It’s the day of the staff Christmas party at the mammoth London West End department store of Bunting and Hobbs (the film was shot in the real London department store of Bourne & Hollingsworth on Oxford Street, which closed in 1983), and the shopping rush is in full swing.
John Guillermin’s vivacious postwar ensemble piece follows five shopgirls and their men through romance, heartbreak and scandalous pregnancy out of wedlock over a period of just 24 hours.
Peggy (Joan Rice), a comely assistant in furnishings, and Leslie (John Gregson), a happy-go-lucky salesman, are genuinely in love, but Peggy resents Leslie’s preoccupation with old crock motors. They quarrel during business hours, but kindly personnel manager Philip Stanton (Cyril Raymond) prevents Leslie from getting the sack.
Yvonne (Josephine Griffin), the pretty cosmetics trainee, has loved a young blue-blood not wisely but too well, and when his haughty mother prevents their marriage, she contemplates suicide.
Other girls, too, have their troubles, and all are pestered by Mrs Morgan (Freda Jackson), a ruthless overseer and awkward customers, but after the hubbub of the Christmas sales, culminating in a staff party, most of their problems are happily resolved.
The comedy-drama picture boasts multiple great female performances and has many threads but succeeds in tightly weaving them into a concise, comprehensive and thoroughly diverting whole. Sid James, Dora Bryan, Thora Hird, Prunella Scales, Dandy Nichols and Joan Hickson turn up in small cameos.
Adapted by Talbot Rothwell from a story by John Paddy Carstairs, the film failed to cover its costs since Adelphi Films – a small independent studio – found themselves unable to negotiate a satisfactory distribution deal with the big exhibitors. Intended (and financed) as an A-feature, it only ever received a limited release as part of a double bill.
Released in some markets as Shop Soiled.
Mr Stanton’s Secretary
Mr Bunting’s Friend
Totti Truman Taylor