An exhibition at the BFI Southbank looks at the working class people who went onto stardom on the silver screen.

Today the notion of a “normal” person appearing on the big screen doesn’t seem that strange, but if you go back to the early days, a large percentage of film output away from comedies was focused on the upper classes.

It was comedy that allowed the problems of the working classes to be represented by actors of the same class, and the exhibition opens with the breakthrough by London’s own Charlie Chaplin.

As a display it’s mainly old posters and old photos, but what makes it interesting are the small information panels next to posters and photos. These explain who the celeb is or in some cases, was, but also their background and how the cracked the silverscreen.

It would seem that the 1960s-70s were the highlight of ordinary folk appearing on the big screen in films that talked about ordinary lives.

Charlie Chaplin, Gracie Fields, Albert Finney, Julie Walters, Michael Caine, Idris Elba, Maxine Peake, Tom Courteney

With an increasing number of trades being restricted to people with rich parents due to their use of unpaid interns or the need for a long low-paid climb up the greasy pole, the issue of how the average person can enter the creative arts if once again an issue.

The exhibition finishes with a look at the latest crop of actors who have cracked the barrier to rise up to the big screen.

The display is at the BFI Southbank until 21st October, and is accompanied by a film series at the BFI of working class films.


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One comment
  1. JP says:

    Witness that classic high falutin’ american actor Cary Grant. He was born Archie Leach; not ideal on a cinema poster, I’d argue.
    He grew up in Bristol and worked as a lowly ‘bus-boy’ at a small cinema before running away from his factory worker dad and mum who had been removed to an asylum.
    If you want something hard enough, you can reach it!

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