Battleaxes, spinsters and chars: the ageing woman in British film comedy of the mid-twentieth century

Mortimer, Claire (2017) Battleaxes, spinsters and chars: the ageing woman in British film comedy of the mid-twentieth century. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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    Abstract

    ‘Battleaxes, Spinsters and Chars: the Ageing Woman in British Film Comedy of the Mid-Twentieth Century’ explores the prominence of the mature woman in British film comedies of the mid-twentieth century, spanning the period from the Second War World to the mid-1960s. This thesis is structured around case studies featuring a range of film comedies from across this era, selected for the performances of character actresses who were familiar faces to British cinema audiences. Organised chronologically, each chapter centres around films and actresses evoking specific typologies and themes relevant to female ageing: the ‘immobile’ woman in wartime, the spinster in the post-war era, retirement and old age in the 1950s, and the cockney matriarch in the early 1960s. The selection of case studies encompasses the overlooked and critically derided alongside the more celebrated and better known in order to represent the range of British film comedy of the time. The final chapter spans the time-frame of the whole thesis, exploring the later life stardom of Margaret Rutherford. The thesis is centred on close textual analysis of sequences from the case studies, applying research into a range of historical texts relevant to the films and actresses, including biographies, letters, correspondence, press, posters and publicity materials. Each chapter draws on diverse scholarly disciplines to interrogate representations of female ageing, encompassing age studies, feminist studies, star studies, sociological research, genre studies, political philosophy, anthropology and social history. I conclude that film comedy of the mid-twentieth century offered familiar and reassuring typologies of the ageing woman for audiences in a time of upheaval and social change. My analysis of the films demonstrates how the representations of female ageing provided by these character actresses and stars were inflected by the cultural and social context. In her various guises the character actress in British comedy offered a fantasy of continuity, stability and reassurance within a country which struggled to define its national identity, and a national cinema which was struggling to survive.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
    Depositing User: Katie Miller
    Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2017 12:09
    Last Modified: 12 Oct 2017 12:09
    URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/65122
    DOI:

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