|They Were Sisters|
|Directed by||Arthur Crabtree|
|Written by||Roland Pertwee|
|Based on||They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple|
|Produced by||Harold Huth|
|Starring|| James Mason |
|Edited by||Charles Knott|
|Music by||Louis Levy|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors|
|2 July 1945 (UK)|
23 July 1946 (US)
|Box office||over £300,000 (UK)  or over £1 million |
They Were Sisters is a 1945 British melodrama film directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures and starring James Mason and Phyllis Calvert. The film was produced by Harold Huth, with cinematography from Jack Cox and screenplay by Roland Pertwee. They Were Sisters is noted for its frank, unsparing depiction of marital abuse at a time when the subject was rarely discussed openly. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas. 
Unlike most of the hugely successful melodramas made by Gainsborough during the mid-1940s, They Were Sisters has a near-contemporary rather than a costume setting, spanning the years from the end of the First World War, to the late 1930s. The screenplay was developed by Pertwee from a popular novel of the same name by Dorothy Whipple, published in 1943.
They Were Sisters features the spouses of both Mason and Calvert; Pamela Mason (billed under her maiden name Pamela Kellino and playing Mason's daughter, despite being only seven years younger) and Peter Murray-Hill. Mason later admitted that he acted most of his bullying, sadistic role with a permanent hangover as a result of his using drinking as a means of dealing with the frustration he felt from his role and the British film industry in general. 
The film focuses on the lives of three sisters; Lucy (Phyllis Calvert), Vera (Anne Crawford) and Charlotte (Dulcie Gray). It opens at a dance in 1919, establishing their personalities and following them through courtship and marriage. While the sisters remain close to one another, their characters and paths through life are very different.
Lucy is the most stable, sensible, practical and in a happy marriage, whose greatest sadness is her inability to have children, which she sublimates by lavishing affection on her nephews and nieces. Vera is married with a child but the relationship is humdrum and loveless and she is restless and bored, indulging her appetite for adventure and excitement through a series of flirtations, which sometimes go beyond the bounds of the socially acceptable. Charlotte is a cowed drudge, suffering emotional abuse at the hands of her manipulative, brutal husband Geoffrey (James Mason), who belittles and humiliates her in front of their three children.
The film shifts between the three households but its main focus is the way in which Lucy and Vera have to look on, unable to provide effective help despite their best attempts, as Charlotte's treatment by her husband (who, it is strongly implied, is also engaging in an unhealthy relationship with their elder daughter) becomes ever more shocking and she descends into alcoholism to blur her despair. A final attempt by Charlotte to flee Geoffrey ends in tragedy. Vera's marriage, too, crumbles as her husband discovers her in a serious extra-marital relationship and petitions for divorce. The film ends by showing Charlotte's and Vera's children being cared for by the childless Lucy.
The film was very popular at the British box office, being one of the biggest hits of the year.   According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winners' at the box office in 1945 Britain were The Seventh Veil, with "runners up" being (in release order), Madonna of the Seven Moons, Old Acquaintance, Frenchman's Creek, Mrs Parkington, Arsenic and Old Lace, Meet Me in St Louis, A Song to Remember, Since You Went Away, Here Come the Waves, Tonight and Every Night, Hollywood Canteen, They Were Sisters, The Princess and the Pirate, The Adventures of Susan, National Velvet, Mrs Skefflington, I Live in Grosvenor Square, Nob Hill, Perfect Strangers, Valley of Decision, Conflict and Duffy's Tavern. British "runners up" were They Were Sisters, I Live in Grosvenor Square, Perfect Strangers, Madonna of the Seven Moons, Waterloo Road, Blithe Spirit, The Way to the Stars, I'll Be Your Sweetheart, Dead of Night, Waltz Time and Henry V. 
The Times wrote, "the merit of this long and intelligent film lies in the skill with which it establishes the personalities of the sisters...the acting throughout has strength and sincerity." 
James Neville Mason was an English actor. He achieved considerable success in British cinema before becoming a star in Hollywood. He was the top box-office attraction in the UK in 1944 and 1945; his British films included The Seventh Veil (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945). He starred in Odd Man Out (1947), the first recipient of the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.
Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, north London. Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. The company was initially based at Islington Studios, which were built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway and later converted to studios.
Phyllis Hannah Murray-Hill, known professionally as Phyllis Calvert, was an English film, stage and television actress. She was one of the leading stars of the Gainsborough melodramas of the 1940s such as The Man in Grey (1943) and was one of the most popular movie stars in Britain in the 1940s. She continued her acting career for another 50 years.
Perfect Strangers, is a 1945 British drama film made by London Films. It stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a married couple whose relationship is shaken by their service in the Second World War. The supporting cast includes Glynis Johns, Ann Todd and Roland Culver. It was produced and directed by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier based on a story by Clemence Dane. Dane won the Academy Award for Best Story. The music score was by Clifton Parker and the cinematography by Georges Périnal.
Jean Kent was an English film and television actress.
The Man in Grey is a 1943 British film melodrama made by Gainsborough Pictures; it is considered to be the first of a series of period costume dramas now known as the "Gainsborough melodramas". It was directed by Leslie Arliss and produced by Edward Black from a screenplay by Arliss and Margaret Kennedy that was adapted by Doreen Montgomery from the 1941 novel The Man in Grey by Eleanor Smith. The film's sets were designed by Walter Murton.
Arthur Crabtree was a British cinematographer and film director. He directed films with comedians such as Will Hay, the Crazy Gang and Arthur Askey and several of the Gainsborough Melodramas.
Madonna of the Seven Moons is a 1945 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures and starring Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The film was produced by Rubeigh James Minney, with cinematography from Jack Cox and screenplay by Roland Pertwee. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas.
Fanny by Gaslight is a 1944 British drama film, directed by Anthony Asquith and produced by Gainsborough Pictures, set in the 1870s and adapted from a 1940 novel by Michael Sadleir.
Edward Black was a British film producer, best known for being head of production at Gainsborough Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time he oversaw production of the Gainsborough melodramas. He also produced such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938). Black has been called "one of the unsung heroes of the British film industry." In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. Frank Launder called Black "a great showman and yet he had a great feeling for scripts and spent more time on them than anyone I have ever known. His experimental films used to come off as successful as his others."
Patricia Roc was an English film actress, popular in the Gainsborough melodramas such as Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945), though she only made one film in Hollywood, Canyon Passage (1946). She also appeared in Millions Like Us (1943), Jassy (1945), The Brothers (1947) and When the Bough Breaks (1947).
Caravan is a 1946 British black-and-white drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas and is based on the 1942 novel Caravan by Eleanor Smith.
The Gainsborough melodramas were a sequence of films produced by the British film studio Gainsborough Pictures between 1943 and 1947 which conformed to a melodramatic style. The melodramas were not a film series but an unrelated sequence of films which had similar themes that were usually developed by the same film crew and frequently recurring actors who played similar characters in each. They were mostly based on popular books by female novelists and they encompassed costume, such as The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945) and modern-dress, such as Love Story (1944) and They Were Sisters (1945) settings. The popularity of the films with audiences peaked mid-1940s when most of the cinema audiences consisted of mainly women. The influence of the films led to other British producers releasing similarly themed works, such as The Seventh Veil (1945), Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), Hungry Hill (1947), The White Unicorn (1947), Idol of Paris (1948), and The Reluctant Widow (1950) and often with the talent that made Gainsborough melodramas successful.
The Magic Bow is a 1946 British musical film based on the life and loves of the Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini. It was directed by Bernard Knowles. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.
The Man in Grey was a novel by the British writer Lady Eleanor Smith first published in 1941. It was a melodrama set in Regency Britain. A young woman unhappily married to a cold aristocrat falls in love with a strolling actor, but her hopes of eloping to happiness are wrecked by an old school friend who murders her in order to be able to marry her husband.
The Upturned Glass is a 1947 British film noir psychological thriller directed by Lawrence Huntington and starring James Mason, Rosamund John and Pamela Kellino. The screenplay concerns a leading brain surgeon who murders a woman he believes to be responsible for the death of the woman he loved.
Harold Huth was a British actor, film director and producer.
Peter Auriol Murray Hill was an English actor, and publisher He was married to the actress Phyllis Calvert from 1941 until his death.
I'll Be Your Sweetheart is a 1945 British historical musical film directed by Val Guest and starring Margaret Lockwood, Vic Oliver and Michael Rennie. It was the first and only musical film produced by Gainsborough Studios. Commissioned by the British Ministry of Information, it was set at the beginning of the 20th century, and was about the composers of popular music hall songs fighting for a new copyright law that will protect them from having their songs stolen. Copyright scholar Adrian Johns has called the film "propaganda" and "a one-dimensional account of the piracy crisis [about sheet music in the early 20th century] from the publishers' perspective", but also highlighted its value as historical document, with large parts of the dialogue "closely culled from the actual raids, court cases, and arguments of 1900-1905."
Time Out of Mind is a 1947 American film noir drama film directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Phyllis Calvert, Robert Hutton and Ella Raines. The film was made by Universal Pictures on a large budget of $1,674,500, but the film was not a commercial success. The British actress Calvert was a major star in Britain and other countries for her roles in the Gainsborough Melodramas.