The Dim Little Island (1949) Movie Script

In ancient times,
the licensed fool was allowed to speak
while the others held their peace.
So perhaps I, as an avowedly comic artist,
may be allowed to speak first.
The comic artist is the guardian of reality.
It is his privilege to remind the public
what they really look like
and to destroy their happy illusions
of dignity and beauty,
so sedulously built up by the advertising
artist and the Royal Academician.
But there are many other illusions.
For instance, the illusion that compared
to the romance and mystery of High Tibet
or the rolling prairies and limitless
expanse of the golden West,
Great Britain is rather a dim little island.
The illusion that compared to
those talented Central Europeans,
flogging the pianoforte
for a very substantial remuneration,
we are a hopelessly unmusical nation.
And of course that now as always
the country is going to the dogs.
Ichabod, Ichabod, our glory is departed.
Perhaps you may remember
a Victorian painting of emigrants,
called The Last of England.
It was painted in 1852.
To us, looking back, a time of optimism,
expansion and the Great Exhibition.
But this was not, I fancy, the reality
which the departing emigrants observed.
For them, England was the land
of the 12-hour day,
suffering from the effects
of the Hungry Forties,
menaced by the dangerous imperialism
of Napoleon III,
its faith undermined by Mr Darwin.
Many of these things
were indeed realities.
The illusion was the supposed
resulting collapse of Britain.
The first iron ship in the world
was launched on the Tyne in 1852.
And for nearly a century,
British yards were building ships
better than other people,
cheaper and quicker,
banging and clattering with technique
and skill constantly improving.
And men were proud
to call themselves craftsmen.
Then we ran into trouble.
The world slump hit the Tyne
In the olden days,
the father passed on his skill to his son.
Then the introduction of machinery tended
to take away the skill more and more
and we, the shipbuilders and engineers,
neglected, in the altered circumstances,
to train the apprentices.
Most of our shipyards were
practically closed for five years
and only started to get busy again
under the threat of approaching war.
This is a secret place.
Trespassers trespass at their peril.
It's called Minsmere,
on the Suffolk coast.
A bird reserve, managed by the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
During the war it was a protected area
of another kind.
And where the assault course was laid out,
shelducks now rear their broods in peace,
under the protective eye
of the watcher.
Wild nature in Britain.
What's the use of it?
I'll tell you. It's interesting.
We learn from it.
It's beautiful.
We refresh ourselves with it.
It's fun. We take pleasure in it.
This chap's on the edge of Scotland.
600 miles from London
on the cliffs by Cape Wrath,
the northwest tip of Britain.
You don't have to go to the Arctic
or the tropics to explore.
There's plenty still to do in Britain.
Human life is withdrawing,
receding from the remote northwest.
The land is slipping back to nature
and becoming a wild treasure ground,
a wild pleasure ground
for the inquiring naturalist.
Here's the contrast.
The industry that keeps us alive.
It's all over the place.
You can't get away from it?
Nonsense. Of course you can.
For five bob you can get from almost
any industrial city of the north
to country like this,
Malham Cove and Gordale Scar
in the limestone country
of the Craven Pennines,
part of one of the proposed
national parks.
As it fell out upon one day
Rich Diverus he made a feast
And he invited all his friends
And gentry of the best...
Listen to that tune.
It is one of our English folk tunes.
I knew it first
when I was quite a small boy.
But I realised even then that here was
something not only very beautiful
but which had a special appeal
to me as an Englishman.
It dates from a time when people
of necessity made their own music
and when, as has been well said,
they made what they liked
and liked what they made.
I'd like to think of our musical life
as a great pyramid,
at the apex of which
are the great virtuosi performers
and composers of international renown.
Then, immediately below this, come
those devoted musical practitioners,
true artists,
who by precept and example,
are spreading the knowledge
and love of music
in our schools, our choral societies,
our musical festivals.
Then comes the next layer
of our musical structure,
that great mass
of musical amateurs
who make music for the love of it
in their spare time,
and play and sing for their own
spiritual recreation in their homes.
And then below that again
as a foundation
we have those great tunes
which like our language,
our customs, our laws,
are the groundwork
upon which everything must stand.
So perhaps we are not
so unmusical after all.
our music has lain dormant.
Occasionally indeed,
a candle would shine
like a good deed in a naughty world,
Byrd, Purcell or Arne.
And lately the candles
have become more numerous.
For people have come
to find in our music
a special message,
which that of other nations,
however skilled and imaginative,
cannot give them.
But it's not all
going to be easy.
Nature's hard to manage.
We'll sometimes have to ration
the fun we get out of it.
If we don't preserve and cherish it,
if we don't go on learning,
finding out about it,
we may hurt it or even lose it.
But today we can no longer
build ships better than Sweden
or quicker than the Americans.
Ichabod, Ichabod,
our glory is departed.
Have we really lost
our touch as shipbuilders?
Have we lost it as a nation?
No, I don't think we really have.
There is one very big thing
in our favour,
that we are good sailors.
We have always been,
and we know we are still.
But we need more work from below
and more drive from the top.
If we can get supplies,
if we don't take things too easily,
two very big "ifs",
we can still compete.
Doubtless, were we a rational race,
the spectacle of our present position
would overwhelm us.
Then we've always, thank heaven,
remained deaf to appeals to reason.
We're convinced that
the experts are invariably wrong.
And at Dunkirk, which was the illusion
and which the reality?
So, the fire is ready
to be kindled,
and only requires a match to be lighted
to set the whole ablaze.
Some great upheaval of national
consciousness and emotion.
The Elizabethans experienced this,
and as a result
they produced poetry and music
such as has never been surpassed.
Have we not also experienced lately
such a national upheaval?
And is not the reason why,
during the late war,
those who had never taken music
seriously before
began to crowd our concert halls
from Kensington to Haringey
to hear a symphony concerts?
Today, our music, which so long
had seemed without life,
has been born again.
Who can talk of an end,
when we're scarcely at the beginning?