Film ID:
NEFA 21415

IVY WAS WASHING WHEN THEY CAME

1962

Visitor Tabs

Description

A curious, satirical look at the social and technological changes that have affected what we think of as the British ‘wash day’, made by a Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA) Film Unit. This bewildering, surreal film (the Goon Show may have been an influence) also attempts to deconstruct filmmaking and contemporary 1950s and 60s advertising, but uses the once popular (and derogatory) caricature of the Chinese (American) laundry worker in the plot.

Credit: Newcastle & District ACA Film

Credit: Thanks are tendered to those who suffered in the good cause.

Title: This is the Beginning

Look for the Muddle [Muiddle]

Hope for the End

A distinguished gentleman in a bowler hat sits down on a canvas Director’s chair in a garden and doffs his hat to camera. He places a megaphone beside him on the lawn. A figure in an Asian conical hat (also known as a ‘coolie’ hat) rushes over and pulls out a string of white gloves on which are written “Chinese – Hand – Laundry”. The man in the bowler hat shakes his head “No” and sends the woman away. He stands up.

The scene cuts to a shot of a pair of Liberace-style candelabras, one labelled “Lights”.

In the garden, his back to the camera, a man operates a cine camera. A sign is stuck to his back that reads “Camera”. He is holding a Yorkshire terrier in one arm, its long hair brushed down over its face, and holding the tripod handle with his other. A frontal shot reveals the cameraman’s own long, grey hair (a wig), brushed down over his face, mimicking the dog’s style.

A man in a suit holds up a sign that reads “Action”. Two actors are seated in the garden. A female make-up artist is dabbing the man’s face with make-up. The two actors wear signs. The woman’s reads “Daughter”. Nearby, a different young woman in a stripy dress and apron (the actress playing Mother) operates a household wringer washer (a Speed Queen?).

The scene returns to the two actors having their make-up touched up. The woman is holding a tray of make-up (?). The man’s sign reads “Husband”. He smiles and chats to the make-up artist.

The Mother waits beside her wringer washer with her arms crossed.

The man in the bowler hat returns to his canvas chair, now with a sign for “Director”. He takes out a white handkerchief and mops his brow. Picking up his megaphone, he discovers a cup of tea beneath it. He breaks for a cup of tea.

The Mother is still waiting beside her wringer washing machine. She slowly turns the wringer handle and a stream of paper unwinds through the rollers on which is written “Ivy Was Washing When They Came”.

Close-up of a sign, which reads “Me Gettee Washing” held by the woman in the conical hat (not seen). 

A profile shot follows of a man with a hand-drawn speech bubble, which reads “Have to watch out old boy”.

The Mother is now piling clothes into a metal tub in the garden. She pauses and glances up with a worried look on her face.

A man in a bowler hat with an umbrella stands next to the woman in the ‘coolie’ hat, both wearing scary paper masks. They dance across the lawn in mock slow motion and dive for cover behind a bush. Their backs to camera, they wear signs on their bottoms that read “Brand X” and “Brand Y”. The woman holds her hand to her head and shouts.

The woman in the ‘coolie’ hat is now rowing a boat in a rock pool beside the sea. A young woman is posed with a makeshift rod and line attached to a bell beside the rock pool, as if fishing. The bell suddenly rings. Startled, she jumps up. The gentleman in bowler hat and dark suit is shouting to her and waving his umbrella aggressively as a warning. The woman in the ‘coolie’ hat is stealing the laundry attached to the line and rowing away in her boat trailing the washing. The bowler-hatted gent starts beating the laundry in the water with his umbrella as the woman in a ‘coolie’ hat rows away.

Back in the garden, the Mother is sorting through a pile of white clothes. In another part of the garden, an oversized key hangs from a solitary green door. A queue of men and woman are standing behind the door looking to camera. The man in the bowler hat steps from the back of the queue, a sign stuck on his briefcase. Close-up of the sign, which reads “The Man from the Queue”, (a pun on ‘The Man from the Pru’, a well-known slogan in advertising for Prudential Insurance). The Mother is still sorting her washing on the lawn. A hand knocks at the green door. The Mother takes the oversized key and unlocks the door. The Man from the Queue enters and doffs his bowler hat. He begins his sales patter. He holds out his hand. She counts out bank notes. He opens his briefcase and hands her policy papers.  They read “Washing Insurance”. She laughs. Brief shot of seagulls circling in the sky. As she stands with the Man from the Queue, the Mother looks over at her white laundry. Splats of seagull poo appear on it. He hands her some money back. She smiles. She reaches over to collect her suddenly clean, white laundry.

The Mother waits in the garden, her arms folded. The wringer washer machine appears, moving on its own across the lawn. She gathers up her laundry and places it in the machine. The machine moves away (noticeably pulled by a rope). She runs to pick up a vase of flowers, hidden in a bush of the exact same flowers, growing naturally in the garden.

The wringer washer machine appears on the lawn. On top of the machine, a bucket shaped gadget is spinning. She lifts it off, plugs it into a tree, from which hangs a church bell. The gadget spins her laundry.

The Mother now relaxes in a deckchair and uses a phone on the coffee table beside her to phone her friend. The friend picks up. They chat. The spinning gadget keeps operating as the two friends talk. The bell in the tree rings. The woman ends her telephone call and unplugs the spinner.

The Mother hangs her washing on a washing line in the middle of a grassy field. The woman in the ‘coolie’ hat races over and steals the washing. The Mother turns around and sees the empty line. She shakes her fist at the thief. The Man from the Queue pops up and points to the escaping thief. A comical Keystone cop style chase ensues, with hunter and hunted roles reversed at one point.

The woman in a ‘coolie’ hat is chased to the edge of a cliff. She holds up her hands. And disappears. The Mother peers over the cliff. The woman in a ‘coolie’ hat is now washing her laundry in a rock pool by the sea. The Man from the Queue arrives and hands her a packet, which reads “Kleer-Off Removes Everything”. She empties the packet over the edge of the cliff. The woman in the ‘coolie’ hat disappears in mid wash. Bubbles emerge from the sea next to the floating laundry. The Man from the Queue takes his leave in triumph.

A woman is seated in a deckchair in the garden. Beside her, the props and costumes, which have so far appeared in the film, are arranged in one long line, including the rowing boat, spinning gadget, wringer washer machine, tin bath and a shed door with chicken wire over the window, above which a sign reads “Pensions Paid Here”.

Title: “Wash Day – Forget It! New Bare Line

A man in a dirty raincoat and no trousers appears in the garden and shakes a pink garment suggestively at the woman in the deckchair. The woman then appears scantily clad in a fluorescent pink synthetic grass mini skirt and bikini top and a Hawaiian flower lei around her neck. Is it all a dream? The woman in a deckchair grins to camera.

Title: The End

Title: Well, we did enjoy making it.