In From the Cold with Gordon Harker: Happy Holidays from Dreaming in Television!


Happy holidays, everyone!! My favourite time of year, I enjoy it almost all year haha, but to celebrate a little more this weekend here’s a toasty festive scene from “Saloon Inn” (1940), a hidden early Ealing comedy-mystery based on a play by Frank Harvey. It’s Christmastime in London and the ‘Inn’ pub regulars hope to prove a barmaid’s boyfriend is innocent of murder and robbery in time to save him from execution, all while the landlord’s wife is expecting a baby upstairs and everyone’s downing ales/ avoiding the sandwiches and snotty kid carollers. The film stars Gordon Harker (one of my favourite everythings), in a great turn as turf accountant, supported by a great cast including Ralph Lynn, Anna Konstam, Mervyn Johns, and Joyce Barbour.

It never loses its liveliness and even action, but there’s a wonderful timelessness about “Inn,” partly in its theatrical setting/pacing of one mesmerisingly drawn-out evening, unfolding almost entirely at the snug (one envies the leisurely in-and-out ‘everyone knows your name’ atmosphere, as one poor Meek Outsider is made to feel), and partly maybe in its now-nostalgic, pre-blitz community spirit (only a passing joke on ’rearmament’). Even as early as this there’s the Ealing love of tradition and camaraderie, great Wodehouse/Aldwych humour of language (the back-and-forth chat and Johns’ deadpan gravitas is artistic joy) and of class (upper-class-twit parties wanting tomahto juice and Harker’s put-on accent are priceless), all good childlike farce.


The suspense of the mystery holds up really well too, radio serial/novella quality, tightly stitched together with trailing clues that Harker sniffs out with bloodhound alacrity. Most of all, it’s a favourite for me because of its soothing creature comforts and ’milk of human kindness,’ everything and everyone perfectly, ordinarily extraordinary down to the neighbourhood constable stepping in for a late lock-in party, in from the rain and the cold. I’m so grateful for our friendships and wish blessings and love for us and our loved ones this new year and every year, Live Long and Prosper :’) Xo