When the Bough Breaks (1947 film)

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When the Bough Breaks
When the Bough Breaks VideoCover.jpeg
DVD cover
Directed by Lawrence Huntington
Produced by Betty E. Box
Written by Muriel Box
Sydney Box
Moie Charles
Peter Rogers
Starring Patricia Roc
Rosamund John
Music by Clifton Parker
Cinematography Bryan Langley
Edited by Gordon Hales
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 1947 (1947)
Running time
78 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office £125,000 (by July 1953)[1]

When the Bough Breaks is a 1947 film by Gainsborough Pictures, J. Arthur Rank and Sydney Box Productions, starring Patricia Roc and Rosamund John. It is an adaptation of an original storyline by Herbert Victor on adoption and the competing ties of one child's birth and foster family.[2]


After learning that her husband is a bigamist who already had a wife, new mother Lily Bates (Patricia Roc) resolves to raise her baby, Jimmy, on her own rather than give him up for adoption. Each day Lily leaves Jimmy at a day nursery while she works as a shopgirl at a department store, and then cares for Jimmy herself at night. Frances Norman (Rosamund John), a middle-class married woman who works at the day nursery to be around children after losing her own baby, is drawn to Jimmy. When Lily, under stress from her demanding schedule, becomes ill with flu, Frances persuades Lily to let her and her husband look after Jimmy temporarily. When Lily recovers, she visits Jimmy at the Normans' comfortable home. Seeing that Jimmy is happy and is receiving better food and care than she was able to manage, Lily agrees to let the Normans raise Jimmy, although she refuses to sign any legal document formally allowing them to adopt Jimmy. Lily soon gives up on staying in touch with the Normans and drops out of Jimmy's life, although she misses him. The Normans do not tell Jimmy he is adopted and he regards them as his parents.

Eight years pass, during which time Lily rises to the level of manager at the department store and falls in love with a kind shopkeeper, Bill Collins (Bill Owen), who marries her and is willing to accept Jimmy as his own. Lily visits the Normans to reclaim Jimmy, now that she has the resources to take care of him, but the Normans refuse to give him up since Lily has not been part of Jimmy's life and he does not know he is not the Normans' natural child. A legal battle ensues, and the court awards custody of Jimmy to Lily due to the lack of any formal adoption agreement. Jimmy goes to live with Lily and Bill, but has trouble adjusting to life in a working-class household, and runs away in an attempt to return to the Normans, whom he considers his true "mummy and daddy". Bill, seeing that Jimmy is unhappy, convinces Lily to let him return to the Normans. Lily and Bill then have a baby of their own and are shown happily celebrating his birthday, while Jimmy celebrates his birthday with the Normans.



The film was less glamorous than the typical Gainsborough melodrama, with no outfit worn by Patricia Roc costing more than £5.[3]

The house featured in the film was based on the real life house of Sydney Box.[4]


Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1948.[5]


  1. ^ Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box Manchester Uni Press 2006 p 210
  2. ^ "British studios take a holiday from thrillers.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982). 1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia. 31 May 1947. p. 36. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  3. ^ "Korda Film Postponed.". The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 24 May 1947. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "HOLLYWOOD LETTER.". Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954). Burnie, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 17 November 1950. p. 12. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p211

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