“We were brought up on the pictures…Hollywood was a mecca… When the GIs came marching into Bristol, it was like being in a movie…Any one of them could have been a film star…They had the accent…smart uniforms and they were full of life. We fell for them in droves.”
“Another war bride’s father `had visited in Chicago during the depression years, primarily to see if he wanted to go immigrate with my mother and his seven children. He warned me I would not like it in America as it was nothing but hoodlums with guns or cowboys and Indians.”
“The G.I.s…came with saunter and swagger, with brashness and boisterousness. They came with five times the money of the British Tommy and with friendly charm which conquered the heart of many a British maiden or otherwise. One joke heralded a new brand of knickers: `One Yank and they’re off.’” (1)
During the second sequence of Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (US Stairway to Heaven, 1946), the image changes from Technicolor showing David Niven’s last moments as an RAF flyer before he descends from his plane without a parachute to a monochrome heaven awaiting his arrival. His former co-pilot (Robert Coote) waits at the entrance by permission of a glamorous 1940s Angel Receptionist (Kathleen Byron). All new arrivals proceed slowly to the information desk where they receive their wings for the next stage of their heavenly journey. The sole exceptions are a group of brash American airmen led by Bonar Colleano (1924-1958) who rush to a Coca Cola machine and crowd towards her until their leader attempts to instill some order into them. For audiences of the 1940s and 1950s, this slim, angular, exuberant figure is easily recognizable as the one actor who personified the wartime image of the visiting Yank often referred to as “Over Paid, Over Sexed and Over Here” by disdainful Brits who both welcomed American involvement in the Second World War and also resented the intrusion of a foreign culture into England’s “green and pleasant land.” Bonar Colleano later appears in the film seated amidst a multi-cultural audience witnessing the heavenly tribunal debate concerning not just the romantic union between a British flyer (David Niven) and his American sweetheart (Kim Hunter) but also the nature of a post-war relationship between former allies.
Although the film romantically concludes on a “happily ever after” note for its leading characters, the heavenly situation may be as problematic as the earthly post-war historical situation. Bonar sits in a row opposite Kathleen Byron’s “heavenly body” and eyes her in a manner suggesting a potentially disruptive role in a manner evoking the title of Lubitsch’s film Trouble in Paradise. From his first appearance, Bonar Colleano’s archetypal Yank appears much more dynamic than Richard Attenborough’s Royal Air Force Flyer. Formerly a clerk before wartime service, Attenborough admires the heavenly bureaucracy and feels at home showing little desire except to become a cog in the heavenly machine. By contrast, Bonar Colleano’s Yank intends to make heaven more like his own United States as his knowing glance towards Byron intimates. This represents an interesting national counterpoint to the romantic nature of the main Anglo-American alliance represented by the film’s leading stars David Niven and Kim Hunter. While the British male represents the archetypal British gentleman taking his time to court a Boston lady, his American counterpart appears over eager to get to work on a fast-track romance with Byron’s heavenly angel in a manner paralleling those quick G.I. romances in wartime England Over thirty yeas later Judy Geeson’s detective sergeant repeats the “Over Paid, Over Sexed, Over Here” comment to John Wayne’s Chicago cop in Brannigan (1975) revealing its enduring resonance long after 1945.
In reality, 1940s America was a diverse country and its GIs represented its very lack of uniformity. However, Hollywood presented a very different image and this tended to represent the only view of America that most British audiences knew in that period of limited international travel. It was not surprising that in a period of transatlantic wartime unity that one particular image of the GI tended to dominate national perceptions at this time. Bonar Colleano thus supplied his own version of the imaginary American GI, as well as his post-war counterpart, to cinema audiences during his brief career. It was one involving a particular definition of masculine American vitality but containing certain darker overtones.
This fourth appearance of Bonar Colleano in a British film contains mixed imagery that his future performances continue. British wartime and post-war society exhibited fascination with American culture as well as distrust of its implications. On one level, Colleano embodies the image of the vital American ally far removed from later representations of soldiers in films such as The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and 28 Weeks Later (2007) where his descendants are either eager to press the button for a nuclear holocaust or engage in trigger-happy turkey-shoots of both innocent victims and threatening forces. By contrast, the image of the American GI in British wartime cinema was generally positive. British society was glad to receive the aid of its transatlantic cousin in what Studs Terkel has described as “The Good War” and hesitantly set aside its suspicion of the demoralizing influence of an American culture typified by Westerns and gangster films.
Two years before A Matter of Life and Death, Powell and Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale (1944) embodied the idyllic image of the Anglo-American relationship as seen in the real life non-actor figure of Sergeant John Sweet who overcomes local Kent suspicions of an America dominated by Chicago gangsters, an image disseminated by Hollywood films. This occurs in an earlier exchange when the American Bob Johnson asks whether a British official had a gun to apprehend the “Glue Man.” He receives the reply, “This is Chillingbourne, Sergeant, not Chicago.” Johnson then turns to Alison (Sheila Sweet) in amazement. “Say, what kind of a crack, is that?” A Canterbury Tale is a film dominated by the positive ideals of the Anglo-American Alliance in the pre-D Day era and seeks to undermine stereotypes by presenting Bob Johnson as a kinder and gentler American who appreciates British life. This image also appears in a now-forgotten film made in the same year, Welcome Mr. Washington (1944), directed by the equally forgotten Leslie S. Hiscott. Photographed by the director of photography on A Canterbury Tale, the film also presents images of kindly Americans who move near a local village. Donald Stewart’s nice Lt. Johnny Grant falls into a trap laid by nasty, anti-American tenant farmer Selby (Roy Emerton). When called before his senior officer Captain Abbott (Leslie Bradley) for an offence that could mean court martial, Johnny receives the admonishment “This is really bad!” but then leaves smiling after receiving a light paternal admonishment unlike anything conceivable in the British Army both in cinema and real life. His sweetheart Jane (played by a pre- Dr. Finlay’s Casebook Barbara Mullen) rallies the village over to Johnny’s side so that they duck Selby into the millpond and approve a happy ending where Jane will obviously become a G.I. Bride.
By contrast, Bonar Colleano represents a more ambivalent image. He could embody the positive aspects of American culture as well as its more darker components, the latter of which would fully emerge in the developing Cold War era of the 1950s when the nature of the wartime Anglo-American alliance would change, especially after the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 when President Eisenhower showed to a humiliated British government who exactly was the dominant partner in the relationship. Many books have been written on the impact of the visiting American G.I. in England prior to D-Day. Although they all stress the different nature of the American soldier rather than any uniform pattern, for most British people their only image of America was from Hollywood and this tended to color perceptions as the quotations following the title of this essay shows. Images of GIs tended to be cinematic, at least until acquaintances developed further. However, Bonar Colleano embodied a particular type of ideological image far more complex than ones present in other post-war resident American actors such as Robert Arden, Robert Ayres, William Sylvester and Sam Wanamaker (2).
Bonar Colleano’s film appearances from 1944 to 1958 embodied a particularly British image of the Yank involving several changing cultural inflections throughout the course of his career. His early screen appearances represented the image of the well-fed, well-clothed, and relatively affluent GI’s who often wooed young British ladies away from their more stuffy and unattractive British counterparts and made them transatlantic war brides. Bonar Colleano could play heroes and villains in leading or supporting roles. But he always delivered memorable performances throughout his career, whether in British or American co-productions, that would make him a British popular cultural icon despite his actual nationality. He was not the only American on British screen and stage at this time. British vaudeville was always cosmopolitan in nature as the presence of American entertainers in Starlight Serenade (1944) shows as well as those brief attempts at stardom by Deanna Durbin substitute Leni Lynn in those now forgotten British musicals Heaven is Round the Corner (1944) and Give Me the Stars (1945) by the equally forgotten Maclean Rogers. He had also made a failed attempt to launch the career of forty-four year old “juvenile” Canadian song and dance man Jackie Hunter in the abysmal Don Chicago (1945) who played obnoxious Americans in the only two films of his career.
Although Bonar Colleano appeared to represent an Italian-American, his real name was Bonar Sullivan. Born in New York on 14 March 1924 to Elgar James Sullivan and Rubye Mae Browne, he took the Colleano surname from his family’s entertainment pseudonym. However, some stills showing the family performing at the London Palladium during September 1943 (from the Getty Images Collection) mention the half Irish/half Spanish background of the family. His mother was the descendant of an Irish immigrant to Australia and she met her future husband there when she specialized in a contortionist act. Bonar was named after his Uncle Bonar, a specialist in wire-walking. The Colleanos were an acrobatic circus family and many of their descendants still work in the entertainment industry today such as Jack Stehlin (the great nephew of Bonar’s uncle Con Colleano), current director of Circus Theatricals, who played Dr. Angleman in the 2000 TV series The Watcher’s Zone. Young Bonar toured with them from the age of six when they appeared with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuses on American tours. In 1936, the family first visited England performing a six-week engagement at the London Palladium before touring Europe. While the family continued their performances, Bonar remained in England to complete his education at Streatham Grammar School and Eltham before his parents returned in 1938. He then toured Great Britain and Ireland in a family act of five. Although American performers were very popular in England at this time as witnessed by the appearances of xylophone player Teddy Brown and Anna May Wong (who appears in a cameo role in “The Taming of the Shrew” extract in the 1930 co-directed Alfred Hitchcock/ Jack Hulbert vaudeville sketch production Elstree Calling) Bonar’s early career resembled that of Burt Lancaster. He noted this association in a 1951 interview in which he drew attention to the fact that the Hollywood star’s early talents as a trained acrobat were put to good use in Jacques Tourneur’s 1950 The Flame and the Arrow.(3) When war broke out in 1939, he began entertaining troops in England. His role in wartime entertainment may explain why he was not drafted into the American Army after Pearl Harbor since the Allies regarded civilian diversions from the rigors of bombing as important therapy. During 1943, Bonar appeared with Hermione Gingold in Sweet and Low at London’s Ambassador Theatre, a revue very popular with American servicemen, as well as another West End revue More New Pieces. The first show brought him to the attention of Two Cities film producer Anatole deGrunwald who eventually signed him to appear in The Way to the Stars. But his first two screen appearances were as a cast member of review films, Starlight Serenade and We, The People (both 1944). Although he would occasionally continue this type of review performance as in the 13 January 1954 thirty-minute BBC TV special special Happy Go Crazy or as guest on the 11 March, 1954 Tony Hancock BBC Radio Show Star Bill, his career would move into another direction, one more attuned to the cultural concerns of 1940s Britain.
Following Starlight Serenade and We, the People, he made his most memorable screen introduction in the role of Bombardier Joe Friselli, one he would refine in British cinema. In Anthony Asquith’s The Way to the Stars (1945), scripted by Terence Rattigan, he plays the dynamic American Bombardier Joe Friselli. Bonar appears half-way through the film when the American High Command takes over the Royal Air Force base of Halfpenny Field in 1944. His brash, gum-chewing, jitterbugging character represents a complete contrast not only to the upper-middle class British types seen earlier in actors such as John Mills, Michael Redgrave, Trevor Howard, and Basil Radford but to the more quieter American model represented by Douglass Montgomery’s Johnny Hollis who begins a platonic relationship with Toddy (Rosamund John), the widow of Redgrave’s David Archdale. By contrast, Friselli represents his less-restrained self, eager to woo Iris Winterton (Renee Asherson), the rejected girlfriend of Mill’s Peter Penrose who fears any romantic involvement during wartime. However, when Hollis discusses postponing his return home to his wife and children and a new position as training instructor, it is quite obvious that his feelings for Toddy are becoming less platonic. The film removes the American threat to British womanhood by two ideological devices. When gentle Johnny Hollis returns from his bombing mission, he decides to go down with his plane rather than crash with a bomb still on board into Toddy’s village. This is a drastic solution to the American romantic threat. By this time, Penrose has also overcome his hesitancy and removes Iris from the jitterbugging temptations of G.I. Joe. When Friselli has to take Johnny’s place at a village children’s social, he appears reticent for the first time in the film. Conscious of the fact that he is taking Uncle Johnny’s place for a group of children who will miss him, he appears almost repentant as if he is bearing the sins of not just his deceased friend about to reject his family for a British “brief encounter” but also realizes that his former brashness offended British contemporary sensibilities. He will now take over the role of “Uncle Johnny” in more ways than one. Viewed today, The Way to the Stars appears very quaint to contemporary tastes with its British upper-middle class characters showing a “stiff upper lip” and refusing to reveal their emotions to others. But it is still an informative social document of the time especially in revealing the positive and troubling aspects of wartime Anglo-American relationships. As Bonar’s August 18, 1958 Manchester Guardian obituary later stated, “He had a certain cutting edge and a vivid stage personality, and in the films The Way to the Stars he perfectly represented for Britons a likeable, but much discussed type of the time…the all-conquering American airman stationed over here.” This reference to the “much discussed type” reveals that British perceptions of the G.I. were not limited to Friselli’s final scenes with children where he appears as the friendly American about to brighten their wartime rationing lives with candy bars and chewing gum.
His role in The Way to the Stars presented him as the archetypal Yank who would finally undergo domestication at the end of the film by playing the harmless “Uncle Johnny” role that Douglass Montgomery’s character lost after falling into sexual temptation and redeeming himself by a heroic death. British attitudes to the Yank were split. Some people welcomed his presence as an important member of the wartime alliance but others feared his embodiment of what was then regarded as the worst aspects of a contaminating American culture threatening traditional British values. During October 1944 British society was appalled by the activities of American Army deserter Karl Hulton and waitress Elizabeth Jones who collaborated on a six day series of robberies and one killing before they were arrested. The pair represented wartime Britain’s version of Bonnie and Clyde. Like their American counterparts, both lived in a world of fantasy. Hulten masqueraded as an officer and Chicago gangster while Jones fantasized about being a stripper and “gun-moll”. Both were arrested and sentenced to death by a British court, the American authorities relinquishing their powers to try Hulten under the 1942 Visiting Powers Act because of British reaction to the crimes. At this time British film censorship prevented any cinema version of Edgar Wallace’s provocatively titled When the Gangs Came to London (1932) and the whole incident evoke fears involving a Chicago underworld invasion of England’s “green and pleasant land.” Hulten was hanged at Pentonville Prison on 8 March 1945 while Jones was reprieved and finally released during May 1954. Although their crimes appear minor by today’s standards, their brief criminal liaison evoked fears on the part of a British establishment already hostile to American culture. Writing in the 15 February 1946 issue of Tribune George Orwell compared the genteel nature of the English murder to this new version rooted in the “anonymous life of the dance halls and the false values of the American film.” He also referred to Jones as “an English girl who had become Americanized” in an essay not only reflecting traditional British Puritanism but also post-war fears concerning cultural impotence and national decadence.(4) The cinematic image of Bonar Colleano could thus evoke contradictory feelings: fascination with the dashing Yank “over here” and fears concerning his seductive influence on vulnerable British girls. During this time, the Americanized crime fiction of British writers such as Peter Cheyney and James Hadley Chase attracted a massive readership among young British people to the dismay of cultural gurus. The Leavises had already warned about the detrimental effect of American culture in the pre-war era.(5) This would accelerate in the wartime and post-war eras and become one of the factors leading to the judicial murder of Derek Bentley in 1953 despite the fact that his under-age companion Christopher Craig fired the fatal shot that killed a policeman. Peter Medak’s 1991 film Let Him Have It documents both the repressive nature of British society at this time as well as Hollywood influences on both Bentley and Craig that many believed represented the root of this particular evil. Bentley eventually gained a posthumous Royal Pardon in 1993 and his conviction quashed by a Court of Appeal in 1998.
Bonar again donned GI. uniform for two films made in 1946 that reflected two sides of British perceptions concerning visiting Americans. In Lawrence Huntington’s Wanted for Murder (1946), a film whose screenplay credits include Emeric Pressburger and Rodney Ackland (who had scripted Hitchcock’s 1932 comedy-drama Number Seventeen), Colleano’s Corporal Nick Mappolo takes his English girlfriend to a local park immediately after serial killer Eric Portman’s murder of an unsuspecting female. Although Mappolo’s girlfriend refuses to undergo a “fate worse than death”, Portman’s victim has already suffered the “lesser” penalty. Despite the brief appearance of Bonar Colleano in this film, his introductory scene suggests an ominous duality with Portman. It suggests that a GI’s intention may not only be less than honorable but also dangerous to British maidenhood. Two years later, Bonar appears in the last segment of David MacDonald’s Good Time Girl (1948) as a fictionalized version of Karl Hulton twinned with Hugh McDermott’s Al Schwartz, the latter representing British cinema’s version of the artificial Yank.(6) Their presence represents the final deadly chapter in the downward spiral of Jean Kent’s Gwen Rawlings, a character loosely based on Elizabeth Jones. Once Gwen falls into the deadly and seductive e clutches of these two American deserters, her fate is sealed.
Although he appeared in another Asquith and Rattigan production in 1947, While the Sun Shines (based on a Rattigan play) did not achieve the same success as The Way to the Stars. Bonar again plays a high-powered American competitor to another stuffy British male, like Peter Penrose in the earlier film, for the affections of a female aristocrat. But common sense and British nationality win when the lady rejects both American and French models in favor of Ordinary Seaman Lord Harpenden (Ronald Howard). Despite the number of GI Brides during this period, British Cinema again felt that the upstart Yank should be kept in his place, despite the beginnings of Empire decline and American post-war economic and political supremacy. Although he played a starring role in Merry-Go-Round (1948) as a film producer hunting for new ideas, the film’s 53 minute length and poor production values may have resulted in his relegation to a ten second uncredited appearance in Broken Journey (1948) playing Margot Graham’s agent and his Karl Hulton role in Good Time Girl. Both these films appeared in the midst of British post-war rationing during the “Age of Austerity” when national resentment at the former wartime ally was at its height. This mood also appears in Edward Dmytryk’s British film noir Obsession (1948) where Robert Newton’s Dr. Riordan plans a grotesque revenge on his wife’s American lover (Phil Brown) less for reasons of sexual jealousy but more in terms of national pride, a motif appearing in the supposedly irrelevant club discussion at the beginning of the film.
However, despite these reverses, Bonar’s American personality wooed West End theatrical audiences in productions of While the Sun Shines and A Bell for Adano that led to Laurence Olivier casting him opposite Vivian Leigh in the London production of A Street Car Named Desire. After failing to persuade handsome screen idol Stewart Granger to play Stanley Kowalski (!), Olivier chose a more appropriate national figure. Although Bonar was no Brando his very screen image could evoke those dark associations involving the American wartime seduction of the English Rose, especially if Stella was played by Renee Asherson who appeared with him in The Way to the Stars.(7) This resulted in a contract with the J. Arthur Rank Organization and third billing as Piero Santelli in a musical adventure set in Rome, One Night With You (1948) opposite popular Italian opera star Nino Martini and Patricia Roc. Unfortunately, his role is little better than a stereotyped version of an excitable Italian lover little better than a twentieth century sociopathic version of Charles Dickens’s Mr. Mantalini in Nicholas Nickleby. This would not be the first time that his “other” foreigner persona would appear in British cinema. In the same year he appeared in a supporting role as wisecracking American Sergeant West in John Paddy Carstairs’s Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948), a remake of the 1932 British film Sleeping Car to Trieste with Albert Lieven now appearing in the Conrad Veidt role. Bonar’s dynamic soldier shares a compartment with mild-mannered (possibly gay) ornithologist who shows no interest in two voluptuous females who enlist the eager West into their black-market smuggling scheme. Here Bonar plays another variant of Joe Friselli. However, the film contains some premature coincidences. Albert Lieven was then married to Rank starlet Susan Shaw (Patsy Sloots, the daughter of a Dutch seaman). She would become Bonar’s second wife on January 9, 1954 after his divorce from Austrian-born starlet Tamara Lees (who appears briefly in While the Sun Shines). Bonar’s first scene shows him with Army buddy Sergeant Spiegel played by veteran British character actor Michael Balfour who would survive the 1958 car crash that killed his fellow actor. British cinema was a small world in more than one sense.
A year later Bonar would appear in Jack Lee’s speedway drama Once A Jolly Swagman (1949). Set in Depression ridden 1930s Britain, it is one of the few contemporary English films referring to the Spanish Civil War and aristocratic flirtation with the Nazis personified by Moira Lister’s Dotty Liz (a friend of the notorious British serial killer Neville Heath whose blonde hair saved her from becoming one of his victims). Although focusing on the historical and social, temptations facing Dirk Bogarde’s Bill Fox, the film depicts Bonar in another leading role as American motor-cycle rider Tommy Possey who will later take over the business legitimately in the post-war era after the removal of crooked manager Sidney James. Although no sexual threat, Bonar is able to transcend national boundaries and be an accepted part of pre-war, wartime, and post-war British society representing an American influence than can no longer be ignored or relegated to convenient stereotypes. He begins the film as an American in London, joins the US Army during wartime as a G.I., and then returns to the race-track to a run a more legitimate game than in the pre-war era. Australian director Jack Lee became radicalized during the post-war Labour Party era which rejected any return to the bad old days of the 1930s. He was also influenced by Italian Neo-Realism. As an outsider to British society, this may explain why he does not slot Bonar’s character into any of the previous stereotypes determining his previous screen performances.
Although Bonar was gradually moving towards eventual stardom, certain wartime images still dominated the types of roles he would play. During a 1951 interview, he emphasized that British “producers fail to understand versatility” and talked about forming his own film production company and become a director obviously in reaction to the stereotyped nature of the roles he had played so far. “I’ll play any part for what it is worth – I can’t say any more. Naturally, I don’t approve of typed gum-sucking Joes in British films any more like the British like seeing themselves mirrored as Colonel Blimps in Hollywood pictures.”(8)
Dance Hall (1950) and Pool of London (1951) are two Ealing Studio films that elevate Bonar into leading roles in different ways. Directed by Ealing comedy specialist Charles Crichton, Dance Hall falls more into the conservative agenda of Michael Balcon in terms of Bonar’s character. As (“Smart”) Alec, he plays an American who has remained in England after wartime still retaining the affluence and glamour of his GI image. The narrative focuses upon working-class factory girl Eve (Natasha Parry) whose dull boyfriend Phil (Donald Houston) shares neither Alex’s sex-appeal nor his enthusiasm for dancing. Initially attracted to this well-dressed, handsome figure, Eve sleeps with him but realizes that he is unable to form any deep relationship with anybody. Marrying Phil on the rebound after Alec drops her for Doreen (Kay Kendall) Eve yearns for the exciting world of the dance hall and becomes attracted to Alec again. However, even though Alec recognizes that she is now in love with Phil, he provokes a situation in the dance hall by suggesting that Eve has recently slept with him. Although the marriage relationship falls into jeopardy, everything becomes resolved at the climax when Phil beats up the “ugly American” and resumes his connubial rights metaphorically signified by a gushing water pipe near the happy couple. Alec is better dressed and more seductive than any British male in the film but he has a “love them and leave them” attitude that many national commentators associated with the wartime G.I. threat of untrustworthy transatlantic Romeos. So despite his affluent suits, tailored leather jacket, and access to kippers in the post-war rationing period, Alec is suitably chastised by his stuffy British counterpart who obviously embodies jealous feelings of poorly clothed, underpaid British servicemen who saw their girlfriends attracted to more dynamic Yanks. As Pat Kirkham notes, it is not accidental that Alec is most at home in a dance hall that English traditionalists associated with the worst aspects of American culture, a feature also dominant in John Paddy Carstairs’s significantly named British film noir Dancing with Crime (1946). This film nor only featured Bill Owen as an ex-serviceman adopting American clothes and behavior but also revealed one of the leading ladies of Dance Hall in a minor role – Diana Dors who also appeared in the framing scenes of Good Time Girl as another possible Gwen Rawlings. Now that the American forces have gone, it is easy to use Alec as a convenient scapegoat for the “overpaid, oversexed and over here” attitude without being too ungrateful to Britain’s former Allies.(9)
Pool of London features a different type of performance. Although it is another Ealing film, the roles of director Basil Dearden and associate producer Michael Relph (heralding their future status as two key representatives of British cinema social drama during the 1950s and 1960s) probably countered Balcon’s more conservative inclinations. As a British film noir, Pool of London features Bonar in the role of easygoing merchant seaman Dan MacDonald. Despite his attempts to engage in minor black-market activities in a ration-dominated England, he is solicitous both towards his black sea mate Johnny (Earl Cameron) and the demure Sally (Renee Asherson) constantly cheated on by her merchant seaman boyfriend Harry (Leslie Phillips). When a gang of crooks contact him to smuggle stolen items on board his ship, Dan agrees until he later learns that he may be accessory to a murder. Despite the fact that he has placed the items in the care of the unsuspecting Johnny, he runs to prevent him boarding ship and taking the blame for his involvement. Johnny safely boards the ship while Dan remains to take responsibility for his involvement in the crime. Although his fate is uncertain, the film ends by suggesting that he will obtain what Joe Friselli failed to do in The Way to the Stars – the hand of Renee Asherson after discovering the duplicitous nature of his regular girlfriend Maisie (Moira Lister) who only tolerates him because of the nylons he smuggles into a rationing dominated post-war society. Played by an actress known for her “good time girl” roles in post-war British cinema, Maisie’s prowess in jitterbugging with Dan during a dance hall scene would have raised cultural alarm bells in the minds of most contemporary British audiences who undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the film by seeing Dan’s future life as one of being tamed by a respectable British “nice girl.”
This positive depiction of the Bonar Colleano character probably owes much to the liberal directions of Dearden and Relph who would late pioneer 50s social dramas dealing with the juvenile delinquency theme in Violent Playground (1958) race relations such as Sapphire (1959)and the trauma of homosexuals in Victim (1961) – all taboo issues in 1950s British society. One of Pool of London’s interesting sub-plots involves a tentative romance between Johnny and Pat (Susan Shaw) that can never be consummated due to the dominant ideology of the time. It does foreshadow Sapphire. Also two brief scenes showing Colleano and Shaw within the same frame anticipates their imminent romance and later marriage in 1954. Then married to Albert Lieven of Sleeping Car to Trieste, Susan Shaw appeared together with Bonar in 1951 in Jack and the Beanstalk that opened in Tooting and moved to Sutton. During that same year, Bonar divorced Tamara Lees and turned his attentions towards this attractive J. Arthur Rank starlet.
Things were certainly improving for Bonar in 1951 as seen in his starring role in the international co-production A Tale of Five Cities. Re-titled A Tale of Five Women for the American market and directed by five directors belonging to each city in the original title, the film was both an autobiographical and cultural document in terms of its star’s contemporary associations. This time Bonar’s appeared above the credit titles with the secondary description “The Brooklyn Flyer” in brackets. Playing an American who suffers amnesia after falling from a ceiling in a 1945 Berlin nightclub off-limits to visiting servicemen, Bonar first appears in R.A.F uniform but speaks with an American accent. This incongruity immediately evokes the interest of American soldiers present. Bonar’s Bob Mitchell explains this as being due to the fact that although he was born in England, he had lived in America since he was a kid and could not get rid of the accent. Although he describes himself as an “outcast”, Mitchell appears quite at home in British uniform. His incongruous appearance inversely evokes the contemporary status of a real-life star is now more at home in England than he ever was in an America he barely knew. Despite his American accent, Mitchell is an honorary Englishman representing those Americans who joined the Allied Cause well before Pearl Harbor despite their country’s prohibitions. The characters played by Tyrone Power in A Yank in the RA.F (1941) and “Yank” Preston (played by Canadian actor Robert Beatty) in Ealing Studio’s San Demetrio London (1943) represent other examples of this type. When Mitchell performs a trapeze routine on the nightclub ceiling, this is probably the only record on film of Colleano’s role as one of the “Flying Colleanos” in his family circus act. Mitchell’s fall to the ground resulting in his amnesia, sets into motion the film’s narrative which depicts him as a roving American good will ambassador in post-war bomb devastated Europe. He embodies the benevolent role of the Marshall Plan that is actually referred to in one brief moment in the film. The only clues to his identity are signatures from five European women as well as a photo of a child he may have fathered. A plot involves the attempt to trace the actual city in which Bob may have sowed his “wild oats” and the trail covers all those European capitols that experienced the seductive influx of GI Joe after D-Day. Trying to find his presumed wife and child, an American magazine finances his travels to Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and London. Although he does not find his romantic destiny with any of the foreign females he encounters, Bob’s very presence represents the post-war idealistic image of the generous American who either offers financial help to a Gina Lollabrigida or escape from the Iron Curtain to Eva Bartok in a manner paralleling his pre-war role in Nazi Berlin where he helped Vera Molnar escape a concentration camp. Aided by American journalist Lesley (Barbara Kelly), Bob finally discovers his real identity as a member of a circus act in which he participated with his sister (Lana Morris). On his way to his final discovery, he comments about the backstage aura of the circus in a manner true to the actor’s real feelings, “What a wonderful way to live!” The circus is an international community that travels across many boundaries and its role here echoes the unique contemporary cultural significance of British cinema’s favorite Yank.
During the making of Pool of London and A Tale of Five Cities, Britain became involved in the Korean War. As part of the United Nations task force, conscripted British servicemen ended up in a conflict many of them regarded as an American affair. British representations of the Korean War are rare (with the exception of the 1956 A Hill in Korea) and never as positive as World War Two films. That post-war conflict did not evoke the same type of sentiment as World War Two. British involvement in an American Cold War conflict at a time when its economic and imperial status had already moved into terminal decline may account for the change in the star status of Bonar in British cinema. His benevolent serviceman image and the Marshall Plan associations of A Tale of Five Cities soon diminished leaving the actor as a mere character type. At the same time, he had little opportunity to exercise any significant variations on the type of roles he played. Although this presented few problems for Hollywood stars such as Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, and John Wayne who all “seemed” to play the same type of role, as “an American in England”, Bonar Colleano could easily again be relegated into playing rigid stereotyped performances.
A move to Hollywood might have provided the answer and his leading role in Eight Iron Men (1952) contained this potential. He had already worked with its director Edward Dmytryk in his pre-blacklist British film production of Christ in Concrete (1949) playing an Italian-American construction worker. Both his performance there and his developing star status may have persuaded the director to cast him as the film’s major star. However, despite its origins in a well-known Broadway play and the prestigious role of Stanley Kramer as a producer, Eight Iron Men was a luck luster production. Affected by his testimony to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Dmytryk not only avoided making the type of subversive war film that Robert Aldrich later did in his 1956 Attack! but also failed to realize the dramatic potentials inherent in talents such as Lee Marvin (used more effectively in Attack!), Richard Kiley, George Cooper (from Crossfire) and Nick (“Va Va Voom! Pretty Pow!) Dennis (of Kiss Me Deadly). Although ostensibly the film’s hero, Colleano played another variant of his already well-known gum-chewing, skirt chasing G.I. who just happens to do the right thing. The critical and commercial failure of Eight Iron Men effectively shut the door to any escape that the actor hoped would lead him away from the stereotyped future he would eventually face in a changing historical era.
His succeeding British films relegated him to comedy and crime roles. In Maurice Elvey’s routine farce, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? (1953), he plays an American airman Laurie Vining who returns to England with his new wife (Diana Decker, an American actress and singer who represented Britain’s version of Debbie Reynolds) to not only find that his first wife (Diana Dors) claims alimony but also that he may never have been divorced at all. Scripted by future Carry On films collaborator Talbot Rothwell and featuring future Carry On star Sidney James as an American subordinate, the film subversively suggested a change in the Anglo-American romantic alliance. Britain’s blonde bombshell Diana Dors now replaces demure Renee Asherson as a rival for Bonar’s affection suggesting that romantic wartime alliances may have involved brief encounters between seductive Yanks and “good time girls” rather than ones in which intentions were honorable as in Pool of London. Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? complements the theme of Muriel Box’s To Dorothy A Son (1954). As another archetypal British comedy of remarriage, it also cast doubt on the romantic values of the wartime Anglo-American alliance. There wisecracking showgirl Shelly Winters returns to her ex-husband (John Gregson) to cause further complications in his life. However, they are actually divorced in that film. But Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? suggests that a wartime version of “tying a knot” between American serviceman and English maidens may not have been as secure as it seemed.
By this time, Bonar’s roles were descending into mere routine character performances making him little better than those stereotyped eccentric Frenchmen played by Paul Dupuis and Eugene Deckers in countless British films. He was becoming an American version of those character types represented by South African born Sidney James with whom he appeared in several films. Escape by Night (1954) features Bonar as a tough, alcoholic newspaper reporter out to get vice king Rossini (Sidney James). His next international co-production Flame and the Flesh (1954), directed by Richard Brooks, saw him in a supporting role to Lana Turner playing a kind Italian musician unsuccessfully attempting to make a good woman out of its star who later regretted that she did not take up the offer to appear in John Ford’s Mogambo (1953). That same year Bonar appeared fifth in the cast of Don Chaffey’s crime drama Time is My Enemy that also starred Susan Shaw whom he would marry in a Paddington registry office in London on 10 January 1954 following her divorce from Albert Lieven.
Joe Macbeth (1955), Ken Hughes’s bizarre remake of Shakespeare’s play set in a Chicago displayed all the stereotypical images that British audiences had of American society, Bonar plays Lennie, the son of Sidney James’s Banky. Featuring Hollywood stars such as Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman in the roles of a modern Thane of Cawdor and his deadly lady, Joe Macbeth also featured several well-known North American faces who appeared in British films at the time such as Robert Arden from Mr. Arkadin (1955) in the role of Ross, Kay Callard in the Lady Macduff role, and future Italian Western villain Al Mulock in his screen debut as the first murderer. Despite Philip Yordan’s screenplay, Joe Macbeth is little better than a curiosity. It exists on the same level as the British film version of James Hadley Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948) depicting an English representation of Hollywood movies starring Jack LaRue as an American gangster who seduces the American heiress played by Linden Travers in the most impeccable British accent imaginable., Hollywood images of Chicago and gangsters again color British attitudes towards America like the the pre-war era as George Orwell’s celebrated 1944 essay “Raffles and Miss Blandish” revealed. Although Bonar’s name follows those of Douglas and Roman in the credits, his “Lennie” is little better than a stereotype of a reluctant gangster wishing to leave the Mob and contains nothing of the dynamic American persona seen in his other performances. At the end of the film, he avenges the death of his family by using a machine-gun (resembling Muni’s favorite weapon in Scarface) and turning down the opportunity to become the next Mr. Big as police sirens sound. His lackluster performance may suggest that he also knows the difference between a real Hollywood gangster movie and this odd British pastiche.
From this point on, Bonar’s star career began to decline. He simply becomes part of the familiar scenery of character actors populating British cinema at this time. He had already appeared as one of the four airmen stranded in a life-raft moving closer to enemy territory in The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954) but outnumbered by his British officer class counterparts played by Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, and Jack Watling in a film where British determination and resilience will eventually overcome all obstacles. During the 1950s, the British war film represented a cinematic compensation for Britain’s diminishing role in the economic and international arenas so it is not surprising that these films never emphasize the role of their former ally. The color musical spectacle Stars in Your Eyes (1956) again gives Bonar third billing but this time to well-known British entertainment figures such as comedian Nat Jackley (later seen in The Beatles’s 1967 television extravaganza Magical Mystery Tour as “Happy Nat, the Rubber Man) and singer Pat Kirkwood. He also sings a duet with Dorothy Squires, “I Saw that Look in Your Eyes” in her only film appearance during the time she was the wife of future “Saint” Roger Moore. The film also featured other well known figures from the British entertainment world such as eternal pre-teen Northern comedian Jimmy Clitheroe (who had appeared in films with veteran music-hall comedians such as Frank Randle and Old Mother Riley), Joan Sims, elderly disk-jockey Jack Jackson, English blonde bombshell Vera Day (whose minor attributes complemented the major ones of Sabrina, Britain’s version of Jayne Mansfield) and Hubert Gregg (who wrote the popular song “Maybe, it’s because I’m a Londoner). Significantly, Stars in Your Eyes complemented Bonar’s first film appearance Starlight Serenade (1944) showing that his American song and dance associations were not completely forgotten at this time.
Released just after his death, John Gilling’s The Man Inside (1958) represented another example of Bonar’s post-war decline. Starring Pittsburgh born Jack Palance struggling with a Texas accent, Anita Ekberg introduced by a gratuitous low-angle shot revealing her qualifications to be the second reference in the final Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film Hollywood or Bust (1956), Sidney James as a New York cop, Donald Pleasance as a Portuguese organ-grinder complete with monkey, Anthony Newley as a comically unfunny Portuguese taxi-driver, the film’s only merit is to show why Satyajit Ray and Francois Truffaut thought British cinema unworthy of any serious attention. Here Bonar appears not as a sinister American but as a German crook complete with dueling scars as if he had stepped out of some Ruritanian fantasy of Old Heidelberg. It is as completely forgettable as his appearance as foreign menace Amalio in John Gilling’s Interpol (1957) starring Victor Mature and Anita Ekberg.(10) By this time he had fallen to the levels of a background character actor in international productions featuring Hollywood stars past their prime such as Terence Young’s Zarak (1956) again starring Mature and Ekberg where he played big Vic’s brother in a forgettable North-West Frontier epic. During 1957, he appeared as Naval Lieutenant Sellars in the Caribbean drama Fire Down Below making an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a pre-Billy Wilder Jack Lemmon from burning to death in a merchant cargo ship. Also featuring other Hollywood stars such as Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitchum whose star associations jar with the nature of their lower depths characters scripted by Irwin Shaw, the film represented another mediocre contemporary Anglo-American production where Bonar again becomes character actor scenery. He again reprised his familiar G.I. role in Them Nice Americans (1958), this time playing a supporting role in a film trying to persuade an American hating police inspector (Basil Dignam) that his friend Johnny (Sheldon Lawrence) is a suitable mate for nice “English Rose” Vera Day. However, by this time, Bonar’s characterizations became less varied and more repetitious. In Death Over My Shoulder (1958), he played another second lead gangster type with contemporary American ex-patriot Keefe Braselle in the starring role. The ironically-titled No Time to Die! (1958) again placed him below Victor Mature in the credits. Although he again portrayed a different form of national identity as a Polish escapee from an Italian P.0.W, this did not save him from death at the hands of a German tank leaving Mature and Anthony Newley’s cockney stereotype alive to tell a very tedious tale. At this point of his career, Bonar had become a familiar face among that prolific gallery of British character actors appearing frequently alongside recognizable types such as Sidney James, Anthony Newley, and Sean Kelly. Had he lived he might have followed the path of many British and American character actors such as Anthony Dawson and Al Mulock by moving to Italy and appearing in crime dramas and westerns.
During the last year his life he had also appeared in television and theatre. Doomsday for Dyson was a Granada television forty-five minute production. Scripted by J.B. Priestley, his name appeared eleventh in the cast. Bonar returned to the stage and played the title role in Liverpool’s New Shakespeare Theatre production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? After finishing one performance that evening he crashed his sports car outside the Mersey Tunnel the way to Birkenhead causing his death and 98 stitches to the head of his fellow passenger Michael Balfour on 18 August 1958. The production was due to move to the Golders Green Hippodrome Theatre and one newspaper still taken on that date poignantly depicts a bill poster sticking the name of Bonar’s replacement opposite that of British starlet June Cunningham who played the Jayne Mansfield role and later suffered decapitation in Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) in an uncanny anticipation of the demise of her Hollywood counterpart later. Like an older version of James Dean, he had lived young, died, fast, and left a beautiful corpse –at least in the minds of British moviegoers fascinated by his American image derived from a wartime alliance now vanishing from popular memory.
However, despite his tragic death, Colleano’s image lived on not only in the memory of contemporary audiences but as a result of televised screenings of his films for a later generation. Although he never achieved a cult status equivalent to that of Eddie Cochran and James Dean, his name occurred in a catalogue sung by Ian Dury and the Blockheads in 1979, “Reasons to be Cheerful: Part Three” which reached number three in the British pop charts. Although the majority of Dury’s references were British, Colleano’s status represented an important image of post-war. However, two decades later documentary comedian and humorist Dave Gorman presented a one-man 90 minute show for the Edinburgh Festival in which he examined each reference in Dury’s original song by questioning whether they were actually good things. His interrogation of the reference to Bonar Colleano may suggest the performer’s awareness of the darker cultural implications behind this figure’s cheerful American persona. Although he remained firmly entrenched in popular culture memories as Britain’s favorite Yank during wartime and postwar eras, certain contradictory images exist concerning another side of the actor.
During 1946, E.A. Clarke from Eastbourne witnessed a different side to the screen image at a local swimming pool when Bonar “and his rowdy companions from the film world arrived and monopolized the pool to the exclusion of all present much to their disgust. The oft-heard saying `Bloody Yanks” became ever more meaningful.”(11) He had also become a target for the Inland Revenue in 1958 and attempted to get round this by taking his wife on holiday to Trinidad, buying her a Jaguar and signing property over to her as a kind of informal insurance. However, like the I.R.S. and the Canadian Mounties, this institution were certainly out to “get their man” and only his death a mile from the Mersey Tunnel, where he drove his sports car through a corrugated iron fence before smashing into a levee, prevented this. However, he left a widow and four year old son Mark to face the consequences. During a bankruptcy hearing a few months before in May, the public learned that he owed about eight thousand pounds (equivalent to approximately $35,000, a considerable sum for those days) to the Inland Revenue but only had three hundred and sixty seven pounds in the bank. On 15 December 1958, the show business community rallied to support his widow and child by staging a charity football match featuring well-known celebrities such as Stanley Baker, James Mason, Alfie Bass, and Sidney James with a kick-off by popular singer Alma Cogan.(12) By this time, the grief-stricken Susan Shaw was unable to care for her son and Colleano’s mother Rubye looked after him in London eventually encouraging him to follow the family tradition by becoming a child actor. Mark Colleano continued in the entertainment industry until the late 1980s before going into semi-retirement and training as a yoga teacher. By contrast, Susan Shaw’s eventual fate represented the dark side of those failed G.I. Bride relationships. The former Rank starlet continued acting until 1963 when she left the film industry due to alcoholism. She eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver on 27 November 1978. None of her former co-stars and colleagues attended her cremation at Golders Green Crematorium. This sad real-life conclusion not only echoed the negative unhappy endings to certain American-British wartime relationships but also represented the end to British cinema’s romance with the image of the dashing G.I.(13)
Despite this tragic denouement, the image of Bonar Colleano in his relatively brief British film career represents the wartime role of the American serviceman whose presence contradicted the constraining traditional image of pre-war society and represented a more democratic and liberalizing alternative no matter how illusionary and temporary it was. In this respect, the importance of being Bonar was a valuable cultural alternative for a society attempting to move away from an imperial past towards the more challenging vistas of a post-World War Two international perspective where Britannia no longer “ruled the waves” let alone the cinema screen. But, at the same time, British culture exhibited both a fascination with the type Bonar embodies as well as a hesitation concerning his cultural influence. His star image embodied a tension between conflicting national values that Dominic Strinati and others have seen as more representative of a British culture that was much more contradictory in the issue of “taste” on both the elitist and popular levels.(14) As well as representing the wartime image of the American GI, Bonar Colleano’s cultural significance during the 1940s and 1950s contained both positive and negative features representing the contradictory nature of the special alliance between two world powers that was less than equal. Rather than being “the man you love to hate,” Bonar Colleano could be both loved and feared in terms of a changing British cultural landscape.
I would like to thank Professor Sue Harper of the University of Portsmouth (U.K.) for providing a research student to explore information contained in the British Film Institute Library, David Absalom, Steve Crook, and Richard Jeffs, curator of the Baim Collection for his kind permission to reproduce stills from Starlight Serenade and Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary?
(1). Angela Holdsworth, Out of the Doll’s House: The Story of Women in the Twentieth Century. London: BBC Books, 1988, 144; Elfrieda Berthaiume Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, War Brides of World War II. New York: Penguin Books, 1989, 24, David Reynolds, Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945. New York: Random House, Inc. 1995, xxiii. (return)
(2) See Graham Smith, When Jim Crow Met John Bull: Black American Soldiers in Wartime Britain. London: I.B. Tauris & Co, Ltd, 1987; Juliet Gardiner, `Over Here’: The GIs in Wartime Britain. London: Collins & Brown, Ltd. 1992, and A Cleveland Harrison, Unsung Valor: A GI’s Story of World War II. Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 2000, which all represent varying perspectives. As David Reynolds perceptively notes not all Yanks serving in wartime Britain were male or even white. “And each time, what shaped the story were the person’s character, education, and background as much as some essential `Americanness.’ Despite the uniform, there was no uniformity about the GI experience –for these seven, or for three million of their countrymen. The `oversexed, overpaid’ image tells us as much about British stereotypes of the Americans as it does about the soldiers themselves.” (xxvii) For the cultural significance of both Bonar Colleano and William Sylvester in the lost world of the 1950s British second feature see Andrew Roberts, “FILM: Attack of the B-movie.” The Independent (London, UK). (return)
(3). See Eric Barrett, “Bonar Colleano: Personality Boy.” Picturegoer, March 17, 1951. http://www.powell-pressburger.org/Reviews/Bonar/Bonar01.html. (return)
(4). George Orwell, “Decline of the English Murder.” The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, vol. 4, In Front of Your Nose: London: Penguin Books, 1978, 124-128. For British cinema’s hesitant relationship with American culture and the Hollywood gangster film see Tony Williams, “The British Gangster Film,” The Gangster Film Reader, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini. New York: Limelight Editions, 2007, 237-256. The Hulton incident later became the subject of an unsatisfactory film Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1985) starring Kiefer Sutherland. In many cases, American GIs became the hunted rather than the hunter as the presence of aggressive London “ladies of the night notoriously known as the “Piccadilly Commandos” and the “Hyde Park Rangers” revealed to a shocked British wartime establishment. See Gardiner, 119-124; Reynolds, 201-208, 403-404; and Harrison, 234-235. They were professionals and different from the “good time girls” who anticipated those girls in Cyndi Lauper’s later hit who just wanted to “have fun.” Neither category would gain approval from the British establishment. When Sergeant Bowren provides “evening entertainment” for the dozen in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967), he uses a “liberty bus” truck (also know as a “passion wagon”) usually used to transport females to USAAF dances. For a photo, see Gardiner, 109. (return)
(5). See F.R. Leavis, Mass Civilization and Minority Culture. Minority Pamphlet No. 1: Cambridge: Gordon Fraser 1930; Q.D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public. London: Chatto and Windus, 1932. This disdain continued well into the 1950s with adverse comments made against “juke-box boys” frequenting milk bars and “living to a large extent in a myth-world compounded of a few simple elements which they take to be those of American life.” See Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy. London: Penguin Books, 1958, 204. Reynolds points out that older Britons and those with more education tended to be censorious about American materialism. Although British historian G.M. Trevelyan criticized a 1947 world lacking any culture except football pools and American films, “to those who loved American music and movies, the age of mass culture was a delight. The GIs – jitterbugging and gum-chewing – accentuated a trend that began during the Jazz Age of the 1920s and continued on via the gyrations of Elvis Presley to the present day.” (438) Although he was no rock star, Bonar Colleano can be regarded as the first American “rock and roller” in British culture. (return)
(6) Scottish actor Hugh McDermott (1908-1972) began his screen career playing British national types from 1936 to 1945. But his casting as Dave Fenner in No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948) led to him playing stereotyped Yank roles onwards in films such as Lilli Marlene (1950), The Wedding of Lilli Marlene (1953), Devil Girl from Mars (1954), Johnny on the Spot (1954) and many American and British television productions with the exception of his re-occurring role in ITV’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1960), a series scripted anonymously by many blacklisted exiles (as the lyrics played over each concluding credit sequences “takes from the rich, gives to the poor” reveals. Blacklisted American producer Hannah Weinstein (1911-1984) was the executive producer on this and other British television series during the 1950s. Despite playing an English grocer in the 1962 “Tower of Strength” episode of BBC TV’s Dixon of Dock Green (1955-1975), his performance was still archetypal Yank McDermott. The actor ended his career playing Americans in westerns such as Lawman (1971), Captain Apache (1971), and Chato’s Land (1972). As well as Dirk Bogarde’s Liverpool-born character who claims to be a Yank in The Woman in Question (1950), McDermott may also be regarded as a “counterfeit Yank.” See Steve Chibnall, “Counterfeit Yanks: War, Austerity, and Britain’s American Dream.” Ed. Philip Davies. Representing and Imagining America. (Keele, Staffordshire: University of Keele Press, 1996, 150-159. (return)
(7). See Sam Staggs, When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005, 106-110. Although the least muscular actor to play Stanley, Colleano found favor in Olivier’s eyes for his” lightly subtler approach” to the role pioneered by Marlon Brando that neither had seen. The future Lord Olivier then delivered a very affirmative comment about an actor then associated with playing stereotyped Yanks stating that he played Stanley “more or less the way I’d have to do it myself and I do hope you wouldn’t turn me down for it on that account.” (111) On the other hand, for most British audiences, Colleano would embody their worst fears concerning the violent nature of Americans, particularly GI servicemen found guilty of rape. (return)
(9). See Pat Kirkham, “Dress, Dreams, and Desire: Fashion and Fantasy in Dance Hall.” Journal of Design History 8.3 (1995): 195-214, especially 198-199. Colleano’s role in this film also embodies those contemporary fears concerning post-war American influences in terms of the democratic image of the United States as an egalitarian society, something that would threaten traditional British elites as well as fears concerning working-class affluence and conspicuous consumption that critics such as Richard Hoggart wished to protect the lower orders from. In Dance Hall, nice working class girls need protection from an American threat embodying similar fears of political decline and dependence on America’s economic power that also structure Obsession. For such fears and a different perspective to Richard Hoggart’s views in The Uses of Literacy see Dick Hebdige, Hiding in the Light. London: Routledge, 1988. (return)
(10) Although Gilling directed some dreadful films such as Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) featuring Bela Lugosi in one of his declining roles and The Gamma People (1956) that Robert Aldrich originally wrote for John Garfield, he was also responsible for the Hammer productions of The Reptile (1966) and Plague of the Zombies (1967) that may be his most enduring achievements. Here the studio is definitely the auteur! (return)
(13). Despite the various problems affecting such unions, they achieved an 80% success rate. See the well-documented study by two products of these marriages, Elfrieda Berthiaume Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, War Brides of World War II. New York: Penguin Books, 1989. (return)
(14) See Dominic Strinati, “The taste of America: Americanization and popular culture in Britain.” Eds. Dominic Strinati and Stephen Wragg. Come on Down? Popular Media Culture in post-war Britain. London: Routledge, 1992, 46-81. (return)