Title: Love on the Dole
Director: John Baxter
Writer: Walter Greenwood
based on his own novel and Ronald Gow’s play
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cinematography: James Wilson
Editor: Michael C. Chorlton
A pre-kitchen-sink UK drama aiming to boost the morale of British Commonwealth during WWII, LOVE ON THE DOLE most importantly marks British cinema’s grand dame, Deborah Kerr’s very first leading role at a tender age of 19, who sports a cockney accent and still carries some dainty baby fat.
This 1930s Depression-era tale of woe pivots around the mews-dwelling Hardcastle household in Hanky Park, Salford, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle (Carney and Merrall, both are excellent in resisting falling into operatics despite of their stereotyped roles) live in immiseration with their two grown-up children Sally (Kerr) and Harry (Hibbert). When the employment rate hits the nadir, and many are taken off the dole by the Means Test, The Hardcastles’ life is critically hobbled by their financial difficulty, Sally’s impending matrimony with her sweetheart Larry (Evans), an ideal socialist, is abruptly brought to an untimely end by a public demonstration which goes violently awry; and Harry, after marrying his gravid wife Helen (Howard), has an extra burden to carry with the patter of tiny feet and slumps into despondency and despair when no job is available, especially after having won a jackpot and savored a transient flavor of living high on the hog.
But, like in any movies, there is always a way out, the comely Sally gets the attention of a seedy, middle-age bookmaker Sam Grundy (Cellier), so if she is willing to come across, Sam will reward her with material affluence, with two jobs for her father and younger brother, eventually Sally caves in after her marriage plan comes a cropper, after all, under that circumstance, any girl would love to trade their place with her. In her belated fur-donning transformation, Kerr makes an impassioned plea of Sally’s inexorable moral corrupt, against her bemoaning mother and infuriated father, morality can be compromised, but dignity retains, no matter what, Ms. Kerr is definitely a revelation!
Journeyman director John Baxter does a presentable job in this studio-bound commodity, establishes its foggy environs and well-superimposed transitional sequences, but to this reviewer’s lights, it is the risible quartet of biddies (silent film star Marie Ault makes a wonderful impression here) that gingers up the misery with their undimmed force of life, filtering scuttlebutt, passing snide comments and organizing séances, with subterranean libations to smooth over their troubled days, but when it comes to money, every darn pence counts.