First performance1945 ComposerStephen Warbeck Duration CountryUnited Kingdom
DirectorGuy Hamilton PlaywrightJohn Boynton Priestley Original languageEnglish LanguageEnglish
WriterDesmond Davis, J.B. Priestley Release date16 March 1954 (London)
25 November 1954 (USA) CharactersEric Birling, Inspector Goole, Mrs. Sybil Birling, Sheila Birling, Gerald Croft, Mr. Arthur Birling, Eva Smith AdaptationsAn Inspector Calls (2015), An Inspector Calls (1954), An Inspector Calls (1982) Similar moviesRelated John Boynton Priestley plays, Other plays
An Inspector Calls is a 1954 film directed by Guy Hamilton and written for the screen by Desmond Davis. It is based upon a play of the same name by J.B. Priestley. It stars Alastair Sim, Jane Wenham and Brian Worth.
Set in 1912, a dinner party held by the upper class Birling family is interrupted by Police Inspector Poole, investigating the suicide of a lower class girl Eva Smith whose death is linked to each family member. In the original play, the Inspectors name was Inspector Goole.
An Inspector Calls was filmed at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England, under the auspices of the Watergate Productions Ltd.
Although the play never shows Eva Smith, the film opens in flashbacks that show each member of the familys involvement in Smiths life. The relationships between Eva and Gerald, and later, Eric, are smoothed over in accordance to the censorship of the day. Still, enough elements are retained to give the viewer a good idea of the depth of involvements.
In the play, Eva is first sacked for being involved in a strike; in the film, she is simply sacked for suggesting that the wages requested were necessary to live on. Similarly, in the play, Sheila is trying on a dress when the incident with Eva occurs in the shop; in the film, the incident is over a hat.
The film makes Inspector Poole out to be more explicitly "supernatural" than does the play. In the play, he is ushered in by the maid, while in the film he simply appears suddenly in the dining room as if from nowhere, accompanied by an ominous chord in the background music. In the middle of the film, Poole inspects his pocket watch and asks Eric to enter the room. Poole states he has just heard Eric come through the door; but eerily he states this before Eric does come through the door. Likewise, at the end, when the family receives the phone call that the local police are on their way to question them, Poole is supposedly in the study, but when the family checks to see if he is there, they find an empty chair.
C. A. Lejeune, film critic of The Observer, recommended the film; despite its lack of technical polish, its slow pace and often trite dialogue, she found it thought-provoking.