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CATHY COME HOME “THE WEDNESDAY PLAY” (TV SERIES 1964-1970) (director/writer: Ken Loach; screenwriter: Jeremy Sandford; cinematographer: Tony Imi; editor: Roy Watts; music: Paul Jones; cast: Carol White (Cathy), Ray Brooks (Reg), Wally Patch (Grandad), Winifred Dennis (Mrs. Ward), Adrienne Frame (Eileen), Emmett Hennessy (Johnny), Ronald Pember (Mr. Jones); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tony Garnett; BBC; 1966-UK)
“It’s a film that makes one proud of the good things films can do.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An early Ken Loach (“Kes”/”Bread and Roses”/”My Name is Joe”) film, written by him and Jeremy Sandford, made for the BBC’s innovative The Wednesday Play, a television series that ran from 1964-1970 that gave young experimental filmmakers a chance to do their own thing. It might very well be the most important British television drama ever written. The film aroused so much interest after it was seen on the tube about the cruel handling by the government of the unfortunate homeless, that change was enacted. The powerful film resulted in creating “Shelter,” a housing for the homeless charity. It also brought a new breed of actor and filmmaker into Great Britain, one that came from the working-class or was interested in doing films about the disenfranchised. It’s a film that makes one proud of the good things films can do. The program was shown in 1966 and gave the liberal Ken Loach his big break. Ever since, Loach has made relevant political and social conscience films. He has stuck to his guns and not gone Hollywood, and the now seventysomething filmmaker still makes the same hard-hitting films. He’s a director I greatly admire, and this film Cathy Come Home might not have great acting or the greatest dramatic story but it’s forceful, meaningful, moving and unforgettable.

Working-class Cathy (Carol White) marries the working-class Reg (Ray Brooks), and they have a son. Unable to work, they become in arrears in their rent and are evicted. Unable to get help from the social agencies, they live in a caravan. But that is set ablaze, and the hard-pressed couple is treated like dirt by the social agencies that are supposed to help them and after separated because of archaic laws, Cathy stays with the kid in a temporary emergency shelter and Reg has to fend on his own in the street which causes the couple to drift apart. When the three months are up of the allotted time to stay, Cathy is given a short reprieve to find a shelter on her own. But when she can’t, her child is heartlessly taking away from her on a railway platform by the authorities and her marriage breaks up.

This gripping realistic family drama, about the evils of a bureaucracy, was received very well by the public. It puts a different face on the homeless and tells us most are decent folks who might have the best intentions in the world but could still descend into poverty through no fault of their own. What is frightening, is that it shows that the social agencies put in place to help them wouldn’t give them a leg up. It was one of those films that needed to be made and needed to be seen to be believed.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”