The Queer (Spatial) Economies of 'The Lavender Hill Mob'
Hornsey, R. (2008) The Queer (Spatial) Economies of 'The Lavender Hill Mob'. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 5 (1). pp. 38-52. ISSN 1743-4521.
Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/E1743452108000058
This essay provides a new reading of the popular Ealing comedy 'The Lavender Hill Mob' (Charles Crichton, 1951) by rethinking its relationship to wider cultural developments in Britain at the time of its release. The immediate post-war period was marked by an investment in town planning ideologies as a means to repair the devastation of the Blitz and to build a more cohesive social order through the reformation of the built environment. During the reconstruction, various pedagogical initiatives sought to infuse an idea of national citizenship within a certain mode of inhabiting, moving through and reading urban space. The early-1950s were also marked by a sudden press attention to the problems of ‘male vice’ in London and, in particular, the way queer men had their own illicit urban choreographies and ways of engaging with the city. Such queer geographies were vilified for their anti-social nature and demonised as an attack on the normative spatial dynamics being propagated elsewhere. This essay argues that 'The Lavender Hill Mob' offered a sly celebration of precisely those illicit queer geographies that were becoming problematic at the time of its release. Not only is the film deeply queer in both its characterisations and its manner, but its central narrative revolves around a displaced articulation of the ‘crime’ of homosexuality as it was being imagined in the early-1950s. Through this, the film invites its audience to participate in a range of queer engagements with the city, not as a source of social anxiety but one of comedic delight.
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