HOLIDAY CAMP is an important 1947 British film for several reasons. First off, it documents the rise of a British institution, the holiday camp, a place where the working class flocked in the years after World War II to enjoy the countryside and various activities like swimming and biking and dancing. The holiday camp planned all kinds of outdoors activities for people who otherwise never got out of the city.
The films comprises several plot lines. The Huggett family (they would spin off into their own film series) epitomizes the working class family on the way up. They still hold to old morals and traditions but they are thrust into the post-war world where beauty contests and having a good time are now the norm. We also see a lonely spinster whose life has been wasted in pining for a boy who never came back from World War I and taking care of an ailing mother. Another plot follows a caddish womanizer who also seems to have a secret.
Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison are the parents. Peter Hammond is the hapless son, and Hazel Court the war widow with a baby. Flora Robson is the spinster who lets go of the past and finds a new purpose in life. Dennis Price is the cad with a secret.
But it's Esma Cannon, the tiny (4 ft 10) actress who steals the film as Elsie Dawson, an endlessly cheerful old maid who throws herself into life and into the pursuit of "Mr. Right" even though the odds are against her. She chases after Dennis Price, takes part in every camp activity (including a swim-suit beauty contest), and cheers up everyone around her. The ending of the film and Elsie's fate are quite shocking.
All of the stars are excellent. Co-stars include Esmond Knight as the "voice" of the camp (via loudspeakers), Jimmy Hanley as a possible son-in-law for the Huggetts, Yvonne Owen as a sharp-tongued friend, Beatrice Varley as a bitter old aunt, Emrys Jones and Jeannette Tregarthen as the troubled young couple, Susan Shaw as Patsy, Jane Hylton as the camp receptionist, Diana Dors as a dancer, and Patricia Roc in a cameo as herself.
But it's Esma Cannon who you'll remember from this great film.
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