Co-adapted by writer Moie Charles from her own story positively promoting the contribution of women to the war effort in WWII, Leslie Howard’s upbeat propaganda film follows a group of women training and working in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
Capturing many of the charms and character of British cinema at this time (patriotism, comedy, irony, and sentimentality) the film aimed to reassure a skeptical public that the ATS was not a ‘hotbed for sexual promiscuity,' women of all backgrounds could come together and were capable of carrying out roles normally attributed to men, and acknowledged the sexism women faced in these roles.
While the ironic narration, which humorously battled the sexism of the time, may seem archaic today, the film still resonates in the fact that the roles occupied by these women continue to largely be mens' jobs over seventy years later. And therefore begs the question: how much has really changed?
An unlikely box office hit at the time, with a stellar cast and a classic but well played ‘triumph over adversity’ plot, The Gentle Sex is an underrated gem of British cinema.