Of Recent years, I feel the British movie industry has devoted disproportionate time to making cheap gangster flicks. It has become tiresome when I believe our nation has so many other subjects it could find to exploit and present to varied audiences. I sometimes think that people abroad must regard Brits as being gangster obsessed if they see the amount of movies we seem to plug on the subject.
Then I was very pleasantly surprised by a DVD I purchased in the supermarket in March, Cambridgeshire, where I now live. The fictional story was called Made in Dagenham. It was among the cheap and cheerful sales section. At first I thought “Oh no, not more nastiness - from Dagenham this time.” Then I noticed a group of young ladies in retro sixties outfits and my interest was perked. I remember my Mother wearing such things when I was a kid and I, of course, have a nostalgic liking for retro British things of the 50s, 60s and 70s, especially the 60s. I felt myself compelled to give the DVD a little more scrutiny.
I saw the late Bob Hoskins alongside a group of ladies in bee hive hairdos and bubble type cuts. These ladies were working at the Dagenham Ford Motor Company – a place I remember well as a kid because I lived in Hornchurch and knew a number of people who worked there in the engine plant. “Wow! I think. Somewhere I lived as kid with all the retro memories.” I’m not too keen on girlie type films, but this did have a colourful fun aspect to the cover and I thought my wife would like it because she always complains that I buy SciFi and basically male orientated flicks. “OK,” I thought, “for £3 I’ll give it a go.” And with reserved aplomb, I put it next to the Monty Python DVD, I had already chosen.
The wife and I settled down to watch this flick the other night and I would have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie is a very charming ‘feel good about yourself’ story that is neatly crafted. Actress Sally Hawkinsplays a character called Rita O’Grady who works with a group of ladies in the Ford Motor Company, upholstery plant, where they specialise in making car seats – machine stitching them to required fittings. This is a specialised job that does not get the industrial recognition and respect it deserves because it is women doing the task. We go on a journey of industrial action from the ladies as they campaign for equal wages to the men. There are 55,000 men working at the plant and just 187 women in 1968.
The fictional story about the real 1968 Ford Motor Company strike. It is a wonderful ‘feel good’ presentation because it is done in such a wonderful light hearted way. Rita O’Grady lives in flats (apartments) close to the Ford Motor plant that I’m sure must be the Mardyke Estate in Rainham, just up the A13 less than a mile from Dagenham Motor plant. She is roped into a union meeting (more as a bystander or token rep alongside three other union officials.)
At the meeting, the head regional union rep is sweet talked over by the management committee, but our heroine (Rita O’Grady) gate crashes the talks and comes out with home truths concerning sexual discrimination and the wrongs being done to the ladies who earn less than 50% of what the men earn. From this point the movie kicks off with the girls walking out and the knock on effect they have in the British government and the U.S. Ford Motor Company. We get a panoramic and international view of the shockwaves while this small group of ladies live their humble lives with enough things at home to concern themselves with. It is as though they can’t see the more dynamic impact they have as they focus on their one righteous campaign. They come across as modest people just stating what is right.
The struggle is colourful with trials and tribulations mixed in with real and more kindly things. I don’t know how to explain the kindly things, except to say the film is not morose. It is uplifting in its womanly presentation of things – light hearted and endearing while managing to convey the seriousness of the exploitation that is going on. From Rita O’Grady and her work friends to British Employment MP Barbara Castle (Played by MirandaRichardson)
It is a movie that manages to flick a switch and sit back modestly and say, “Well what do you think?”
ANSWER: I thought it was blooming lovely. 10 out of 10 and a big smile.