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The Halfway House

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Halfway House
British quad poster
Directed byBasil Dearden
Written byAngus MacPhail
Diana Morgan
Based onplay The Peaceful Inn by Dennis Ogden
Produced byMichael Balcon
StarringMervyn Johns
Glynis Johns
Tom Walls
Françoise Rosay
CinematographyWilkie Cooper
Edited byCharles Hasse
Music byLord Berners
Color processBlack and white
Distributed byABPC (UK)
Release dates
  • 14 April 1944 (1944-04-14) (London)
  • 5 June 1944 (1944-06-05) (UK [1] film date)
  • 12 August 1945 (1945-08-12) (New York City)
Running time
95 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Halfway House is a 1944 British drama film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Mervyn Johns, his daughter Glynis Johns, Tom Walls and Françoise Rosay.[3] The film tells the story of ten people who are drawn to stay in an old Welsh countryside inn. Location scenes were shot at Barlynch Priory on the Devon/Somerset border.[3]

BFI Screenonline writes, "The high-quality personnel involved and the tight, professional scripting mark the film out as one of the earliest templates of what would become the traditional Ealing style."[4]

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During World War II, various people converge on the Halfway House, an inn in the Welsh countryside. In the previous scenes, we see the events that led them there. In Cardiff, David Davies, a famous orchestral conductor, is advised by his doctor to cancel a tour and rest. In London, Richard French and his wife Jill argue over their young daughter Joanna, who overhears them from outside discussing divorce. At Parkmoor Prison, Captain Fortescue, a thief expelled from the service, is released. In a Welsh port, merchant captain Harry Meadows and his wife Alice quarrel about their deceased son, a victim of a U-boat attack. Black marketeer Oakley departs from London for some fishing, while Margaret and her Irish fiancé Terence take a train from Bristol.

At the inn, the proprietor Rhys seems to materialise out of thin air. He tells a puzzled Fortescue that he was expected. When Oakley signs the register, he notices a long gap after the last signature, dated a year earlier. In the course of the day, the other guests arrive and register. A series of odd occurrences unfolds. For example, on being served tea, Alice Meadows is shocked to see no reflection of Rhys in a mirror. Outside the inn, Fortescue and Oakley notice that Gwyneth, Rhys's daughter, casts no shadow, though Joanna, standing nearby, does. Meanwhile, in an effort to reunite her parents, Joanna arranges a fake near-drowning, with the help of Captain Meadows. It nearly goes awry.

At dinner, Rhys relates how the inn was bombed and destroyed by German aeroplanes exactly a year previously. While helping Gwyneth wash the dishes afterwards, she tells Davies "you're coming our way". He understands. Alice arranges a seance, much to her husband's disapproval. During it, he deliberately turns on the radio, to a programme where serving members of the armed forces send vocal messages to family back home, and for a few seconds Alice thinks it's her son. When they realise the truth, a devastated Alice storms out. When the others berate the captain for his horrible trick, he tells them that he just wants his son to rest in peace. Rhys suggests he tell his wife this; he does and the couple are reconciled. Then, radio broadcasts from 1942 convince everyone they have travelled a year back in time. Rhys explains they are all there because they need a pause to consider their lives. The air raid proceeds as Rhys described. Richard French's paramount concern for his wife and Joanna's safety reunites them, while both Fortescue and Oakley repent their criminal ways. The guests leave behind a demolished inn.



The film premiered in London at the Regal, Marble Arch on 14 April 1944,[1] and The Times reviewer wrote: "The film elusively obtains its effects when it appears to be least striving after them, and an occasional frisson is achieved by acute touches of direction which light up not only depths of human tension and unhappiness, but also unobtrusively reckon with their cause—the war."[5]

George Perry wrote in Forever Ealing (1981), "No matter how well-acted, the fantasy is hard to sustain and never develops beyond a theatrical morality tale."[6] The Huffington Post reviewer disagreed, writing "I really can't recommend The Halfway House enough: unlike the more overt Ealing war films (which this resembles in many ways, not least the disparate group coming together and working together), this is subtler propaganda, and its overarching supernatural atmosphere is well done. Apart from that, however, it offers strong character portraits, great visual flourishes, and another solid turn from [Mervyn] Johns."[7] Flickering Myth called it "an unseen and unappreciated classic of British cinema".[8]


  1. ^ a b The Times, 14 April 1944, page 6: "Picture Theatres, Regal, The Halfway House".
  2. ^ BBFC: The Halfway House (1944) Accessed 6 September 2015
  3. ^ a b "The Halfway House". BFI. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012.
  4. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Halfway House, The (1944)".
  5. ^ The Times, 17 April 1944, page 2: "New films in London - Regal", The Halfway House
  6. ^ "The Halfway House". Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  7. ^ "The Great Ealing Film Challenge 48: The Halfway House (1944)". The Huffington Post UK. 28 February 2012.
  8. ^ "DVD Review - The Halfway House (1944) - Flickering Myth". Flickering Myth. 6 June 2011.

External links

This page was last edited on 6 November 2023, at 21:34
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