It documents a postwar working-class London family's annual visit to a summer holiday camp. It was the first film to feature the Huggett family, who went on to star in the Huggetts Trilogy. It resonated with post-war audiences and was very successful. The film is a kaleidoscope of various lives at play by the sea, in a Butlin's holiday camp. They include a pregnant young girl, a group of gamblers, and a murderer seeking his next victim.Flora Robson as Esther Harman
Dennis Price as Hardwicke
Jack Warner as Joe Huggett
Hazel Court as Joan Martin
Emrys Jones as Michael Halliday
Kathleen Harrison as Mrs Huggett
Yvonne Owen as Angela Kirby
Esmond Knight as Camp Announcer
Jimmy Hanley as Jimmy Gardner
Peter Hammond as Harry Huggett
Esma Cannon as Elsie Dawson
John Blythe as Steve
Jeannette Tregarthen as Valerie Thompson
Beatrice Varley as Valerie's Aunt
Susan Shaw as Patsy Crawford
Pamela Bramah as Beauty Queen
Alfie Bass as a redcoat
M. E. Clifton James as himself (Monty's Double)
Patricia Roc, Cheerful Charlie Chester, and Gerry Wilmot as themselves and a young Diana Dors dances The Jitterbug.
The film was directed by Ken Annakin, who had made a number of documentaries for producer Sydney Box. When Box took over Gainsborough Pictures he hired Annakin to make Holiday Camp. It was part of Box's initial slate of pictures for the company, others including Jassy and Good Time Girl.
The original story was by magazine writer Godfrey Winn. He went to a Butlin's holiday camp at Filey with Annakin to research. Annakin remembers Winn "put together a very good story" but Sydney and Muriel Box "decided we should add extra elements". He says Muriel Box worked on the Dennis Price character, inspired by the Heath Murders, then they held a round table conference with Ted Willis, Peter Rogers and Mabel Constanduros. "Godfrey wasn't terribly happy about it because he thought he was going to have a single screen credit", says Annakin.
Peter Rogers had worked as Muriel Box's assistant. He says he wrote "the screenplay and most of the stories... but Mabel Constanduros and one or two other people had little ideas. Sydney [Bo] was always on the side of writers and always gave writers credit, even if they just had two lines in the script." Rogers claims it was his idea to introduce the Dennis Price character and "the only bit that Mabel Constanduros contributed was the scene between Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison on the cliffs."
The opening shot of a train arriving at the cliff-top station was filmed at Sandsend, a mile from Whitby, North Yorkshire. Camp exteriors were shot at Butlins, Filey, on the East Coast, a few miles from Sandsend. Although Butlins had its own rail station, the view at Sandsend was considered more spectacular.
Sydney Box used the film to introduce a number of new actors, including Susan Shaw and Hazel Court.
The film was the sixth most popular movie at the British box office in 1947. Annakin attributed this in part "perhaps because I had come from documentary and British cinema at that time was very artificial. The Huggetts absolutely caught the spirit and feeling that existed after the war... People didn't want more fairy stories; they wanted something in which they could recognise themselves. Being of lower middle class origins myself, I felt at home with these people who were having a fine holiday in a very cheap place which provided wonderful entertainment. I think I caught the spirit of the holiday camps and we had a very warm, natural cast."
Peter Rogers thought the film was a hit "the same way that the Carry Ons caught on – you've got ordinary people doing amusing things."
The film made a reported profit of £16,000.
Time Out wrote, "Time has mellowed the documentary quality of the film, and location shooting and authentic detail now seem less important than the presence of the whole range of British acting talent, from Dame Flora Robson to Cheerful Charlie Chester, among the cast of thousands."
"I'm not embarrassed about Holiday Camp", said Annakin years later, "although the later Huggett films don't hold up well."