Jeffrey Richards and Anthony Aldgate / “3. The Age of Consensus: South Riding” / British Cinema and Society / 1983

South Riding, 1938

Tradition of considering 1930s age of “dream factory,” where cinema offered escape from reality of hunger marches, fascist demonstrations, etc. Also seen as era of American “colonization” of British film industry. Revisionist history has shown political radicalism during period to be fringe, and general consensus was for legitimacy of the regime. This chapter looks at characteristic forms rather than institutions of 1930s British cinema during the “age of consensus.”

During 1930s, at least, British films were more popular with British audiences than often given credit for, and “Americanization” thesis must be greatly qualified. Also, 1930s British film usually divided into 1) “prestigious” productions–Korda’s epics– and 2) “provincial” comedies, Formby, Fields, Will Hay, etc. Former receives attention, and latter only rarely. But division is arbitrary: both types made with same intent, and both are rich historical sources. South Riding exemplary mainstrain 1930s film: “compromise and consensus, in the best interest of society and the nation as a whole, are largely what the film of South Riding is about.”

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