This film is part of Free

Mr Smith Wakes Up

A patient African dinner guest learns much about the state of 1930s Britain in this revealing film.

Public Information Filler 1937 23 mins


An African visitor's 'false naïve' yet penetrating questions reveal the devastating impact of wealth inequality and class in 1930s Britain, exposing the fragile foundations of Britain's imperial and domestic policies. Complacent and negligent attitudes towards unemployment, housing and healthcare are exposed in this film which, despite a heavy-handed approach to race and gender roles, offers a host of ever-relevant observations on the relationship between market forces and social responsibility.

Although heavily staged and awkward to the modern viewer, this fascinating film, sponsored by the Co-op, offers a neat dissection of the state of 1930s Britain. Militarism, unemployment, slum conditions, colonialism, class and many other issues are brought into focus under Mr Smith's gentle interrogation. His modest demeanour allows him to prick the pomposity of his host while holding up African societies as better models of community cohesion and resource allocation. This surviving version of the film is unfortunately incomplete and has no picture for the first nine minutes.