The Saturday Movie Club: Cup Fever (1965)
The Children’s Film Foundation was very much a product of its time. It was founded in 1951, two years after the proposal of what became known as the Eavy Levy by the then secretary of the Board of Trade, one Harold Wilson. It was named for Sir Wilfred Griffin Eavy, who’d been a British delegate with John Maynard Keynes at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, which laid the ground work for the formation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at the end of the war, and worked as an indirect levy designed to support the British film industry, being written into law through the Cinematic Films Act in 1957.
The CFF found many of its films being broadcast on the BBC, especially throughout the 1970s and early 1980s and, although it stopped making films of its own in 1985 following the abolition of the Eavy Levy that year, it did survive, first as The Children’s Film and Television Foundation and then, from 2012, as the Children’s Media Foundation, a not-for-profit pressure group which supports ensuring UK children have access to the best possible media, on all platforms, at all ages. Its current chair is Anna Home OBE, the former BBC producer who, amongst many other things, developed Jackanory and commissioned Grange Hill after the idea had been turned down by ITV.
Cup Fever was produced in 1965. It’s the story of Barton United, a youth team seeking to win their local league despite the attention of a local councillor who wants to make their lives difficult because he wants the team that his son plays for to win the competition. Perhaps we should consider him a precursor to the over-competitive dads that we occasionally see blighting the touchlines of some park pitches on Sunday mornings. He’s played by David Lodge, a journeyman actor whose IMDB page reads like a snapshot of post-war British light entertainment. More familiar actors making an appearance include Bernard Cribbins, who plays a policeman, and a young Susan George, who would go on to achieve considerable fame for her starring role in Sam Peckinpah’s notorious 1971 thriller Straw Dogs.
Filmed and set in the north-west of England, Cup Fever avails itself of Altrincham FC’s Moss Lane as the venue for the cup final, but perhaps even more notable than this are the cameo appearances put in by the entire Manchester United team of the era, including the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law, and even manager Matt Busby, who has a brief speaking role. Interestingly, the film opts for a cinematic style that calls to mind the gritty style used by the new wave of British cinema and television that grew throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. It has the feel of a film that had somewhat greater ambitions than most CFF films, and is worth a couple of hours of all of our time, for the shots of Moss Lane and Old Trafford, if nothing else.