Hope and Glory is director John Boorman’s autobiographical look at growing up as a young boy in London during the brutal bombing that the city received at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The movie begins with a shot of the Rohan family’s prized radio and cuts to a matinee full of rowdy youngsters ignoring a newsreel on air-raid safety precautions before giving full attention to a Hopalong Cassidy Western.
When Clive Rohan (David Hayman) goes off to war – determined it will all be over by Christmas – his wife Grace (Sarah Miles) is left to cope on the home front with their three children, teenager Dawn (Sammi Davis) and young Bill (Sebastian Rice-Edwards) and Sue (Geraldine Muir).
Clive’s best friend, Mac (Derrick O’Connor) – a former beau of Grace – spends a lot of time at the Rohans’ house after his own wife, Molly (Susan Wooldridge), runs off with a Polish aviator. With their own spouses out of the picture, Grace and Mac begin to fall in love again but do not act on their feelings.
We see much of the film through the innocent eyes of Bill for whom the whole thing – air-raid shelters, gas masks, rubble, shrapnel – is more magical and exciting than any movie.
And the kids don’t want to miss it, even when Mum tries to evacuate them to Australia.
Dawn sneaks out of the house at night for trysts with Canadian soldier Corporal Bruce Carrey (Jean-Marc Barr) and soon ﬁnds herself pregnant. Bruce goes AWOL to marry her but is arrested by the military police right after the wedding.
The riverside home of Grace’s father, Grandfather George (Ian Bannen) makes for a charming and magical location and the eccentric George is neither loveable or an old git but a very human and winning combination of these and other qualities.
At the end of the summer, Billy has to return to his old school in suburban London but joyfully discovers that it has been destroyed by a stray Nazi bomb. Billy shouts, “Thank you, Adolf!” and in a voice-over the adult Bill recalls, “In all my life, nothing ever quite matched the perfect joy of that moment. My school lay in ruins and the river beckoned with the promise of stolen days”.
Boorman did not spare even the smallest detail in his recreation of England’s capital during the 40s, bringing home beautifully the horrific reality of The Blitz. He apparently recreated the suburban street of his memories on the former Wisley Airﬁeld in Surrey (10 miles southwest of London). The entire set covered 50 acres, making it the largest movie set built in the UK since the early 1960s.
The film received six Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture.
In aerial attacks during World War II, 61,000 British civilians died. It’s no wonder the nostalgia of that period retains such powerful memories for the British.
Sebastian Rice Edwards
Corporal Bruce Carrey