Went the Day Well? is one of the most unusual pictures Ealing Studios produced,
a distinctly unsentimental war film made in the darkest days of World War II,
and nothing like the loveable comedies that later became the Ealing trademark.
Its clear-eyed view of the potential for violence lurking just below the surface
in a quiet English village possibly owes something to the Graham Greene story
on which it is based, though, as Penelope Houston shows, there remains a
mystery about the extent to which Greene was actually involved in the scripting.
Or perhaps the direction by the Brazilian born Cavalcanti, a maverick within the
Ealing coterie, is the chief reason why Went the Day Well? avoids the cosy feel of
later, more familiar, Ealing films.
In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th
anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series, Geoff Brown pays homage to
Penelope Houston's astute study, and places the book in the context of Went the
Day Well?'s changing critical reception. Brown discusses the non-English
qualities of the film's narrative, and the extent to which Cavalcanti brought a
foreign sensibility to its very English setting.
PENELOPE HOUSTON is a British film critic and journal editor. She was one of the founders of the film journal Sequence, edited Sight & Sound, the journal of the BFI, and was a regular contributor to the Monthly Film Bulletin. She has also been a film critic for The Spectator, deputised as critic for The Times, has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, and is also the author of The Contemporary Cinema (1963) and Keepers of the Frame: Film Archives (1994). GEOFF BROWN, long associated as a critic with The Times, curated BFI Southbank's Cavalcanti retrospective in 2010, edited the book collection Alistair Cooke at the Movies (2009), and has published widely on British cinema. He is an Associate Research Fellow at the Cinema and Television Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester.
Foreword Geoff Brown.- Acknowledgments.- Introduction.- 1 Storylines.- 2 Germans in the Back Garden.- 3 Actuality and Technique.- 4 They Came in Khaki.- 5 A Little Talent and Taste?.- Credits.- Bibliography.