Waterloo Road (1944 with John Mills and Stewart Granger)

UK / 1944

Director: Sidney Gilliat
Writer: Sidney Gilliat (from a story by Val Valentine)

Cast: John Mills, Stewart Granger, Alastair Sim, Joy Shelton, Beatrice Varley, Alison Leggatt, Arthur Denton, Vera Frances, Leslie Bradley, Ben Williams, George Carney, Anna Konstam, Dennis Harkin, Jean Kent

Sidney Gilliat’s lauded drama stars John Mills and Joy Shelton as Jim and Lillie Colter, a young couple wrenched apart by war.

It’s the height of the Blitz. Jim is away at boot camp while Lillie suffocates in her husband’s crowded family household, populated by Ma Colter (Beatrice Varley), Jim’s sisters Ruby (Alison Leggatt) and Vera (Vera Frances), Ruby’s husband Fred (Arthur Denton) and lodger Tom Mason (George Carney). Feeling swamped, frustrated and neglected, she’s the perfect target for local draft-dodging philanderer Ted Purvis (Stewart Granger), who woos pretty Lillie in the dance-halls and pin-table pubs around Waterloo station.

When Ruby writes to her brother, informing him of Lillie’s imminent betrayal, Jim immediately goes AWOL, heading back to his home turf to sort out his marriage. With military police and Ted’s violent mates lurking around every corner, however, finding Lillie in the hustle and bustle of the South London community is a hairy business. But with the help of friendly Dr Montgomery (Alastair Sim), Jim finally catches up with his wife and her backstabbing beau, and as another air-raid begins, the two men launch into a vicious fight. Jim eventually knocks out his opponent and makes up with Lillie before handing himself in to the army authorities.

Waterloo Road was Gilliat’s follow-up to Millions Like Us – a brilliant, understated piece in which a biting drama builds out of the everyday existence of war-torn Britain. Here, writer and director Gilliat retains the no-frills formula to similar effect, creating what the Daily Telegraph described as “A tough, exciting little story, told with sympathy and humour.”

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