Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Wednesday 26th of February, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for the fourth of this term’s screenings. We will be showing The Franchise Affair (1951, Lawrence Huntingdon, 95 mins) on Wednesday the 26th of February, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

The Franchise Affair is based on Josephine Tey’s 1948 novel of the same name. The third of Tey’s Inspector Alan Grant series of novels, it directly follows 1936’s A Shilling for Candles, adapted as Young and Innocent (1937). (You can see our discussion of this film here: )

Grant once more briefly appears, this time played by John Bailey, but the top-billed stars are Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray. Denison, as local lawyer Robert Blair, comes to the aid of Gray’s Marion Sharpe, and her mother (played by Marjorie Fielding). They have been accused of kidnapping and torturing a local young woman, Betty Kane (Ann Stephens). Tey’s plot was inspired by the real-life case of 18th Century maidservant Elizabeth Canning.

The New York Times considered both Tey’s novel and the film to belong to the melodrama genre. On the film’s release in the United States a very brief note labels the film ‘a British-made melodrama’ (3rd June 1952). Two months later, James Kelly reviewed Tey’s The Privateer (written under the name Gordon Daviot) for the same newspaper. In his review, Kelly applies the term ‘melodrama’ to The Franchise Affair and Brat Farrar – Tey’s 1949 non-Alan Grant novel (24th August 1952). Kelly provides more detail, claiming that Tey’s ‘vivid characterization, dispassionate reporting, and crisp writing can lend conviction to improbable melodrama’. Kelly’s view of melodrama is therefore pejorative – it is not believable, and praise is due to Tey for surmounting it.

We can perhaps discuss this in relation to the novel and/or film. In particular, it may be worth considering if the fact that the New York Times labelling of the film as ‘British melodrama’ has additional significance, commenting not just on its country of production, but its treatment of melodrama.

Do join us if you can.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 26th of October, 4.30-7pm, Jarman 7

All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s screening and discussion sessions, which will take place on Monday the 26th of October, 4.30-7pm, in Jarman 7.

The first of our Gothic season is Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock, 130 mins).

Modern Screen May 1940 Rebecca ad modernscreen2021unse_0421

According to a review in the June 1940 issue of the Fan Magazine Hollywood, the film is the ‘story of a young bride who was haunted by the mystery and by the memory of her husband’s first wife, Rebecca’ (p. 16). Above is an advertisement for Rebecca from the May 1940 issue of the Fan Magazine Modern Screen (p. 12). The artwork and text of this advertisement keys us to several of the film’s melodramatic themes, adding to the information provided by the review. (You can find these, and other Fan Magazine treasures, on the wonderful Lantern search facility of the Media History Digital Library website:

The presence, and positon and size of the illustration of the two stars is instructive. The large head and shoulders portrait is placed centrally. The wide-eyed facial expression of the second Mrs De Winter is in keeping with the ‘woman in peril’ theme of the Gothic we are focusing on this term. Significantly, underneath the credits it is noted that this is the ‘sensational starring debut’ of Joan Fontaine. This chimes with her character’s naïve, unknowing initial state and her eagerness to uncover the truth.

Laurence Olivier is more straightforwardly billed as previously being the ‘hero’ of Wuthering Heights. Rebecca is also an adaptation, but of a more recent popular novel by Daphne Du Maurier. The illustration of Olivier is suitably moody given Maxim De Winter’s complex character and contrasts to Fontaine’s concerned expression.

A figure we might presume represents the first Mrs De Winter appears in the top right hand corner, and unlike the film’s stars she is afforded a full-length presence which shows off her evening gown, with a hand resting nonchalantly on her left hip. Her face is obscured into nothingness, however, heightening the sense of mystery. Our interest is further piqued by the tagline which focuses on the suffering of the couple: ‘The Shadow of this Woman DARKENED THEIR LOVE!’

The Manderley estate, the subject of Du Maurier’s novel’s famous opening line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’, is also prominently placed. This is seen just underneath the looming figure of Rebecca, indicating that she continues to ‘haunt’ the house.

Do join us if you can – the intersection of stardom, male and female relations, Gothic tropes and domestic space will provide lots of food for thought.



Additional resources

Mary Anne Doane’s chapter “Female Spectatorship and the Machines of Projection: Caught and Rebecca.” The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (1987): 155-175.

Lisa M. Dresner’s chapter “A Case Study of Rebecca”.  The Female Investigator in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture (2006): 154-182.

You can find more information on these articles on our additional blog ( or email me at

Katie Grant’s fantastic audio-visual essay ‘Voluptuous Masochism: Gothic Melodrama Studies in Memory of Joan Fontaine’ is  on her Film Studies For Free blog: