Cosh Boy

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Cosh Boy
"Cosh Boy" (1953).jpg
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay byLewis Gilbert
Vernon Harris
Based onplay Master Crook by Bruce Walker
Produced by Daniel M. Angel
StarringJames Kenney
Joan Collins
Cinematography Jack Asher
Edited by Charles Hasse
Music by Lambert Williamson
Daniel Angel Films
Distributed byRomulus (UK)
Lippert (US)
Release date
4 March 1953
Running time
75 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget£38,537 [1]
Box office£112,918 (UK) [2]

Cosh Boy (released in the United States as The Slasher) is a 1953 British film noir based on an original play by Bruce Walker. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert and featured James Kenney and Joan Collins. It was made at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.



Led by 16-year-old Roy Walsh (James Kenney), a post-war London street gang specializes in snatching women's purses. They use their membership in a boys' club as cover. During a club-sponsored dance, Roy meets Rene (Joan Collins), the sister of one of his gang. Over time, Rene submits to his sexual advances. Later, upon visiting a doctor, Rene learns she's in the family way. She tells Roy, who wants nothing more to do with her. Rene then attempts suicide. Meantime, Roy's mother, Elsie Walsh (Betty Ann Davies) is seeing Bob Stevens (Robert Ayres). He urges Elsie to marry him. That way, he can take Roy "in hand." Sensing this new authority, Roy harbors outright hatred for Bob.

Bob is assistant manager at the Palindrome dance hall. One evening, Roy's gang rob the Palindrome's box-office take. During the heist, Roy shoots a staff member, wounding him seriously. Later that night in a hospital, Rene's mother witnesses her daughter's recovery from her suicide attempt. She then travels to Elsie's flat with a mob of concerned women, shouting for her to produce Roy. Then Bob arrives. He urges Rene's mother to go home. Next, he kicks in the door to Roy's bedroom, where the boy has taken refuge. Bob decides to give Roy a sound thrashing - for his own good. The police arrive next, just as Bob is brandishing his belt in readiness. Bob lets them in, and in reply to their enquiry as to his identity, he says he's the boy's stepfather, having just married his mother Elsie that morning.

The senior officer (Laurence Naismith) congratulates him. Then, seeing the belt in Bob's hand, he smiles, suggesting to his colleague they arrest another gang member and come back for Roy later. Bob begins thrashing Roy as the scene cuts outside and a mob of women listening to Roy's cries and shrieks for help. The detectives walk away silently, into the night.



The film was based on a play, "Master Crook" by Bruce Walker which had been originally titled "Cosh Boy". It debuted at the Embassy in 1951 starring James Kenney.The Spectator said "its rough, crude taste is shockingly welcome" and praised the third act for its "highly unpleasant, undeniably effective, melodramatic tension." [3] Variety called it "a strong piece of melodrama." [4]

Joan Collins called it "a shop girl’s melodrama and the public loved it. I enjoyed working with Jimmy and all the other young actors. The director, Lewis Gilbert, was adorable to me, and good to work with. " [5]


Cosh Boy has also been named The Tough Guy, or The Slasher. It was called The Slasher in America because they were unfamiliar with the term "cosh". [6]

It was among the first British films to receive the new X certificate. It was given a Certificate rating of 16 in Norway (1953), and banned in Sweden.

The film's release coincided with the trial of Derek Bentley and some media linked the film to Bentley's crimes. "Today you'd show it to 10 year olds", Lewis Gilbert commented in 2000. [7]

The film was banned in Birmingham. [8] It was also refused permission to be shown in Australia. [9]

Critical reception

Variety said the film was "bound to attract undue controversy" wherever it was screened and felt American audiences would have trouble understanding the accents. [10]

The Monthly Film Bulletin said the film "can justly be accused of sensationalism. The characters are all stereotypes and in no way arouse the warmth of pity or indignation.... this film may provide plenty of ammunition to those who blame the screen for the incidence of juvenile delinquency. The awfulness of the crimes committed by the young thugs in the film is in no way emphasised and the excitement of conspiracy and chase is given a glamour which is in no way dimmed by the "nice" atmosphere of the youth club scenes and the puerility of the social workers, who can apparently be so easily duped. The performance of James Kenney and some good location work are the best points of the film... Joan Collins as the misused young girl is badly miscast." [11]

The Los Angeles Times said the "acting... is tops." [12]

Box Office

The film performed poorly at the box office. [13]

Historical context

In England in the early 1950s, male youths in post-World War II delinquent gangs who wore stylised Edwardian-era fashion were initially known as 'cosh boys', and 'Edwardians', [14] [15] but later became better known as 'Teddy Boys' after a 23 September 1953 Daily Express newspaper headline shortened Edwardian to Teddy. [16]

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  1. Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 358
  2. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p499
  3. "Master Crook." by Bruce Walker (Book Review) I. H. The Spectator; London Vol. 188, Iss. 6445, (Jan 4, 1952): 12.
  4. "London Xma Stage Preems Hit Best Since May". Variety. 26 December 1951. p. 13.
  5. Collins, Joan. Past Imperfect. p. 51.
  6. "World-wide Film and Theatre News". The Daily Telegraph . Vol. XIV, no. 14. New South Wales, Australia. 22 February 1953. p. 38. Retrieved 5 September 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Jones, Nicholas (10 March 2000). "Of human Bondage". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  8. "PUT ON YOUR EASTER BONNET". Mirror . Vol. 30, no. 1661. Western Australia. 28 March 1953. p. 6. Retrieved 5 September 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "Australia Takes 68 British Productions". Kine Weekly. 13 May 1954. p. 8.
  10. Review of film at Variety
  11. Review of film Volume 20, No.229, February 1953, page 18 at Monthly Film Bulletin
  12. Absorbing Drama Found in Twin Bill G K. Los Angeles Times 25 July 1953: A7.
  13. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of The 1950s The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press USA. p. 268.
  14. McIntyre, Iain; Nette, Andrew; Doyle, Peter (2017). Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980. London: PM Press. ISBN   9781629634586.
  15. Kirby, Dick (2013). Death on the Beat: Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty. Wharncliffe. p. 29. ISBN   9781845631611.
  16. Ferris, Ray; Lord, Julian (2012). Teddy Boys: A concise history. Milo Books.