Structures of Desire

British Cinema, 1939-1955

By Tony Williams

Subjects: British Studies
Series: SUNY series, Cultural Studies in Cinema/Video
Paperback : 9780791446447, 225 pages, August 2000
Hardcover : 9780791446430, 225 pages, August 2000

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter One

Chapter Two
Forever Gainsborough?

Chapter Three
The Wartime Archers

Chapter Four
Utopian Desires

Chapter Five
Postwar Representations

Chapter Six
Postwar Archers

Chapter Seven
Ealing and Beyond

Chapter Eight



Examines the cultural, historical, and ideological factors influencing British cinema during World War II and the postwar years, with attention to male-female relationships as well as to utopian desires for a better postwar world.


This book examines representations of desire in British cinema during a period of turbulent change. In addition to investigating male-female desire in status quo "realist" films and in various "anti-realist" movements represented by Gainsborough Melodrama and the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the book also explores the various factors that affected utopian aspirations for a better postwar world and how these desires eventually became restrained by the dominant forces of conservative ideology. Structures of Desire provides new perspectives on previously recognized film movements such as Ealing Comedy and Gainsborough Melodrama while also offering analyses of interesting but neglected films such as Love on the Dole (1941), Perfect Strangers (1945), They Made Me a Fugitive (1947), The Bad Lord Byron (1949), and Madeleine (1950).

Tony Williams is Professor and Area Head of Film Studies in the Department of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He is the author of several books, including Hearths of Darkness: The Family in the American Horror Film; Larry Cohen: Radical Allegories of an American Filmmaker; and most recently, Jack London's The Sea Wolf: A Screenplay by Robert Rossen.


"Combines a high degree of native insight with an expert synthesis of theoretical material to throw interesting, unusual, and fresh light on the relations between British culture and society, not only in the period under discussion but also with reference to the Thatcher era and the current state of affairs in the United Kingdom. " — Philip Mosley, Pennsylvania State University

"Williams shows that very similar societal and personal questions find expression in a variety of genres and types of films, and he provides new and insightful readings of many hitherto neglected films. " — Michael Anderegg, author of Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture