Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Made in Dagenham

I haven't  reviewed a movie in yonks - so it's time to change that.

Made in Dagenham is a fictionalised account of an industrial dispute that took place in 1968 on the Dagenham UK assembly line of the Ford factory.

187 women machinists were employed to assemble and stitch the upholstery for the popular Ford Cortina. Without the finished and upholstered seats being available, the assembly line would grind to a halt, which was the best weapon the women had in their armoury.

They were paid much less than the men working in the factory, partly because they were classified as "unskilled", despite the fact that the work was intricate and complex. Their conditions were poor, and the section of the factory that they worked in was unbearably hot in summer, and it leaked when it rained, a fairly frequent event in that part of the world.

The union that represented them didn't take their claims seriously because they were, after all, women, and tried to fob them off.

The women, led by Rita O'Grady (played by Sally Hawkins) were supported by a sympathetic shop steward (Albert Passsingham; played by Bob Hoskins) who generally stayed in the background and offered advice at crucial stages.

They called a strike, which eventually brought the plant to a standstill. Ford tried to discredit the union, but this strategy failed when the women broke ranks with their own union, and refused to knuckle under to a meaningless compromise. Eventually, Barbara Castle, the Labor cabinet minister at time, came to their support. Despite threats from Ford that the UK factories would be shut down, she introduced legislation which guaranteed them 92% of the male wage, and led to a series of equal opportunity reforms that changed the status of women in the workforce in both the UK and Europe.

The team that produced Calendar Girls is also responsible for this one and the same gentle genius in terms of screenplay, character development and cinematography is evident,

It also provides an interesting insight into the values of the time, a time that I can remember pretty clearly. I can certainly remember the small Fords of the time.

Back then, my Polish next door neighbour owned one as her first car, and she was silly enough to let me behind the wheel occasionally. It was enjoyable to drive, and had a sweet direct gearshift and light and accurate steering.

I can't remember the upholstery.

Go see it - it's down to earth, reflects the times, and is well crafted - a bit like the Ford's British cars back then..

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