Love on the Dole (1941) Poster

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Deborah Kerr's first starring role
drednm6 May 2012
This 1941 British film was believed lost for decades. Where a copy was finally found I have no idea. But let's be thankful this grim and gritty film survives for 2 reasons: it's Deborah Kerr's first starring role in a film, and the chronicle of slum-life outside Manchester in 1930 is beautifully done.

Kerr plays Sally, a teenager who lives with her parents and her 17-year-old brother (Geoffrey Hibbert). The family makes do as the Depression goes along with the kids more worried about love and marriage than earning a living. But then the father's work week is cut to 3 days and the son is let go after he finishes his apprenticeship.

Kerr's idealistic boyfriend gets killed in a street riot when the government starts cutting back on unemployment checks and welfare. The son's girlfriend gets pregnant but no one can afford to feed and care for the youngsters.

As things gets worse and worse, Kerr finally gives in to a wealthy bookie (Frank Cellier) and becomes his "housekeeper" with a promise to get jobs for her father and brother. Kerr is shunned by the neighbors, her reputation is ruined, but the family survives.

Amid the grim surroundings are some wonderful vignettes. The son wins some money on a horse race, but instead of saving it he does as his father suggests and blows the money on a trip for him and his girl friends to Blackpool. As the father says, it'll give him something wonderful to look back on all his life.

Another subplot concerns a gaggle of old ladies, led by an agent for a pawn shop who measures out sharp advice along with shots of booze at threepence a drink. They serve as a sort of Greek Chorus, making comments on everything that happens in the neighborhood.

Kerr, at age 20, radiates warmth despite the harsh story. Hibbert is also excellent as the stoic brother. George Carney and Nary Merrall score as the hapless parents. Clifford Evans plays the doomed boy friend. Marie Ault, Marjorie Rhodes, Maire O'Neill, and Iris Vandeleur are terrific as the old ladies. The final speech, given by Merrall is a high point of the film. Joyce Howard is the pregnant girl friend.

I suppose there are many similarities between this story and Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH. What struck me, however, is how the political story of the working poor in 1930s England has so many parallels to our current recession.

This is one to search for.
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Just getting by
bkoganbing27 August 2013
Love On The Dole was Deborah Kerr's third film and the second one where it was British social inequality. I have to say this film completely took me by surprise. Given the title I was expecting some frothy comedy about young people in love trying to make ends meet on public assistance with a happy ending. This film was anything but what I described.

Kerr starred in this coming off Major Barbara which took a less intense view of some of the same issues. Love On The Dole wasn't exactly peppered with Shavian type wit. It makes its points in a far more serious vein.

Not only did the title throw me for a loop, it is one of the most depressing pictures you'll ever see. It's about the United Kingdom during the Depression, set during the early Thirties. The Hardcastle family with father George Carney, mother Mary Merrall and grown children Deborah Kerr and Geoffrey Hibbert are just getting by. Father gets laid off and they go on the dole.

Not after a taste of the good life when Hibbert wins on a longshot bet with bookmaker Frank Cellier and he takes his girlfriend Joyce Howard to the resort in Blackpool and Kerr and her young man Clifford Evans comes along as well. Evans has all kinds of ideas that would find a home in the very left part of the Labour Party and he'd like to marry Kerr, but finances are against it.

In the end Kerr makes a critical decision to take her out of her slum neighborhood and the drab life she can look forward to. Believe me this is a decision you would never see in any American film of that era.

Love On The Dole is as drab as the area and people it portrays. But by no means is it bad. In fact it's one of the most realistic of films you'll ever see.
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A look at life in North West England in the Depression
chris_gaskin12327 March 2006
Love On the Dole gives you an idea on what life was like in the North West in 1930, during the Depression. This is quite a good movie.

It focuses on a family of four where the dad works in a coal mine. The daughter works in a mill and falls in love with a factory worker, but is killed after getting involved in a fight during a demonstration. She then meets someone else and she gets him to give jobs to her dad and brother, who have both been made redundant.

This movie reminds me of early episodes of Coronation Street that I've seen, even though it was made long before that soap was first broadcast (and both long before I was born!).

The cast includes Deborah Kerr and Clifford Evans.

If you like old British movies, this is recommended.

Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
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"They Can Take Away Our Jobs But They Can't Take Away Our Love"!!!
kidboots20 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I can remember reading "Love On the Dole" over 30 years ago and being moved so much by the story of the Hardcastles and the complete poverty and mass unemployment of the slum area where survival needed superhuman strength. It was written in 1933 when the depression was very real and when it was adapted for the stage in 1934 by the author Walter Greenwood (Wendy Hiller played Sally) the play was a huge success - Larry's "real" speeches and the contemporary social themes were very new to British audiences. Still the British Board of Censors thought the story too sordid to be filmed but it was finally done in 1941 when the War made the world a very different place.

Hanky Park in 1930 is a grim and poverty stricken district on the outskirts of Manchester where people strive to live decently in the face of overwhelming poverty. On Monday morning the pawnshop is the most popular shop in town as wives pawn boots, coats and clothes to pay for food and rent that their husband's meager wages won't cover.

Sally Hardcastle (a young and beautiful Deborah Kerr) wants something better and is drawn to Larry Meath, a young speaker with the Labor party. The film is dotted with several stirring speeches where he implores the workers to rise up in peace not war. It was interesting to see when Sally's younger brother, Harry, won 22 quid on the horses, his first thoughts were not to put it aside for a rainy day but to spend it - his father advises him to take his girl, Helen (pretty Joyce Howard) on a holiday to Blackpool - "it will be something you can always look back on". So Harry does and to both of them Blackpool is a fairy land of electric lights, fun and games and the luxury of a bathroom. At the end of the week all the money is gone and they return to Hanky Park, grimly determined to grab any chance to leave the slum. In another part of the movie Larry is explaining money to the mob - the movie seems to indicate that the poor don't know how to manage money, they equate money with being able to spend it and what it can buy them.

After a bit of happiness comes sorrow. Harry finishing off his apprenticeship is laid off (nothing much changes in the world) unable to get work and with Helen pregnant, even though in despair he does not succumb to the tantalizing temptation of easy money and free cigarettes offered by a poolroom hood. By the end Sally's dreams are dust (Larry has been killed in a street riot) and she bows to the persistent pressure of Sam Grundy, the local bookmaker, who in return for her services as a "housekeeper" promises to help her family.

The ending has a double meaning I think - in 1930 Mrs Hardcastle's impassioned speech could only have been about the worker banding together to conquer poverty and unemployment but in 1941, as the camera pans the skies, it is more about keeping Britain strong and invincible against an encroaching enemy.
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Love on the Dole, on the Dole
frankiehudson12 July 2004
This is a typical BBC2 or Channel 4 afternoon offering: British, black and white, at least 40 years old and just what you'd watch if you are indeed on the dole.

It reminds me of This Happy Breed (1944), featuring working class people and their daily struggle for survival in a class-ridden society, only this time it's the Great Depression in the Welsh valleys. They face temptations, peer hostility if they do not conform to the norm, and total frustration (though in this case alleviated by a seaside visit to Blackpool, that epitome of Englishness).

It is actually a very political film, containing a violent clash between the unemployed demonstrators and the stubborn, violent police. Presumably the prime minister of the day - Winston Churchill - would have loved this film as he battered the workers himself a few times.

John Baxter, the director, was never a household name, probably because of his strange, expressionist editing which is unusual for any British film, let alone this offering from the war years. However, there are some advanced - for 1941 - special effects.

The film could have benefited from some outside, location shooting down in south Wales, too. Somewhere like Ferndale, perhaps.
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Not all gloom and agitprop
Charlot474 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Brings home, probably without exaggeration, the misery of life in Salford in the early 1930s. The Hardcastle family, decent working folk who have always sought to live honestly and respectably, suffer blow after blow.

The father goes on short time and then loses his job. The son, first laid off and then losing the dole, can't provide for his pregnant girl friend. The mother quietly pawns more and more of their few belongings. The daughter, beautiful Deborah Kerr, keeps in work but loses her socialist boy friend, killed by the police as he tried to stop unemployed men rioting. In despair, she agrees to become the mistress of a rich bookmaker in return for him securing jobs for her father and brother. Shamelessly, as she is effectively a whore, she takes a taxi to the now bare family home in feathered hat, perm, jewels, tailored suit and furs.

Ideologically the film proposes gradual socialism through better education, a formula adopted by the UK a few years later. But happily it is not all gloom and agitprop. Many vignettes of working class life shed light on how people lived and coped, with shafts of wit. And when the son wins what was then the fortune of £22 on a bet, he takes his girl for the holiday of a lifetime, which is a week at Blackpool in a boarding house with, wait for it, a bathroom!
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Bleak and atmospheric
shakercoola8 July 2019
A British drama; A story set in Salford, England during the depression. A proud miner struggles to provide for his family, while his daughter fends off the advances of two men: a kindly Labour Party representative, and an oily bookmaker. Tightly scripted and deeply affecting, it deals with the theme of a classic 1930s dilemma: escape poverty or keep faith with the morality of her class and Lancashire values. The film resonates with strong feeling for the genuine harshness and brutal truths of poverty and unemployment. There are all round good performances, especially Deborah Kerr who is subtly affecting in her portrayal of personal conflict, and Geoffrey Hibbert who plays his part with innocence and remarkable poignance. While the film has a gloomy feel, it also has comic relief as well as pathos and there is a heartfelt feeling throughout the different sub plots, and avoids mawkishness and over-sentimentality. As an aside, this was an adaptation of the Walter Greenwood novel, scripted by himself, and was censored up until its release for its "sordid" story and comment on social conditions. The film reinforced the view at the time that Britain and its working classes had survived such hardships and would survive others. The outbreak of war was one of the main catalysts for change in housing conditions in communities like "Hankey Park" due to full employment and a government landslide in 1946.
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Couldnt be made when relevant
malcolmgsw28 August 2019
There were a number of potential films that were unmade until war was declared,and this was one.Directed by one of the great British directors,John Baxter.Starring Deborah Kerr on her way to the top,without as claimed in another review a cockney accent.
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when it comes to money, every darn pence counts!
lasttimeisaw10 April 2019
A pre-kitchen-sink UK drama aiming to boost the morale of British Commonwealth during WWII, LOVE ON THE DOLE most importantly marks British cinema's grand dame, Deborah Kerr's very first leading role at a tender age of 19, who sports a cockney accent and still carries some dainty baby fat.

This 1930s Depression-era tale of woe pivots around the mews-dwelling Hardcastle household in Hanky Park, Salford, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle (Carney and Merrall, both are excellent in resisting falling into operatics despite of their stereotyped roles) live in immiseration with their two grown-up children Sally (Kerr) and Harry (Hibbert). When the employment rate hits the nadir, and many are taken off the dole by the Means Test, The Hardcastles' life is critically hobbled by their financial difficulty, Sally's impending matrimony with her sweetheart Larry (Evans), an ideal socialist, is abruptly brought to an untimely end by a public demonstration which goes violently awry; and Harry, after marrying his gravid wife Helen (Howard), has an extra burden to carry with the patter of tiny feet and slumps into despondency and despair when no job is available, especially after having won a jackpot and savored a transient flavor of living high on the hog.

But, like in any movies, there is always a way out, the comely Sally gets the attention of a seedy, middle-age bookmaker Sam Grundy (Cellier), so if she is willing to come across, Sam will reward her with material affluence, with two jobs for her father and younger brother, eventually Sally caves in after her marriage plan comes a cropper, after all, under that circumstance, any girl would love to trade their place with her. In her belated fur-donning transformation, Kerr makes an impassioned plea of Sally's inexorable moral corrupt, against her bemoaning mother and infuriated father, morality can be compromised, but dignity retains, no matter what, Ms. Kerr is definitely a revelation!

Journeyman director John Baxter does a presentable job in this studio-bound commodity, establishes its foggy environs and well-superimposed transitional sequences, but to this reviewer's lights, it is the risible quartet of biddies (silent film star Marie Ault makes a wonderful impression here) that gingers up the misery with their undimmed force of life, filtering scuttlebutt, passing snide comments and organizing séances, with subterranean libations to smooth over their troubled days, but when it comes to money, every darn pence counts.
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Honesty at last
JurorNumberThirteen5 November 2019
Absolutely stunning movie, finally a true representation of life of the working families of the 30's. A scandal that they could not get this film made in the 30's because it's story was regarded as sordid and dangerous by the board of censors. If like me you come from working class families who lived through that era, the stories this film tells are true. The movie must have been shockingly brutal to the establishment and credit to the producer's for taking it on. The downside to the movie is the acting and the direction. The accent's are awful but actors then had to have a clipped middle england accent to get work. I loved the film especially the 4 old ladies holding court on the street. Special mention must go to Marjorie Rhodes character, Mrs Bull who's savage honesty of each situation was a breath of fresh air in the acrid atmosphere of relentless poverty.
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The hopeless agony of working class misery.
WesternOne110 October 2019
This is a gloomy chronicle of a family in a perpetual poverty cycle, where the older folks remember better times, but things get steadily worse as the years roll on. The townsfolk are mean and ragged, their houses are dark and shabby, and as employment disappears, and then their dole gets cut and eliminated, all their illusions about decency and respectibility are shattered. A hero of sorts shows up, a clean cut, soft-spoken Labour agitator. He gives street corner sermons of socialism and wins the girl's heart before a martyr's fade-out. The one bright spot is a short holiday to Blackpool, before we come to a crisis of daughter's morals. It's like a leftist "Hindle Wakes." This is the sort of angst-choked melodrama that lead to the "Kitchen Sink" dramas of the next two decades. Bathetic, unhappy stories of lower class life can always be palmed off as "realistic", and if you can get in some censorship controversy, it's a success! It seems to me that this film, about mass unemployment, would seem ill-timed when the nation at war was so worker starved that women were being drafted, but it is likely intended to raise support for the Beveridge plan, as a reminder of what might come again, post-war, if the government doesn't step in.
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Poor English slums
HotToastyRag2 April 2018
If you're looking to watch a very young Deborah Kerr movie, or if you like movies about how life is terrible in English slums, look no further than Love on the Dole. If your motivation is something other than the abovementioned factors, you might want to pick out something else for tonight's entertainment.

As is the setting for many of these types of English dramas, the main family is incredibly poor during the Great Depression. As the children grow up, they dream about getting married and starting families of their own, but when the patriarch and son lose their jobs, money is tight and fantasies are replaced by realities. How will they make ends meet, and what will Deborah Kerr, the teenaged daughter, do to help them?

It's a pretty depressing story, but that's to be expected, given the setup. Deborah Kerr is given a complex character to show off her acting chops in one of her first major roles, but I can't really recommend watching this one unless you love her more than life itself and want to watch every single one of her movies. Watch I See a Dark Stranger for a young Deborah Kerr role in a movie that isn't nearly as depressing.
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