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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Boys In Brown
Directed byMontgomery Tully
Written byMontgomery Tully
Based onplay Boys in Brown
by Reginald Beckwith
Produced byAntony Darnborough
StarringJack Warner
Richard Attenborough
Dirk Bogarde
CinematographyCyril Bristow
Gordon Lang
Edited byJames Needs
Music byDoreen Carwithen
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
  • December 1949 (1949-12)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£94,000 (by 1953)[1]

Boys in Brown is a 1949 black and white British drama film directed by Montgomery Tully, which depicts life in a borstal for young offenders. It stars Jack Warner, Richard Attenborough, Dirk Bogarde and Jimmy Hanley.[2] It is based on a 1940 play by the actor Reginald Beckwith.[3][4]

The title comes from the borstal uniform: brown shirt and shorts and a short brown tie.

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Teenager Jackie Knowles (Richard Attenborough) drives a getaway car in a robbery. He is captured and sentenced to serve three years in a borstal institution run by a sympathetic governor (Jack Warner). He befriends Alfie (Dirk Bogarde) and Bill (Jimmy Hanley).

During an in-house concert party Jackie sneaks into one of the staff rooms. He removes the light bulbs when a man enters he is unseen. But he is spotted and a fight ensues in which Jackie knocks the man out with a lamp. He thinks he has killed him. He escapes with half a dozen others including Alfie.

When caught the injured man awaits a critical operation in hospital and there may still be a murder charge. Alfie decides to confess to the crime not realising he might hang.

Jackie eventually confesses. His girl says she is happy to wait three years for him.


As the maximum age one could attend a borstal was 18 (i.e. a 19 year old must go to an adult prison), Jackie's three year sentence places him as under 16. His age is not stated. Attenborough was 25/26 at the time of filming, neither he nor any of the other "boys" pass as teenagers. Bogarde was 28.



The film was shot at Pinewood. Associate producer Alfred Roome called it a "near disaster".[5]

Critical reception

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote "the film creditably abstains from exploiting its serious subject in a sensational way," and from the "excellent cast" the critic singled out "Richard Attenborough and Thora Hird, a compelling appearance by Jack Warner as the Governor marred only by a tendency to hang out flags when he is about to deliver a Message; and the "boys" (surely a little old for Borstal?) include Jimmy Hanley, Dirk Bogarde and Michael Medwin";[6] while Time Out wrote "The fairly outspoken (for 1949) script criticises a system portrayed as suffering from cash starvation (echoed by the film's own rock-bottom budget) yet required to cope with hordes of incorrigibles: a recidivism rate of 75 per cent is indicated. It's a blend of cosy stereotypes, reforming zeal and post-war disillusion amounting to a gloomy admonition not to expect very much from life. A British noir, in that sense."[3]


  1. ^ Spicer, Andrew (5 September 2006). Sydney Box. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719059995 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Boys in Brown (1949)".
  3. ^ a b "Boys in Brown". Time Out London.
  4. ^ Wearing, J. P. (22 August 2014). The London Stage 1940-1949: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780810893061 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ McFarlane, Brian (1997). An autobiography of British cinema : as told by the filmmakers and actors who made it. p. 499. ISBN 9780413705204.
  6. ^ "Monthly Film Bulletin review".

External links

This page was last edited on 6 May 2024, at 20:59
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