A Cautionary Note: Great expeditions and the postwar world

Gill Plain

in John Mills and British Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621071
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651092 | DOI:
A Cautionary Note: Great expeditions and the postwar world

Show Summary Details


World War II was won at a tremendous cost to the nation, and in its aftermath the very concept of Britain became subject to fundamental revisions. In terms of popular demand, signs of change had been evident since at least 1943, with audiences turning their backs on realism and seeking release from the pressures of wartime in the escapism of Hollywood and the Gainsborough melodramas. By 1945, it is possible to observe the beginnings of a bleak, consciously anti-heroic ‘spiv’ cycle in British cinema, and both these developments indicate the advent of what would be a major shift in patterns of cinema heroism. This chapter traces the tension between optimism and pessimism, celebration and cultural mourning that manifests itself in three strongly contrasting films of the immediate postwar period: Great Expectations (1946), Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The October Man (1947). All three films provided major starring roles for John Mills, and all three used his established screen persona to develop patterns of ambivalence and anxiety within their narratives.

Keywords: World War II; British cinema; John Mills; films; optimism; pessimism; heroism; Great Expectations; Scott of Antarctic; October Man

Chapter.  16805 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.