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Happy Family

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Happy Family

Summer 1939, and an ordinary family gets an alarming taste of war to come in this little-known Ealing Studios propaganda short.

War 1939 9 mins

Overview

"It's about time we were brought to our senses!" A complacent family (plus a young John Mills) is taught a frightening lesson in this WWII propaganda short from Ealing Studios, which gives a strong taste of public disbelief that another war would really come. Released in June 1939, three months before Britain declared war on Hitler's Germany, Happy Family was commissioned by the Ministry of Information with the aim of preparing the British people for a war that was already feeling inevitable.

John Mills plays eager young enlistee Fred, the kind of role he would perform repeatedly during the war years. He plays a similar character in David Lean's This Happy Breed (1944), which shares with Happy Family a slightly soapy, everyman family setting. Though Lean's film was released five years later, the Noel Coward stage play from which it was adapted was - coincidentally - in development around the same time as Happy Family's release (though it wasn't performed until 1942). Happy Family was the first of around 30 short propaganda films made at Ealing during the war.