It Always Rains On Sunday, Or The Day You Attempt A Prison Break

by Rachel Bellwoar

Tommy Swann (John McCallum) is on the run. Relayed to viewers via newspaper headlines, he’s already old news by the time director Robert Hamer turns to George (Edward Chapman) reading the paper in the British noir, It Always Rains on Sunday. For George’s wife, Rose (Googie Withers), though, the news carries a different meaning. The last person to find out, she’s also the last person you’d expect to know the escaped felon but, just as the trailer for this film is misleading, Rose Sandigate is a hard woman to pin down.

Once upon a time, before he got arrested, Tommy and Rose were engaged. Hamer only includes two flashbacks in this movie and the visual cues are so faint you almost don’t realize that’s what’s going on, but Rose was a blonde when they met. She also still has the engagement ring that he gave her and offers it to Tommy, when he starts to complain about money problems.
This is the most important scene in the movie, because from the trailer you might think Rose was trying to help Tommy against her will. That’s not true, but then, if you asked Tommy, he’d probably be surprised to learn they were ever engaged. That’s what you find out in this scene because while the flashback and the ring confirm Rose’s story, Tommy doesn’t recognize the ring. What makes it all the more horrible is that she doesn’t say anything.
Rose isn’t exactly sympathetic. As film historian Imogen Sara Smith points out in her commentary track, in most films she’d suffer the fate of the evil stepmother. Usually evil stepmothers try to disguise their contempt when their husbands are around. Rose doesn’t do that, but while none of the women are doormats in this movie, there’s no female solidarity either. You’d think Rose’s stepdaughters, Vi (Susan Shaw) and Doris (Patricia Plunkett), would be allies against her, but instead Vi lets Doris take on the lion’s share of the housework.
George is another fascinating character in this movie because while Tommy is the “homme fatale,” as Smith calls him in her commentary, George isn’t the most terrible of husbands. That isn’t to diminish Rose’s feelings of being trapped in her marriage, but more a comment on how you imagine her husband will be. Does George have patriarchal ideas of how a household should be run? Of course, those were the times, but, to his credit, he wants to spend time with his wife. He’s not neglectful in that sense.
The film incorporates a ton of subplots and is also interesting in how it positions itself within the postwar period (for instance, I didn’t realize claw machines were a thing you could find at arcades in the 40’s but, instead of toys, Doris plays for a pack of cigarettes and a watch). While one of the subplots involves a trio of petty thieves, you never see Tommy reach out to anyone or call on any gang members for help (very unlike Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out in that way, where James Mason’s compatriots search for him). The ending feels a little underwhelming, but Smith is able to bring some clarity to those scenes as well. Her commentaries are really a selling point.
It Always Rains on Sunday might not be the most edge of your seat noir, but it is, as Smith puts it, “quintessentially British,” with a great sense of place and local color. Additional bonus features on Kino Lorber’s DVD include a locations and a reconsideration featurette.

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