Welcome to the Dream Palace: British Cinema of the 1930s

Disappear in a decade of escapism with our crash course in ’30s British features.

If you thought 30s British cinema was all upper-class twits in dinner jackets and awfully nice ladyships with impeccable cut-glass accents, think again (though there are plenty of those). Why not drop in on George Formby and tap-dancing moppet Binkie Stuart in Keep Your Seats, Please (1936)? Or if heartthrob Charles Boyer is more to your taste, you’ll find him on dashing form as a Japanese naval officer in The Battle (1934).

For contemporary British audiences these films represented an escape from economic depression and escalating political tension at home and across Europe. With no less than 60 hours of newly digitised material – and most of the 50 features currently unavailable on DVD – Welcome to the Dream Palace offers the perfect getaway from 21st-century stresses.

Ten to try

Love on Wheels (1932)

Wonderful toe-tapping musical comedy starring Jack Hulbert.

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

Charles Laughton on Oscar-winning form as the much-married monarch.

Evergreen (1934)

Jessie Matthews is at her best in this musical proving that 30s glamour wasn’t confined to Hollywood.

Waltzes from Vienna (1934)

A real Hitchcock rarity, and a Hitchcock musical, to boot.

Dandy Dick (1935)

Will Hay – as a country vicar no less – finds himself accused of doping racehorses.

The Tunnel (1935)

Ambitiously mounted sci-fi tale about the construction of a transatlantic tunnel.

The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936)

Boris Karloff, in his first mad-scientist role, develops a machine that can exchange minds between bodies.

The Great Barrier (1937)

Western-style adventure on the Canadian Pacific Railway with a heroic Richard Arlen and luminous Lili Palmer.

The Challenge (1938)

A British take on the German mountain film, recreating the 19th-century conquest of the Matterhorn.

The Dark Eyes of London (1939)

Bela Lugosi, a disfigured murderer and bodies in the Thames: a landmark British horror.

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