An Inspector Calls
An Inspector Calls (1954 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGuy Hamilton
Written byDesmond Davis
Based onAn Inspector Calls
by J.B. Priestley
Produced byA. D. Peters
StarringAlastair Sim
Jane Wenham
Eileen Moore
CinematographyTed Scaife
Edited byAlan Osbiston
Music byFrancis Chagrin
Production
company
Watergate Productions
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
  • 16 March 1954 (1954-03-16)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

An Inspector Calls is a 1954 British drama film directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Alastair Sim, Jane Wenham and Eileen Moore. It is based upon the 1945 play An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley and was adapted for the screen by Desmond Davis. It was shot at Shepperton Studios with sets designed by the art director Joseph Bato.

Plot

The film is set in 1912. Five well-dressesd people sit at a dining table at the end of a dinner party. They are the upper class Birling family and their friends. They drink champagne. Gerald Croft proposes to the daughter, Sheila. Mother chastises Eric, the son, for drinking too much. Father discusses the likelihood of war and after the meal discusses his possible knighthood with Gerald over port and cigars.

They are interrupted by a man calling himself Inspector Poole, investigating the suicide of a working class girl Eva Smith whose death is linked to each family member.[1] Eva has poisoned herself. She left a diary. Eva was one of Mr Birling's workers in his factory.

The film goes in flashback to 1910 and we see Eva working in the machine shop in his factory. She goes with a group of women to demand a pay increase from 22/6 to 25/- per week. Birling refuses and tells them to find another job if they are unhappy.

Back in the Birling house the father cannot see what any of this has to do with him. The inspector explains that after a period of unemployment she went to work at Lilworth's but was dismissed after 2 months after a customer complained. It becomes clear that this was Sheila.

The film goes into a second flashback. Sheila is trying to choose a hat with her mother. Sheila accuses Eva of being rude for smiling as she struggles to fit the hat and demands she is dismissed.

Sheila explains she was jealous of her looks. The inspector says Eva then changed her name to Daisy Renton, to which Gerald looks shocked. Gerald confesses to Sheila that he had an affair with Daisy beginning in March 1911. The next revelation is that Eric has a drinking problem. Gerald says he met Daisy at the Palace Variety Show and we enter a third flashback in the bar where he tricks the man she was with to leave and takes his seat. He takes her for a meal and, finding she is homeless, lets her use his townhouse and gives her money to survive on. It develops into an affair, but he does not go out with her in public. She breaks it off as she feels he just felt sorry for her.

Next, it is revealed that Mrs Birling refused Eva charity in her role as chairwoman of a charity committee. The refusal was on the grounds that Eva gave the name Birling and claims her husband left her. She is pregnant.

Finally, Eric is shown to have met Eva on a tram. They have an affair and Eva falls pregnant. He steals money to support her but she refuses it. This is when she goes to Mrs Birling but is turned down.

In summary, each person is partially responsible for Eva's death.

Gerald asks a policeman outside and discovers there is no "Inspector Poole" in that town. He goes back into the house to challenge Poole. They send Poole to wait in the library while they discuss it. They all feel partially unburdened of their guilt except Sheila. They decide to turn it all round to avoid a scandal and realise there is no evidence. They also realise the photo of the girl was only shown to one at a time. Gerald phone's the infirmary to check the girl is really dead, but is told no-one died. It is all a strange scam. Mr and Mrs Birling decide to go back to how they were, though Sheila and Eric are permanently changed.

Then the phone rings. A girl has just died at the infirmary and an inspector is on his way. In the library Poole has vanished.

Cast

Production

This section possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (April 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

An Inspector Calls was filmed at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, under the auspices of the Watergate Productions Ltd.[2]

In the original play, the Inspector's name was Inspector Goole.[3]

Although the play never shows Eva Smith, the film opens in flashbacks that show each member of the family's involvement in Smith's life.

In the play, Eva is first sacked for being involved in a strike; in the film, she is simply sacked for suggesting that the wages requested were necessary to live on. Similarly, in the play, Sheila is trying on a dress when the incident with Eva occurs in the shop; in the film, the incident is over a hat.

In the play, the Inspector is ushered in by the maid, while in the film he simply appears suddenly in the dining room as if from nowhere, accompanied by an ominous chord in the background music. In the middle of the film, he inspects his pocket watch and asks Eric to enter the room. He states he has just heard Eric come through the door; however, Eric does come through the door before this.

Reception

C. A. Lejeune, film critic of The Observer, recommended the film; despite its lack of technical polish, its slow pace and often trite dialogue, she found it thought-provoking.[4]

References

  1. ^ A.W. (26 November 1954). "An Inspector Calls (1954) At the Plaza". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  2. ^ "An Inspector Calls (1954)".
  3. ^ "An Inspector Calls". The Internet Broadway Database. 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2008.
  4. ^ Lejeune, C A (14 March 1954). "GUILTY PARTY". The Observer.