They Came To A City: Priestley’s 1944 utopian film on show in Bradford

On Sunday 20 October 2013, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the J.B. Priestley Society will show a rare and fascinating film by J.B. Priestley.  Originally a 1943 play, They Came To A City was filmed in 1944 by the director Basil Dearden.  Experts Bill Lawrence, Michael Nelson and John Baxendale will lead a discussion about Priestley’s role in cinema, a comparatively little known aspect of his work.

They Came to a City (PG) + Talk: JB Priestley and Cinema

They Came To A City is part of the conversation that was going on throughout the Second World War in Britain: what should society be like after the War?   J.B. Priestley was deeply engaged in this debate.  He addressed these questions rather gently in his famed Postscripts and much more directly in his essential Out of the People.   He believed that new better ways of living could come out of the War, that the mistakes made after the First World War did not have to be repeated.

In the play and film, Priestley used the idea of a city whose society encapsulated his happy egalitarianism.   Nine characters, spanning Britain’s social classes (bank manager and his wife, a charlady, a plutocrat and so on), are allowed in for a day.  We don’t see the city itself, just their responses to it, which vary widely.  Each character must decide whether to stay or leave …

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