Heroes and happy endings

Class, gender, and nation in popular film and fiction in interwar Britain

By Christine Grandy

Heroes and happy endings


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0682-7
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: February 2017
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, The arts / Films, cinema, History, Social & cultural history, HISTORY / Social History, PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


This is a highly anticipated examination of the popular film and fiction consumed by Britons in the 1920s and 1930s. Departing from a prevailing emphasis on popular culture as escapist, Christine Grandy offers a fresh perspective by noting the enduring importance of class and gender divisions in the narratives read and watched by the working and middle classes between the wars. This compelling study ties contemporary concerns about ex-soldiers, profiteers, and working and voting women to the heroes, villains and love-interests that dominated a range of films and novels. Heroes and happy endings further considers the state's role in shaping the content of popular narratives through censorship.

An important and highly readable work for scholars and students interested in cultural and social history, as well as media and film studies, this book is sure to shift our understanding of the role of mass culture in the 1920s and 1930s.


'Heroes and Happy Endings stands out for its ambition and clarity, and deserves a wide readership among scholars of interwar Britain. The book will be a valuable addition to reading lists by providing an accessible entry to theories of mass culture, which encourages students to engage with books and films not simply as discrete texts, but as components of a broader ideological apparatus.'
Max Jones, Department of History, University of Manchester, Contemporary British History

'The book is certainly fit for students and scholars interested in historical perspectives on the role of popular culture in general and in the interwar period in particular. It is of relevance to people in cultural studies, film studies, cultural histories and media studies but, really, it can be enjoyed by anyone interested in popular culture and/in the interwar period.'
Hilde Van Den Bulck, University of Antwerp, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

'Heroes and Happy Endings makes a valuable contribution to the study of popular culture in the interwar period.'
Laura E. N. Mayhall, The Catholic University of America, Twentieth Century British History

'Through its evaluation of the period's most popular films and novels, Heroes and Happy Endings provides a refreshing insight into British society's interwar leisure practices. By drawing on the insights of cultural, film, gender, literary, and media studies, as well as adopting a social and cultural history approach, Grandy has produced a detailed, thoroughly-researched and engagingly written analysis of the period. The book opens up the most popular films and novels of the interwar period to considerable scrutiny, while carefully situating them within their social and cultural contexts. It deserves to be read widely by students and scholars, particularly those interested in the social and cultural history of the interwar period. It is, however, a very accessible book and is highly recommended as an introductory text for anyone wanting to find out more about British society during this tumultuous period in the country's history.'
Robert James, University of Portsmouth, Journal of Social History (Summer 2019)


Introduction: The role of popular culture between the wars
1. A man imagined: Heroes, work, and nation
2. The shape of villainy: Profiteering and money-men
3. That magic moment: The female love-interest and the villainess.
4. Building character: Censorship, the Home Office, and the British Board of Film Censors
Conclusion: Thoughts on heroes, villains, and love-interests beyond 1939
Images and Appendices


Christine Grandy is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Lincoln

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