I have neglected the British comedies of the 30s-60s in my research, yet some representations of the older woman seem to be very interesting in these films. Our Older Women in Film Group had noted that in British produced films between 1997 and 2006 (see resources) : ” … issues of social significance, like the abuse in care homes, the financial difficulties after the death of a providing husband, the grandmother’s role in troubled families, are dealt with in light-hearted comedies”. And these films were not widely distributed and seen while films vilifying the older woman had a very large audience.
Claire Mortimer alerted me to Make Mine Mink (1960). I will not look at this film in detail but only will mention some features that I find worth noting.
There are many women in the cast, spanning ages between 22 and 71.
Athene Seyler aged 71 plays a woman of around this age. There are also Irene Handl 59, Elspeth Duxbury 51 as older women. Amazing how the faces are remarkably smooth and no folds or lines are showing. Age is not an issue here. Although the characters are just stereotypes of oddballs : butch, eccentric, zany, I find that as in The Ladykillers, (see my blog October 2009) and Alive and Kicking (blog July 2012), there is an underlying thread of women’s friendship and cooperation.
As an older woman with lots of retired friends who volunteer for charities, I relished the image of the older woman bored by her work and needing a thrill. I relished the idea of stealing from the rich to give to the poor – hackneyed idea for sure but so appealing specially in these days of cuts and inequalities. These films are dismissed and yet they may be more important that the feel-good ones we are served these days.
So many areas of research. Do comedies, even minor ones express social issues in a more subtle way than the melodramas so often associated with the older woman?