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This Happy Breed(1944)
Robert Newton and Celia Johnson are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second.
For more about This Happy Breed and the This Happy Breed Blu-ray release, see This Happy Breed Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Alison Leggatt, Stanley Holloway, John Mills, Kay Walsh
Narrator: Laurence Olivier
Director: David Lean
» See full cast & crew
This Happy Breed Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 23, 2012
David Lean's "This Happy Breed" (1944) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Network. The supplemental features offered with this release include original trailers; restoration comparison; two outstanding South Bank Shows featuring David Lean; various stills; and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Completed two years after In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed is set between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, and tells the story of a working-class family, the Gibbonses, from London.
Frank (Robert Newton, Odd Man Out, The Desert Rats) and Ethel (Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) have just found a handsome new home (which is actually rather old and dampy) in the London suburb of Clapham. They will share it with Ethel's mother, Mrs. Flint (Amy Veness, Oliver Twist), bubbly sister, Sylvia (Alison Leggatt, Far from the Madding Crowd), and their three children, son Reg (John Blythe, Crime Reporter), and daughters Vi (Eileen Erskine) and Queenie (Kay Walsh, Tunes of Glory).
The children grow up and it soon becomes obvious that they will have different priorities in life. Reg befriends Sam (Guy Verney), a passionate liberal who likes Vi, and the two begin attending various demonstrations. Eventually, Sam and Vi get married, while Reg gets a lesson in politics from his conservative father. Queenie then informs the family that she wants a different life and quickly falls in love with a married man. Her announcement shocks her parents and seriously hurts Billy (John Mills, Ice Cold in Alex), the neighbors' son, who has been hoping to marry her.
While the Gibbonses try to sort out their problems, the world rapidly changes. Jazz music rocks the night clubs, the General Strike paralyzes London, and Hitler and the Nazi Party win big in Germany. There is a feeling in the air that another war might be just around the corner.
Based on a play by Noel Coward, This Happy Breed is David Lean's first color film. Like In Which We Serve, it blends propaganda and entertaining melodrama. However, this is the more realistic of the two films, with simpler characters facing common dilemmas.
The dialog is absolutely brilliant. It is sharp, witty, energetic, and at times deliciously sarcastic. The bickering between the women in the house, in particular, is pure gold. There are a couple of sequences where Frank Gibbons and his neighbor Bob Mitchell (Stanley Holloway, The Lavender Hill Mob) get drunk and remember the good old days that are also enormously entertaining.
The title of the film comes from a monologue of John of Gaunt's in Shakespeare's Richard II, act II, scene i. It reads: 'This happy breed of men, this little world, / This precious stone set in the silver sea, / Which serves it in the office of a wall, / Or as a moat defensive to a house, / Against the envy of less happier lands, / This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.'
In 1947, the National Board of Review granted Celia Johnson Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Ethel Gibbons.
Note: The high-definition transfer used for this new Blu-ray release of This Happy Breed uses the BFI National Archives 2008 restoration. The same restoration was used for the film's release in the United States (see Criterion's David Lean Directs Noël Coward box set).
This Happy Breed Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, David Lean's This Happy Breed arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Network.
Fans of David Lean's work residing in Region-B territories will be enormously pleased with the presentation - Network's release uses the same impressive restoration of This Happy Breed Criterion used for their beautiful box set of David Lean films we reviewed here. Most close-ups convey impressive depth, particularly when there is plenty of light, while the wider shots boast pleasing clarity (see screencapture #5). Excluding a few small pulsations, colors are stable and looking fresh (it needs to be said that they are notably warm, as intended by Lean). There are no traces of problematic post-production corrections either. Unsurprisingly, the film has the unique thick look most early Technicolor films have. For the record, there are no large cuts, damage marks, or scratches. All in all, this is a very strong restoration of an excellent film, which Lean fans should be delighted to have in their libraries. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
This Happy Breed Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Network have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical issues to report with the lossless track. Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp and stable. Also, there is no strong background hiss or high-frequency distortions. Obviously, the overall dynamic range is fairly limited, but during some of the demonstrations the brass section does make an impression (see the strike sequence at around 00.31.10). Lastly, there are no pops, cracks, or problematic audio dropouts.
This Happy Breed Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Happy Breed Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British distributors Network's Blu-ray release of This Happy Breed should make fans of David Lean residing in Region-B territories very happy. It uses the BFI National Archives 2008 restoration of the film and comes with two truly fantastic South Bank programs offering an enormous amount of information about the life and legacy of the great director. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
This Happy Breed Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Happy Breed Blu-ray - March 19, 2012
Independent British distributors NetworkDVD will release on Blu-ray director David Lean's This Happy Breed (1944), starring Robert Newton, Celia Johnson and Amy Veness. Exact technical specs, region coding status, and supplemental features to be included on this ...
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