The Spectre of Impotence: Fathers, lovers and defeated authority

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:
The Spectre of Impotence: Fathers, lovers and defeated authority

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At what point does the ageing war hero become an impotent figure of defeated authority? Quite possibly at the point when the prescriptive pressure of performing hegemonic masculinity becomes too demanding, and the hard shell of self-control, restraint and toughness finally cracks to reveal the vulnerable body beneath. In films such as Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1960) and Ronald Neame's Tunes of Glory (1960), John Mills would build on the innovatory fragility of Captain Anson to give some of his most impressive screen performances, becoming in the process the embodiment of a residual hegemonic masculinity struggling to cope with the demands of a changing society. Yet it was not only Mills's roles that underwent a transformation, the culture of cinema-going and the ethos of British cinema were also experiencing far-reaching and fundamental changes. This chapter examines Tunes of Glory and three other Mills films: Flame in the Streets (1961), The Singer Not the Song (1961) and The Family Way (1966).

Keywords: John Mills; war hero; masculinity; self-control; authority; cinema-going; Tunes of Glory; Flame in Streets; Singer Not Song; Family Way

Chapter.  14942 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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