Women in prison and women in dressing gowns: rediscovering the 1950s films of J. Lee Thompson

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British cinema of the 1950s has recently been the subject of substantial reappraisal which has sought to rescue it from its former image as dull and reactionary. However, one thing that has stayed the same is the notion of this period of British cinema as male-dominated, particularly through the critical focus on the war film genre. An analysis of director J. Lee Thompson's career in the 1950s provides an interesting corrective to this. Thompson's films focus predominantly on women, particularly those who do not or cannot fit in with accepted modes of female behaviour. These include two films about women in prison, The Weak and The Wicked (1953) and Yield To The Night (1956), and one about an unhappy housewife, Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957). This article also discusses Thompson's contribution to the war film, Ice Cold In Alex (1958), which interestingly, is one of the few examples of the genre to give a central role to a female character. Although the personnel behind these films are mainly men, including Thompson himself, these films powerfully expose the contradictions and problems in constructions of femininity at the time, and merit more critical attention than they have previously received.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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