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Constructing a national cinema in Britain

Higson, Andrew (1990) Constructing a national cinema in Britain. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86058) (KAR id:86058)


This exploration of British cinema as a national cinema looks at various cultural, political and industrial responses to the dominant presence of Hollywood, including competition, collusion, protectionism and product differentiation. Introductory chapters survey debates about British cinema, and offer an overview of the film industry and intellectual film culture in Britain since the 1920s. The first of three historically specific case studies looks at Hepworth's Collin' Thro' The Rye (1924) in the context of the 'heritage genre'; its pictorialism and 'primitive' narrational qualities are seen as a coherent attempt to establish an English art cinema which can display the 'national past'. The second study contrasts the activities of one of the majors attempting to break into the American market with films which emulate the Hollywood style (Evergreen (1934), starring Jessie Matthews, is the example used) with an 'independent' making broad musical comedies for the domestic market (Sing As We Go (1934), starring Gracie Fields, is the example used). The final case study concentrates on the influence of the documentary movement of the 1930s on the 'melodrama of everyday life' in the mid-1940s, focussing on two critical and box-office successes, Millions Like Us (1943) and This Happy Breed (1944); the episodic, multiple narratives, the play with both the 'public gaze' of documentary and the subjective point of view of narrative cinema, and the realist detail of these films produces an image of the nation as a knowable community. These analyses reveal distinctive modes of narration and uses of space, and a distinctive way of articulating the public and the private in the British films most self-consciously differentiated from Hollywood. Although the various films examined seem quite different, they have a surprisingly consistent way of imagining the community of the nation, its history, and the space which it occupies, often within the tradition of pastoral.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86058
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: British cinema as a national cinema
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature on music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:26 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 09:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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