TOMORROW IS TOO LATE (1952) film no: 2255
This is a road safety film made by Kingston-upon-Hull City Police which depicts a fictional family and illustrates how carelessness can lead to tragic accidents. The film also includes good footage of Hull and the surrounding area.
The opening credits run over an image of the Police Band playing the Teddy Bears picnic tune.
A Police Constable, seated behind a desk, speaks directly to camera introducing the Road Safety issues of the film. The narrator introduces the audience to Granddad who is playing bowls on the green. Next the younger sister Susan comes out of school to be met by older sister, Joan. The scene is set for the first example of carelessness on the road when Susan protests at being collected from school. She runs off into the path of a lorry which brakes just in time. All three return home.
Father works as an Engineering Instructor at a local training centre. He is shown in the workshop. At lunchtime, the men file out of the building. Father rushes to his car and drives off ignoring the 5 M.P.H speed limit sign. He drives recklessly through the streets of Hull to his home.
The film introduces Sheila, the eldest daughter who is seated behind a typewriter in a small office. She puts on her hat and coat and walks off to meet her brother, Joe. Joe has just returned from the War, and Shelia goes to meet him at the train station. The city centre is full of other pedestrians as she walks to the station, and as she walks through the station, a WH Smith shop can be seen in the background. The train arrives, and the servicemen walk down the platform. Joe and Sheila walk off arm in arm. There is then a close up of a bus as they climb aboard. Additionally there are some excellent shots of Hull city centre as they pass by on their journey. Joe is being reckless as he jumps off the bus before it has stopped moving. He is greeted by his family upon his arrival home.
Joan is sent off on her bike to do the shopping. She fixes a basket to the front of the bicycle in order to carry the shopping back home. Joe gets his bike out of the shed to find it is in a poor state of repair. He rides off doing tricks. Granddad goes to the bike shop to buy new brake locks for Joe’s bike.
The narrator makes the point that accidents happen when your mind is on other things. Dad and Joe are off to watch a football match and so Joe neglects to fix the brakes on his bike.
Sign - Boothferry Park, Hull City vs West Ham United”
Joe and Dad set off in the car almost knocking down a lady. Their journey is full of near accidents. A trawler can be seen being towed into dock. The car journey is stopped by the road bridge which is being open to let the trawler through. The car races through Hull city centre. A policeman stops them to give Dad a ticket for going through the traffic lights. They finally stop at a garage where Sheila’s fiancé, Bill, works. Bill inspects the car. Now back on the road, Dad parks the car at the corner of a busy street and next to a bus stop. This causes many traffic problems as a bus tries to get round the car.
When they arrive at the football stadium, there is a large crowded gathered to enter, and a stadium full of fans watching the players come onto the pitch. This is followed by scenes of the football game.
At home, Sheila tries on her wedding dress. Dad and Joe arrive and tell her Bill wants to postpone the wedding by a week. She runs off to phone him from the phone box up the road. In her haste she is nearly hit by a car. She phones Bill, and operator puts her through. At the garage Bill is called to the phone. He and Sheila argue, and he puts on his hat and coat before getting on his motorbike. Bill races off on his bike, through the city, on his way to sort things out with Sheila.
Meanwhile Joan borrows Joe’s bicycle before the breaks have been fixed. She and Bill crash. Both are seen lying on the ground, and a nearby Doctor runs to the scene. A woman on a bike stops and goes to a phone box to call for an ambulance. The call is patched through to the Police Operations room where they answer her call. An ambulance departs from the station, and a police patrol car is also called in. A crowd has gathered at the scene, and they are cleared as soon as the ambulance arrives. Both Joan and Bill are put on stretchers and taken off in the ambulance to Hull Royal Infirmary.
At the hospital, both are wheeled through the hospital to a ward. The family arrive by car outside the hospital. Inside a doctor breaks the news to the family that Bill has died.
The family arrive home, and in the empty sitting room, wedding dress is draped over a chair. There is a close-up of the brake locks for Joe’s bike. The film comes to an end as the narrator reiterates the point that carelessness causes tragedy and that, “tomorrow is too late.”
Tomorrow Is Too Late is one of many road safety films made by Kingston-upon-Hull City Police, beginning at the end of the Second World War through to the 1970s. The films were made by Kingston-upon-Hull City Police, usually in conjunction with the Beverley based filmmakers, Debenhams, run by Ernest Symmons – more can be found on Debenhams and Ernest Symmons in the Context for King George And Queen Visit Hull (1941), also on YFA Online. The collection of their films held at the YFA also includes other police information and instructional films. Kingston-upon-Hull City Police merged with several other police forces in 1974 to form Humberside Police.
Unfortunately the amateur theatre group who provided the actors for this film, and possibly some of the others, the Drasdo Repertory Company, seems to have disappeared into the mists of time. The company was run by Miss Hannchen M Drasdo, who directed and produced this film – with the help of Tom Middleton, Hull’s Road Safety Officer. Miss Cecily Danby, who had herself been a wheelchair user for fifteen years, wrote the script. The mother is played by Mrs Billie Grayson, a 24 teacher, Pam Coates, plays a schoolgirl, Billie Lee plays a girl and one of the parts was played by Pat Jaram, a daughter of the Deputy Police Constable. Apart from those from the Theatre Company, ordinary policemen, nurses and motorists also appear in the film, and props, such as cars and cycles, were often borrowed from local residents as the film was made.
The film cost nearly £300 to make, and was given its premier in the Guildhall, before going on to be shown in schools and at other road safety events. The audio was added later, reortedly the first time that tape had been used in the city, and the Hull City Police and the choir of Malet Lambert High School provided the music.
Given the number of films made on this theme, clearly road safety was a major issue immediately after the war and into the 1950s. Of course it remains so to this day, but it might be surprising that it was such a concern at a time when there was far less traffic, and vehicles were not as fast. Yet in fact fatalities on the roads has declined: in 2007 there were just under 3,000 fatalities, the lowest number since statistics started to be kept in 1928, and although over that period road traffic has increased almost tenfold, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle kilometres in 2007 fell to just 7% of that in 1950. In 1954 27,000 people were injured on the roads every month. It might be that films such as this one – in combination with generations growing up with motorised road traffic and better road markings and other safety measures – have contributed to this relative decline in road fatalities.
Apart from the insights they provide on the thinking about road safety at the time, the making of the films as mini-dramas gives the films added interest. In fact the points that the police safety committee clearly want to get across in the films lends itself to a dramatic treatment. The concern is less to inform drivers and pedestrians about road markings or speed limits, than to try to install better awareness and better habits. It is complacency rather than the breaking of any rules or laws which the films aim to tackle. This is in keeping with the general policy on road safety in the early days, as in the first edition of The Highway Code which came out in 1931, followed by the driving test in 1935.
Yet although the 4th edition of The Highway Code (1954) had an expanded traffic signs section, with colour illustrations, the films made by the Hull Police continued to focus on the human costs of disregarding safe habits. This can be seen in the other similar films that they made,Blind Crossing (1952), There Came a Stranger (1954), The Key to Safety from 1955 and also in They go alone made in 1959. All of these are based on a drama where the protagonist has a tragedy because of carelessness on the roads.
Humberside Police also had in their possession a road safety film made by West Riding Constabulary in 1955, It Happened Today. This makes an interesting comparison with the Hull films in that it was made professionally by Rank Organisation and simply presents a large number of reconstructions of different accident situations with a running commentary. Although the reconstructions are much more realistic than the Humberside ones, the film as a whole lacks the emotional appeal that the story based films made by Hull have. This shows that other police forces were making similar films at this time, and YFA also has an imaginative road safety film made by Bradford Police from around the same time, titled Crikey.
That the Hull Police films were especially highly regarded can be seen in their correspondence with other organisations and police forces, held at East Riding Archives at Treasury House, Beverley. These show that the films were shown to police forces all over Britain and around the world, as far afield as the Barbados. In fact Hull Police continued to make films right up to the 1980s – as far as the YFA Collection extends. One of the Officers involved in the production of the films, William E. Jacketts was still actively making films at least until 1975 when he made a film called Davy Crockett, a comical film about cycle safety – by this time he had been promoted from Detective Constable to Detective Sergeant. Also credited in this film is Inspector Jowett who was also involved in the making of the films for many years, including a reconstruction of a real life robbery used as a police officer training film, Smash and Grab in 1961.
Amateur dramatic Societies first began to flourish in the 1890s, though many more were founded between the two world wars. Some still remain from this period, such as the Hessle Operatic & Dramatic Society founded in 1922, which is still going and which has been presenting an annual musical at Hull New Theatre since 1958. Hull’s most famous theatre group, Hull Truck, was founded in 1971 by Mike Bradwell inspired by the more avant garde ideas of theatre of 1960s London.
Road Safety was a national as well as an important local issue, and a large number of public information films were made during the post–war period on this subject by the Central Office of Information, established in 1946 to take over from the wartime Ministry of Information. These can now also be seen online at the National Archives, includinga road safety film from 1948, directed by Michael Law, called Pedestrian Crossing. Public Information films were much more common at this time, although they have continued over the years to publicise new road safety measures or highlight particular issues, and today mostly concern combating drink driving.
(with special thanks to Billie Lee)
Billie Lee has supplied copies of newspaper cuttings about the film from the time, including a photo of the crew, which can be seen at the YFA.