Blue Scar

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Blue Scar
Blue Scar (1949 film).jpg
Opening title
Directed byJill Craigie
Produced byWilliam MacQuitty
Written byJill Craigie
StarringEmrys Jones
Gwyneth Vaughan
Rachel Thomas
Anthony Pendrell
Prysor Williams
Music byGrace Williams
CinematographyJo Jago
Edited byKenneth Hume
Outlook Films
Distributed byBritish Lion Film Corporation (UK)
Release date
  • 1949 (1949)
Running time
90 mins.

Blue Scar is a 1949 British drama film, directed by documentary filmmaker Jill Craigie, set in a Welsh village where the mine has recently been nationalised. It focuses on the relationship between Olwen Williams, a miner's daughter who leaves the village to live in London, and Tom Thomas, who dedicates his life to working in the mine. With Craigie's background in documentary films with a social message, Blue Scar was designed to raise questions about the value of nationalising the coal industry. It was the only non-documentary film Craigie directed.


Olwen Williams (Gwyneth Vaughan) is a miner's daughter from a mining town in South Wales, where the mine has recently been nationalised. She is keen to move on from her impoverished upbringing to a more fulfilling lifestyle. An opportunity is presented to her when she wins a singing scholarship to a music college in Cardiff. She decides to leave her hometown to take up this opportunity, which means being away from Tom Thomas (Emrys Jones), a local miner who is in love with her.

While Olwen is away from home, an industrial psychologist from London named Alfred Collins (Anthony Pendrell) proposes to her, and she accepts. She announces this news to Tom while attending her father's funeral following a mining accident. Olwen moves to London with Alfred, but is disillusioned by her new life there.

Meanwhile, Tom is injured in a mining accident and spends time at Talygarn, a convalescent home. Here he is looked after by Glynis (Dilys Jones), a physiotherapist and friend of Olwen. Tom and Glynis fall in love. Tom also encounters success at work, rising to the position of manager. After his promotion, he visits Olwen in London, in a vain attempt to persuade her to return to Wales. Tom later dies of a mining-related condition. The film ends with Olwen singing "Home! Sweet Home!" in a radio broadcast.


Blue Scar was produced by Outlook Films, an independent production company established in 1948 by director Jill Craigie[1] and managed in partnership with producer William MacQuitty.[2] Craigie was a socialist[3] documentary filmmaker, and Blue Scar was the first and only non-documentary film she directed; after Blue Scar, she concluded that documentary was the best film genre for social criticism.[1]

The film was conceived as a critical commentary on the nationalisation of the coal industry, especially in terms of safety, working conditions and the treatment of miners.[3] The title, Blue Scar, is a reference to the blue colour that characterises wounded skin when affected by coal dust.[4][5] Half of the funding came from the National Coal Board, although there is disagreement about the total cost of production: according to Craigie, the film cost £80,000, whereas MacQuitty placed the figure in his autobiography as £45,000.[2]

The disused Electric Theatre cinema in the Welsh town of Port Talbot served as a makeshift studio,[4] hired at a charge of £1 per day.[2] The interior of the cinema was adapted for the filming, including the construction of a soundproof stage. Coal was brought in for filming scenes in the mine itself.[2] Other scenes were shot on location in Abergwynfi, a village in south west Wales.[3] Most of the cast consisted of amateur actors drawn from the local area.[6]

The film was scored by Welsh composer Grace Williams. As well as being Williams's first film score, this was the first time a British woman had scored a feature film.[5]


The film's treatment of its subject matter created difficulties for distribution, as cinemas were reluctant to show it. MacQuitty later recalled: "We had no clout. We couldn't force them to take it. At that time there was a feeling that people wanted only escapism, not reality".[2] Daily Herald critic Richard Winnington led a campaign for the film to be released in ABC Cinemas and, after a series of test screenings, the film was eventually distributed within the ABC chain.[3]


Film studies specialists have disagreed about the film's reception when it was released. According to Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, the film was met with "excellent reviews and enthusiastic audience response",[1] but Philip Gillett has suggested the opposite.[4] In the Monthly Film Bulletin, the British Film Institute review praised the film's realism, in authentically capturing the life and environment of the mining village. The reviewer, however, suggested that the plot had "many absurdities" and that Craigie, although talented as a director, had "rather less talent for story-telling".[6] A reviewer in The Times shared this view, stating that the miners' lives were well-captured, but that the social message was "not very clear" and the film's ending was "just plain silly".[7] The reviewer was also uncertain about the mix of documentary and fiction elements, feeling that "the blend of romantic story and objective demonstration of the ways of the Welsh mining villages is not always harmonious".[7]


  1. ^ a b c Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (1995). Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-313-28972-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e David Berry (1994). Wales and cinema: the first hundred years. University of Wales Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-7083-1256-8.
  3. ^ a b c d "Blue Scar (1949)". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Philip Gillett (2003). The British Working Class in Postwar Film. Manchester University Press. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0-7190-6258-2.
  5. ^ a b Jan G. Swynnoe (2002). The Best Years of British Film Music, 1936-1958. Boydell Press. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-0-85115-862-4.
  6. ^ a b "Blue Scar (1949)". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 16 (185): 78. May 1949. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Blue Scar: Film about Welsh miners". The Times. 9 April 1949.

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