Two Thousand Women

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Two Thousand Women
Two Thousand Women VideoCover.png
Directed by Frank Launder
Produced by Edward Black
Screenplay by Frank Launder
Sidney Gilliat
Michael Pertwee
Starring Phyllis Calvert
Flora Robson
Patricia Roc
Renée Houston
Music by Hans May
Cinematography Jack E. Cox
Edited by R. E. Dearing
Distributed by Gainsborough Studios
Ellis Films (US)
Release date
6 November 1944 (UK)
October 1951 (US)
Running time
97 min. (UK)
81 min. (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 547,159 admissions (France, 1945)[1]

Two Thousand Women (1944) is a British comedy-drama war film about a camp of interned British women in Occupied France. Three RAF aircrewmen whose bomber had been shot down enter the camp and are hidden by the women from the Germans.

The film was released in the USA in 1951 in a severely cut-down version under the title of House of 1,000 Women. Per the British Film Institute database, this is the second in an "unofficial trilogy" by Launder and Gilliat, along with Millions Like Us (1943) and Waterloo Road (1945).

Plot[edit]

Rosemary Brown (Patricia Roc), an English novice nun, is mistakenly apprehended by French soldiers as a fifth columnist during the 1940 Battle of France. She is sentenced to face a firing squad, but the Germans arrive and she is sent (without her habit, which is being cleaned) to an internment camp in a grand hotel at the spa town of Marneville. She journeys there with Freda (a journalist played by Phyllis Calvert), Bridie (a stripper played by Jean Kent), Muriel (Flora Robson) and her companion Miss Meredith (Muriel Aked). At the camp, they meet Maud (Renee Houston) Mrs Burtshaw (Thora Hird) and Teresa King. While two women are assigned to each room, Bridie uses her charms to obtain one to herself.

They receive a radio from an unknown source, but it is swiftly confiscated by the Germans. The women conclude that they have a stool pigeon, nicknamed "Poison Ivy", amongst the dozen who knew about the radio. Nellie reports that she saw the German file on Rosemary; the charge of being a fifth columnist causes suspicion to fall on her. However, Freda and Maud do not believe it. They warn Rosemary, who reveals she is a nun.

An RAF bomber is hit during a nighttime air raid. Manningford deliberately violates the blackout in order to help it crash land. Pilot Officer Jimmy Moore (James McKechnie), Sergeant Alec Harvey (Reginald Purdell) and Dave Kennedy (Robert Arden) seek refuge in the hotel. The women hide them, but have to conceal the fact from Teresa King, who is revealed to be a Nazi spy. Later, Alec recognises Rosemary as Mary Maugham, a singer whose boyfriend murdered his wife; she became a nun as a result. However, they start falling for each other, as do Dave and Bridie. When Sergeant Hentzner spots Dave, Dave manages to strangle him quietly, and his body is hidden.

The women devise a plan to enable the men to escape during a concert they will put on. To ensure the Germans stay until the end, Freda persuades Bridie to perform her act last. However, when Birdie overhears what Dave thinks of her (due to her fraternisation with the Germans), she slips Teresa a note betraying all. Freda makes Dave write an apology professing his love, which she delivers to Birdie. Birdie then goes to Teresa's room and sees that she has already read the note. The two women fight. Teresa wins and alerts Frau Holweg, but one of the women knocks Holweg out. By the time she comes to and warns the commandant, it is too late. The trio escape, with the aid of Monsieur Boper, the hotel proprietor, who turns out not to be a collaborator after all. The women defiantly sing "There'll Always Be an England".

Cast[edit]

  • Phyllis Calvert as Freda Thompson
  • Flora Robson as Miss [Muriel] Manningford
  • Patricia Roc as Rosemary Brown
  • Renée Houston as Maud Wright
  • Reginald Purdell as Alec Harvey
  • Anne Crawford as Margaret Long
  • Jean Kent as Bridie Johnson
  • James McKechnie as Jimmy Moore
  • Robert Arden as Dave Kennedy (as Rob Arden)
  • Carl Jaffe as Sergt. Hentzner
  • Muriel Aked as Miss [Clairen] Meredith
  • Kathleen Boutall as Mrs. Hadfield
  • Hilda Campbell-Russell as Mrs. [Cornelia] Hope Latimer
  • Christiana Forbes as Frau Holweg
  • Thora Hird as Mrs. Burtshaw
  • Dulcie Gray as Nellie Skinner
  • Joan Ingram as Mrs. Tatmarsh
  • Betty Jardine as Teresa King
  • Christiane De Maurin as Annette
  • Guy Le Feuvre as Monsieur Boper (as Guy Lefeuvre)
  • Paul Sheridan as French Officer

Production[edit]

Frank Launder stated later that he "should have treated the subject more seriously...that it would have been a bigger film if I concentrated less on the comedy and more on the drama".[2]

Phyllis Calvert says she was offered the part of the nun who falls in love with a pilot, but turned it down and Pat Roc played it instead. Calvert played Freda Thompson, even though she felt Launder and Gilliat "didn't like me turning down a part they had written for me, which I can understand."[3]

According to Calvert, Renee Houston and Flora Robson "didn't get on at all" during the film.[3]

Reception[edit]

According to trade papers, the film was a success at the British box office in 1944.[4]

American release[edit]

Perhaps due to the success of Three Came Home, the film was released in the USA in 1951 in a severely cut-down version under the title of House of 1,000 Women. The American version of the film available on DVD ignores Patricia Roc's adventures as well as several subplots[5] and starts the film with the transport to the internment hotel.

References[edit]

  1. ^ French box office in 1945 at Box office story
  2. ^ p.72 Babington, Bruce Launder and Gilliat 2002 Manchester University Press
  3. ^ a b Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 111
  4. ^ Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p 207
  5. ^ Babington, B. (2002). Launder and Gilliat. Manchester University Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780719056680. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 

External links[edit]