My Brother Jonathan

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My Brother Jonathan
"My Brother Jonathan" (1948).jpg
Australian daybill poster
Directed by Harold French
Written by
Based on My Brother Jonathan
by Francis Brett Young
Produced by Warwick Ward
CinematographyDerick Williams
Edited by Charles Hasse
Music by Hans May
Distributed by Allied Artists (US)
Release date
  • 5 February 1948 (1948-02-05)(UK)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£198,000 [1] or £193,851 [2]
Box office£260,903 (UK) [3]

My Brother Jonathan is a 1948 British drama film directed by Harold French and starring Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, Ronald Howard and Beatrice Campbell. [4] It is adapted from the 1928 novel of the same name by Francis Brett Young, later turned into a television series of the same title. [5]


The film was part of an attempt to relaunch major production by ABPC following the Second World War.[ citation needed ]


The story revolves around the life of Jonathan Dakers, a small-town doctor. He is training to be a surgeon when his father dies. Due to the resulting financial problems, he cannot continue his training. The story goes briefly into flashback: to 1900. Jonathan and his brother go to a new private school. As soon as they arrive they join a game of cricket, where a young girl Edith (Edie) keeps the score.

We return to the death of his father (in a car accident). It is revealed that the father had misspent Jonathan's inheritance (which was in trust). Jonathan promises his brother Harold that he will still be able to finish his degree at Cambridge University.

He buys a share in Dr. Hammond's general practice in Wednesford, a poor foundry town in the north. He maintains a relationship with Edie, writing to her as she winters in Monte Carlo on the French Riviera. The local cottage hospital refuses him permission to bring his patients there and as he is not a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons also refuse him permission to operate.

Harold tells Jonathan that he loves Edie and is going to marry her. They celebrate together on New Year's Eve 1913/14. Jonathan moves his affections from Edie to Rachel, his assistant. Harold (Hal) joins up at the start of the First World War. He is killed leaving Edie pregnant but unmarried so Jonathan returns to her and marries her to preserve respectability.

When Dakers notes that many patients have been injured in industrial accidents at the foundry, he comes into conflict with its owner Sir Joseph Higgins, and the owner's son-in-law Dr. Craig, who owns the town's competing medical practice. He writes a report criticising the condition of the foundry and buildings the workers live in but Craig, who is also the local Health Officer, deliberately mislays it.

When Dakers performs a life saving tracheotomy on a child with diphtheria, and takes the child to the cottage hospital, he is charged with misconduct, as the hospital charter precludes infectious cases. He is asked to attend a medical tribunal. Jonathan explains he had no choice in order to save the child. He is charged with not reporting a case of diphtheria and operating without permission. Dakers publicly accuses the medical authorities of suppressing health issues in the town and not serving the town. Dakers suggest public subscription to support medical treatment of the poor. The public are very much behind Dakers.

They decide to change the operation of the hospital. The corrupt officials (Higgins and Dr. Craig) resign. As the meeting concludes a siren sounds... there is a big fire at one of the foundries. Craig is injured and Jonathan operates on him and saves his life.

Dr. Hammond meanwhile serves at the birth of Edie's son. However Edie dies soon after, first telling Jonathan to be happy with Rachel.

The story jumps to 1939. Jonathan and Rachel are married. Edie's son is fully grown and in army uniform.



The film was made at Elstree Studios and Welwyn Studios, with location shooting taking place at Aston Rowant railway station in Oxfordshire. The sets were designed by the art director Douglas Daniels.

Director Harold French said he did not pick Michael Denison but he approved him. [6]


Box Office

The film was a big hit on release, being the third most popular movie at the British box office in 1948. [7] [8] It led to Michael Denison being voted the 6th most popular British star. [9] [10]

Michael Balcon later claimed the film earned £1,041,000 at the UK box office of which £416,000 went on the entertainment tax, £375,000 went to exhibitors and £57,000 to the distributors, meaning the makers of the film did not recover their costs from the UK release. [1] [11] According to another account as of 1 April 1950 the film earned distributor's gross receipts of £226,362 in the UK of which £142,813 went to the producer. [2]


The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "The novel was a long one and events did not follow hot foot upon one another as is, rather of necessity, the case in the film, at any rate towards the end, when it leaves one rather breathless." [12] In British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928–1959 David Quinlan rated the film as "good", writing: "Solidly crafted version of bestseller really packs in a lot of story." [13]

The Radio Times Guide to Films gave the film 2/5 stars, writing: "Time has not been kind to the films featuring husband and wife Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray. Yet Denison's clipped tones and stiff acting style and Gray's mousey loyalty turned this into a respectable hit. ... Polished but sterile." [14]

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  1. 1 2 Balcon, Sir Michael. "The Film Crisis and the Public." Sunday Times [London, England] 6 Mar. 1949: 4. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.
  2. 1 2 Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 355.
  3. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p485
  4. "My Brother Jonathan". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  5. "My Brother Jonathan". BBC Programme Index. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  6. mcFarlane, Brian (1997). An autobiography of British cinema : as told by the filmmakers and actors who made it. Metheun. p. 213.
  7. "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail . Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 8 January 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  8. Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48 2003 p210
  9. "Wonder-boy Welles for Britain". The Mail . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 22 January 1949. p. 2 Supplement: Sunday MAGAZINE. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  10. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 258.
  11. "Why British films are in a mess". The World's News . No. 2468. New South Wales, Australia. 9 April 1949. p. 15. Retrieved 2 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  12. "My Brother Jonathan". The Monthly Film Bulletin . 15 (169): 16. 1 January 1948 via ProQuest.
  13. Quinlan, David (1984). British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928–1959. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. p. 232. ISBN   0-7134-1874-5.
  14. Radio Times Guide to Films (18th ed.). London: Immediate Media Company. 2017. p. 640. ISBN   9780992936440.