Books and Films

If you’d like to find out more about the fascinating historical connections between Norfolk and North America, or you’d like to indulge in a slice of American culture, why not take out an American-themed book, or settle down with a film, from Norfolk Libraries?

Books You Might Like

Norfolk Library and Information Service holds a wide variety of books about all things American. As part of the Norfolk’s American Connections project, the library service increased this collection, purchasing top American fiction titles, books about Norfolk’s American connections, and titles on the Friendly Invasion.  The books are circulating around a selection of libraries across the county between July and December 2012.  To find out more, please call 07789 282236.

You might also like to visit the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library at The Forum in Norwich, which has a lending collection of over 4,000 books covering all aspects of American life and culture, and a specialist collection devoted to the history of the 2nd Air Division US 8th Air Force.

You can download a PDF that show most of the titles that have been purchased as part of the Norfolk’s American Connections project here.  There are lots more to choose from – use the Library Service’s handy online catalogue to search for your favourite titles.

One of the largest events in the Norfolk’s American Connections programme is the ‘Across the Pond’ American Film Festival, which has been created by South Norfolk Council and Creative Arts East as part of the latter’s Village Screen scheme.  The festival will bring ten films with American connections to villages across South Norfolk from September to October 2012.  For more information about the film programme, please see our events page.

Films You Might Like

The final ‘Across the Pond’ programme was put together from a long list of 17 films, all chosen because they represent links between Norfolk, or the UK, and America.  This long list is available below.  Most of the titles are available to borrow at Norfolk’s libraries.  You can use the Library Service’s handy online catalogue to search for them.  (Remember to pick ‘films’ from the ‘search in’ drop down menu).

Charlie Chaplin – The Mutual Films (dir. Charlie Chaplin)  A compilation of short films made during Chaplin’s time with Mutual, during which time he was one of the highest paid people in the world and in great demand.  With his own Los Angeles studio, Chaplin’s time with Mutual was perhaps his happiest period of film making, and the films he produced are considered by many to be his finest work.  The films are Behind The Screen, The Rink, Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant and The AdventurerChaplin was born in England in 1889.  As part of Fred Karno’s comedy company, he was chosen as part of their tour of America in 1911 and quickly impressed American reviewers.  After suspicions and allegations of communism by the American government during the 1940s, Chaplin eventually left America in 1952 and made his home in Switzerland. (141 mins total). 1916-17.

City Lights (dir. Charlie Chaplin)  The charmingly simple story of The Little Tramp, who meets a lovely blind girl selling flowers on the street who mistakes him for a wealthy duke.  When he learns that an operation may restore her sight, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have the surgery.  In a series of comedy adventures, he eventually succeeds, even though his efforts land him in jail.  While he is there, the girl has the operation and afterwards yearns to meet her benefactor, but discovers that he is not a wealthy duke at all, but only The Little Tramp.  City Lights, with Chaplin as The Tramp, was immediately popular, despite talking pictures being on the rise, and is today considered to be one of Chaplin’s greatest accomplishments.  Although classified as a comedy, the film has an ending widely regarded as one of the most moving in cinema history. (87 mins). 1931.

A Hard Day’s Night (dir. Richard Lester) The Beatles travel from their home town of Liverpool to London to perform in a television broadcast.  Escaping a hoarded of fans, they board a train and try to relax, but along the way various interruptions test their patience.  Upon arrival, they must rescue Paul’s unconventional grandfather from various misadventures, and drummer Ringo goes missing just before the crucial concert.  The film is in the style of a ‘mockumentary’, depicting a couple of days in the lives of the group.  The Beatles gained popularity in the UK in late 1962 after the release of their first single, Love Me Do.  By early 1964, they had become international stars, leading the ‘British Invasion’ of the US pop market.  (87 mins). 1964.

Harvey (dir. Henry Coster) The classic stage hit gets the Hollywood treatment in the story of Elwood P. Dowd who makes friends with a spirit taking the form of a human-sized rabbit named Harvey that only he sees (and a few privileged others on occasion also).  After his sister tries to commit him to a mental institution, a comedy of errors ensues.  Elwood and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places.  Harvey was adapted from the play of the same name, in which James Stewart also starred for nearly three years. The film also won Josephine Hull an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (104 mins). 1950.

Mrs Miniver (dir. William Wyler)  The Minivers, an English middle-class family, experience life in the first months of World War II.  Clem Miniver is a successful architect and his beautiful wife Kay keeps busy in the quaint English village they call home. She is well-liked by everyone and the local station master has even named his new rose after her.  When their son Vincent – Vin to everyone – comes home from Oxford for the summer he is immediately attracted to Carol Beldon, granddaughter of Lady Beldon.  Their idyllic life is shattered in September 1939 when England declares war on Germany.  Soon Vin is in the RAF and everyone has to put up with the hardship of war including blackouts and air raids. Throughout it all, everyone displays strength of character in the face of tragedy and destruction.  Mrs Miniver was hugely successful, winning 6 Academy Awards and becoming the highest grossing film in the year of its release. As it was produced during World War II, scripts were changed to reflect developments in the conflict and when completed was rushed to theatres under orders of Roosevelt for propaganda purposes. (134 mins). 1942.

On Eagles’ Wings: The American Air Force in WWII (Archive documentary)December 1941: The United States of America enters WWII.  Thousands of young Americans are drafted into the Army Air Force and sent to England.  Using airmen’s memoirs and diaries, On Eagles’ Wings chronicles the experiences of ordinary young men who risked extraordinary danger.  With dramatic original colour film, the story of the Mighty Eighth is told as never before.

Overpaid, Oversexed and Over Here (Archive documentary) It is 1942: The US Army Air Force has ‘invaded’ England, bringing jeeps, gum, candy and nylons.  Charming and friendly, the GIs quickly become part of the local scene.  Using many now forgotten airfields, these visitors from across the Atlantic brought not just their bravery, but many cultural changes with them.  This endearing film brings the sense of excitement that came with these young men and remembers the ultimate sacrifice that many of them made.  (55 mins).

Pocahontas (dir. Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg) Captain John Smith leads a rag-tag band of English sailors and soldiers to the New World to plunder its riches for England (or, more precisely, for Governor Radcliffe).  Meanwhile, in this ‘New World’, Chief Powhatan has pledged his daughter, Pocahontas, to be married to the village’s greatest warrior.  Pocahontas, however, has other ideas.  She has seen a vision of a spinning arrow, a vision she believes tells her change is coming.  Her life does indeed change when the English ship lands near her village.  Between Ratcliffe, who believes the “savages” are hiding the gold he expected to be plentiful, and Powhatan, who believes these newcomers will destroy their land, Smith and Pocahontas have a difficult time preventing all-out war, and saving their love for each other.  This film is loosely based on the real-life story of Pocahontas and King’s Lynn’s John Smith.  Pocahontas went on to marry John Rolfe of Heacham Hall, and bore him a son, Thomas. (81 mins). 1995.

Psycho (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)  Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony.  When Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer she sees the opportunity to take the money and start a new life. She leaves town and heads towards Sam’s California store.  Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother….  Psycho is considered to be one of Hitchcock‟s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics. The film also pioneered a new level of acceptable violence and sexuality in films.  Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who gained success in both silent films and the talkies in the UK and USA.  Hitchcock became an American citizen in 1955, but remained a British subject, gaining a knighthood in 1980. (109 mins). 1960.

Rebecca (dir. Alfred Hitchcock) A shy lady’s companion staying in Monte Carlo with her stuffy employer meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter.  She and Max fall in love, marry, and return to Manderley, his large country estate in Cornwall.  However, Max is still troubled by the death of his first wife, Rebecca, in a boating accident the year before, and the second Mrs. de Winter clashes with the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, discovering that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.  (130 mins). 1940.

Rear Window (dir. Alfred Hitchcock) Professional photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries breaks his leg whilst getting an action shot at an auto race.  Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing neighbours.  He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife.  Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.  The film stars Jimmy Stewart, who was stationed in Norfolk during WWII, when he flew for the 445th and 453rd Bombardment Groups.  (112 mins).  1954.

The Battle of Britain (dir. Frank Capra)  The official World War II US government account of Great Britain’s stand against the Nazi war machine after the Dunkirk evacuation.  Part of Capra’s ‘Why We Fight’ propaganda film series, mainly focusing on the desperate, but successful, battle to maintain their vital air superiority over the British Isles and the morale of the people to prevent invasion. (54 mins). 1943.

The Go-Between (dir. Joseph Losey)  Summer 1900: Queen Victoria’s last and the summer Leo turns 13.  He’s the guest of Marcus, a wealthy classmate, at a grand home in rural Norfolk.  Leo is befriended by Marian, Marcus’s twenty-something sister, a beauty about to be engaged to Hugh, a viscount and good fellow.  Marian buys Leo a forest-green suit, takes him on walks, and asks him to carry messages to and from their neighbour, Ted Burgess.   Leo soon realises he’s betraying Hugh, but continues as the go-between nonetheless, asking adults naive questions about the attractions of men and women.  Can an affair between neighbours stay secret for long?  And how does innocence end?  The Go-Between is a British film directed by American Joseph Losey who created most of his work in Britain. The film was shot on location in Melton Constable, Heydon and Norwich and is based on the novel by L.P. Hartley, who was from Cambridgeshire. (118 mins). 1970.

The Great Dictator (dir. Charlie Chaplin) Twenty years after the end of WWI, Adenoid Hynkel has risen to power as the ruthless dictator of Tomainia.  He believes in a pure Aryan state, and the decimation of the Jews.  This situation is unknown to a simple Jewish-Tomainian barber who has been hospitalised as a result of a WWI battle.  Upon his release, the barber, who had been suffering from memory loss about the war, is shown the new persecuted life of the Jews by many living in the Jewish ghetto, but is ultimately spared such persecution by Commander Schultz, who he saved in that WWI battle.  The lives of all Jews in Tomainia are eventually spared with a policy shift by Hynkel himself, who is doing so for ulterior motives.  But those motives include a want for world domination, starting with the invasion of neighbouring Osterlich.  The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first ‘talkie’, having continued with silent films well into the sound era.  As with many of his films, Chaplin wrote, produced, directed and starred as the lead.  The film was largely successful with 5 Oscar nominations. (125 mins). 1940.

The Odd Couple (dir. Gene Saks)  Felix Ungar has just broken up with his wife. Despondent, he goes to kill himself but is saved by his friend Oscar Madison.  With nowhere else to go, Felix is urged by Oscar to move in with him, at least for a while.  The only problem is that Felix is neat, tidy, and neurotic, whereas Oscar is slovenly and casual.  The Odd Couple is probably Walter Matthau’s most notable film in which he reprises the role of Oscar from the original Broadway play.  The film was highly successful gaining two Academy Award nominations and was later developed into a TV series.  Matthau served as a B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner in the US Eighth Army Air Force 453rd Bombardment Group, stationed at Old Buckenham during World War Two, where he reached the rank of sergeant. (105 mins). 1968.

The Philadelphia Story (dir. George Cukor) Philadelphia heiress Tracy Lord throws out her playboy husband C. K. Dexter Haven shortly after their marriage.  Two years later, Tracy is about to marry the respectable George Kittredge, whilst Dexter has been working for “Spy” magazine.  Dexter arrives at the Lord’s mansion the day before the wedding with writer Mike Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie, determined to spoil things.  The film stars Cary Grant, who performed as a stilt walker in a stage troupe under his birth name ’Archie Leach’ at the Norwich Hippodrome aged just 12 years old.  It also stars James Stewart, who was stationed in Norfolk with the USAAF during WWII.  (112 mins). 1940.

The Way To The Stars (dir. Anthony Asquith)  A depiction of life on a British bomber base, and the surrounding towns, from the start of the Battle of Britain, to the arrival of the Americans.  Pilot Officer Peter Penrose, fresh out of a training unit, joins the squadron, and quickly discovers about life during war time.  He falls for Iris, a young girl who lives at the local hotel, but he becomes disillusioned about marriage when the squadron commander dies in a raid, and leaves his wife with a young son to bring up.  As the war progresses, Penrose comes to terms with the fact he has survived, while others have been killed.  The film, released in 1945, was a tribute to the American airmen who had given their lives for the war effort.  It stars Sir John Mills, who was raised in Belton, Norfolk and Felixstowe, Suffolk, and attended Norwich High School for Boys (which moved to Langley Park during WWII, and is now Langley School).  Whilst at school, Mills had trials for Norwich City Football Club – the team he supported – but was turned down on the grounds of being too short.  He made his West End debut in 1929.  (87 mins). 1945.