The Long Memory


The Long Memory is a black and white 1953 British noir film directed by Robert Hamer. John Mills plays Philip Davidson, just released from an eight-year stretch in prison for murder. But Philip has a mission. He wants to track down the people responsible for his imprisonment—Captain Driver (Fred Johnson), his daughter Fay (Elizabeth Sellers), and Tim Pewsie (John Slater)—who stitched him up for the murder of the criminal Boyd (John Chandos) to hide their own involvement in Boyd’s crimes. Boyd had actually clubbed one of his customers over the head in a fight over payment, and then seemed to drown when Driver’s boat caught fire and sank. After his release, Phillip finds that Captain Driver drank himself to death, Fay has married the detective on the case, Bob Lowther (John McCallum), and become a middle-class housewife, and Pewsey, a middle-aged man, has recently left his own wife (Thora Hird) for a younger mistress (Mary Mackenzie).

Mills is excellent as an ordinary, decent man who’s life is turned upside down and because of that becomes frustrated and obsessed. Eva Bergh is excellent as a young waitress at a café who befriends Davidson and ends up falling in love with him. Sellars is good as the woman who only cares about herself and doesn’t realise until much later just what her accusations cost Davidson. The great works of British film noir are far less well known than the American, but it was one of the few genres that thrived for the British film industry after World war 2. Like many true noir films, The Long Memory is about people trying to cling to existence and their humanity; crime is a negative expression of their desires. The Long Memory portrays Britain as it was then—depressed, hungry, worn out by war, and full of the poor, deprived, transient, and criminal.


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