The Woman's War
Simple fact, if they had shown us war movies during history lessons at school not only would I have found it interesting but I would have learned something. I am not on about movies such as "The Great Escape", although as a teen film fan I would have loved it, but movies such as "Millions Like Us" which deliver a slice of life during wartime in Britain. Here we have a movie which centres on a character of Celia Crowson and we see through her experiences what war was like, what it was like before the bombing started, what it was like going to work in a military factory and what it was like on a personal level. It is entertaining, occasionally comical but also seriously educational as it highlights certain aspects of the war not covered in big war movies.
Now to be honest whilst "Millions Like Us" centres on the character of Celia Crowson it doesn't so much have a storyline but is a slice of life starting with just before the war really gets going. As such we have this picture of the Crowson family life, 3 generations living in the same home going on their annual family holiday to the same seaside B & B where the owner knows them from their annual visits. We also see how when the war starts the family changes a bit, Tom Crowson goes to war so his sister Celia looks after his children and the home whilst his wife Elsie goes to work. It is Celia who makes sure that her dad's slippers are by the hearth and a meal is on the table when he returns home after work or from an evening on Home Guard duty whilst her sister Phyllis, being older, is entertaining the troops.
But the real focus of "Millions Like Us" starts when Celia gets her call up as a single woman and envisions a dream job but gets assigned to a factory away from home where she makes parts for planes. Immediately we realise that the women were a diverse bunch, some rich some not, some from England others from Wales and for those who had lived a sheltered life like Celia it was an emotional change to be living in a hostel with other women. We also get to see life in the factory most significantly the procedure when the air raid warning goes and they are signalled what to do by a change in music, working up until it is absolutely necessary for them to take shelter. All of which is both entertaining and educational, allowing those of us to young to know what it was like to get an idea of how things were.
And on top of this the story evolves into a more personal one as Celia meets Fred from the RAF and they fall in love. It is pleasant and amusing as he is nervous when asking her out but also educational such as when he is forced to break a date and unable to give her a reason as he is about to take a secret flight over Germany. This romantic storyline evolves to deliver a very personal look at how war affected those who fell in love and without giving too much away it is both touching and hard hitting.
As such praise should go Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder who both wrote and directed "Millions Like Us" because they manage to deliver a movie which manages to mix the reality of the war effort in Britain with just the right amount of humour to make an entertaining yet educational movie. They also had a brilliant star in Patricia Roc because as Celia Crowson she takes us on this journey, from being the sheltered home keeper, the timid factory worker to the woman in love. And Roc works well with Gordon Jackson who plays her beau Fred who delivers this nice sense of nervousness when it comes to asking her out which provides the perfect amount of light relief.
What this all boils down to is that "Millions Like Us" is one of the best movies of its type, those which show a slice of life for the women who kept Britain going during the war. It manages to be entertaining and amusing whilst also being educational, allowing us to appreciate things whilst also managing to put a smile on our faces.