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Waterloo Road (1944, John Mills, Stewart Granger)

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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.’

production details
UK | 73 minutes | 1945

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

cast
Leslie Bradley as Mike Duggan
Alastair Sim as Dr. Montgomery
Jean Kent as Toni
Stewart Granger as Ted Purvis
Beatrice Varley as Mrs. Colter
Ben Williams as Cpl Lewis
John Mills as Jim Colter
Alison Leggatt as Ruby
George Carney as Tom Mason
Joy Shelton as Tillie Colter

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