UK / 1968
Director: Norman Cohen
Writer: Johnny Speight (based on his own TV series)
Cast: Warren Mitchell, Dandy Nichols, Una Stubbs, Anthony Booth, Liam Redmond, Bill Maynard, Brian Blessed, Sam Kydd, Frank Thornton, Cleo Sylvestre, Pat Coombs
When writer Johnny Speight first came up with the concept of Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell), he saw him as an anti-everyman encompassing much of what is bad in traditional Britain. However, the racist, loud-mouthed, wife-abusing and right-wing Garnett instead became a runaway success who received the accolade of complaints being made against him by Mary Whitehouse and quite a few politicians, all seemingly oblivious to the clear use of irony…
In America, the success of Till Death Do Us Part was duplicated with the Bunker family in All in the Family.
Garnett’s character is more fully explored by Speight in this feature film. He takes Garnett from the war, in which he malingered, avoided war service, fiddled his rations and generally behaved without honour, through the post-war years in which his marriage to Dandy Nichols produced daughter Una Stubbs, to the family’s move from the bombed-out slums of Wapping to the ‘respectability’ of the suburbs.
En route, Speight introduces situations such as football matches, drunken weddings, the dubious joys of outside toilets and meetings with people of different races that provide Garnett with the material for the bigoted rants that became such a feature of the TV series.
It’s an irony in itself that, for some critics, Speight’s attempts to show Garnett’s essential weakness and hypocrcisy were at the time interpreted by some as doing a fine job of rounding out the character and lending him a sympathetic edge.
Said Variety: “Warren Mitchell, as Garnett, carries most of the load as the uncouth, cantankerous, arrogant, stupid ‘monster’, but Dandy Nichols gives splendidly pianissimo support as his resigned, long-suffering, slightly stupid wife.” For Time Out: “In its favour, it preserves the original characterisations at something like full strength [as the TV series].” Motion Picture Guide says that it is “Worth a look.”