David Lean’s This Happy Breed comes to Blu-ray in outstanding fashion with a newly remastered print that shows the film in all of its Technicolor glory. It follows the Gibbons family from 1919 to 1939, charting the years between both world wars. It’s an intriguing piece, but far from Lean’s best work.
Produced by Noel Coward, This Happy Breed is a 1944 drama which takes a look at the English working class in the years “between the wars”, something of a change of pace from the writer’s usual upper class interests. The film works as a drama, and as a historical piece, but it lacks a compelling narrative in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, This Happy Breed is a good film, but it is also slightly dis-jointed because it tries to cover such an expansive timeframe. Some years last just a few minutes, while others take their time to develop and breathe.
The cast made up of Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway and John Mills give it their all, but at times their physical appearance just doesn’t match with their onscreen age. Mills in particular is miscast as Frank-his performance is good, but he just looks too…ahem..‘mature’.
This Happy Breed is very much a housebound drama, but Lean attempts to open the film up and give it some scope, removing it from its stage origins. He’s successful at this-most of the time, but there may be one dining room scene too many. However, it must be noted that the opening of the film is very impressive, and it makes you think what a man of Lean’s capabilities could do with today’s technology.
This Happy Breed is a worthwhile piece of cinema history, perfect for dedicated movie fans and historians, but not necessarily for the casual viewer.