piano behind her, and another woman playing a cello to the right. A close shot of Mrs C playing. The pianist's hands upon the keyboard. Mrs C again. A close shot of the cellist. The head and shoulders of the pianist. Mrs C smiles, as they finish, and walks across to the right to compliment the cellist, then, further right, she puts her violin back in its case. The pianist mouths goodbye. Mrs C puts on her coat, bids farewell, and leaves to the right. She appears, violin case in hand, between two monuments, and we follow her rightwards across a road to a 'Halle Concerts' building (for the Halle Orchestra), where she meets Mrs B and they enter.
Our original housewife is walking towards us along a country road, turning to walk across, then turning so that she is walking away from us, as the female narrator tells us that she has been walking in the country. She leans on the top of a fence, looking towards us. Two children are seen playing with a pony, as the female narrator admits that she sometimes wishes the children were with her. Alternating shots of her looking and the children playing with the pony. A close up of her legs in tights, her shoeless feet rubbing against each other. Her high-heeled shoes and handbag are seen beside a tree. Her legs again, the camera moving up to her sitting with her back against a tree, looking around with an air of satisfaction.
A view across a bush, as the housewife pulls off a couple of thick branches, then walks away from us, the female narrator suggesting that she wanted to take something home. She walks along a wooden bridge and leans over, facing us, the camera moving down to the water and then up again; the female commentator starts to recite WH Davies's poem 'Leisure'. She walks across again. A view of her walking, finally trotting towards us along another road. She runs gently away from us, as the sky darkens, towards the station office, as the narrator finishes the poem. A distant shot from above of a train arriving. The housewife turns into the station entrance.
As the male narrator concludes that a day of your own can take you in many different directions, a number of images from the film are recapitulated: the Women's Institute group at the low stone bridge; Miss R and the man exchanging a smile in the Norwich Castle Art Gallery; the mother and children sitting on the long seat on the steamer; the shop assistant in Manchester laying sets of pyjamas on the counter; Mrs Crawford playing the violin; our original housewife, with her back against the tree, putting her shoes back on.
The housewife arrives at the top of some steps at a platform exit/entrance at Waterloo Station, where her husband, his back to us, meets her, the camera following them rightwards through the station. They walk towards us along the North London street where her friend lives, the wife talking animatedly; we follow the woman alone up to the front door, where she turns and smiles. Her husband, leaning on the gate, smiles. The housewife collects her children at the door, carrying her son. The girl runs away from us to her father at the gate, who picks her up and kisses her. The mother walks away from the front door, her friend waving gooodbye. The parents, with the two children hand-in-hand between them, walk away from us, the girl jumping up; the female narrator remarks that 'I think we shall all be the better for it.'
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