The Stars Look Down

infobox Book |
name = The Stars Look Down

bgcolour = silver
author = A. J. Cronin
country = UK
language = English
genre = Novel
publisher = Gollancz UK
Little, Brown USA
release_date = 1935
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 701 p. (UK hardback edition)
isbn = 0-450-00497-X

"The Stars Look Down" is a 1935 novel by A. J. Cronin which chronicles various injustices in an English coal mining community. A film version was produced in 1939, and television adaptations include both Italian (1971) and British (1974) versions.

The novel is set in 'Sleescale,' a mining town on the coast of Northumberland, as well as in 'Tynecastle' (Newcastle upon Tyne). While 'Sleescale' is a fictional locale, it is based on an excellent knowledge of similar places and people. Cronin, a Scot, served as Medical Inspector of Mines in Wales during the 1920s.

Beginning before World War I and extending into the 1930s, the story shows the different careers of several individuals: principally, a miner's son who seeks to qualify as a teacher, a miner who becomes a businessman, and the mine owner's son in conflict with his domineering father.

The film version, co-scripted by Cronin and directed by Carol Reed, stars Michael Redgrave as the idealistic Davey Fenwick and Margaret Lockwood as his wife. Their relationship, which is secondary in the novel, is foregrounded in the film. The American release includes narration by Lionel Barrymore. It is a "New York Times" Critics' Pick and is listed in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made".

Plot summary

The novel centres on three very different men:

* Davey Fenwick comes from a mining family and aspires to be a teacher, yet he is also drawn towards politics, hoping to help his people, and becomes a strong supporter of nationalisation.
* Joe Gowlan begins as a miner, drifts and then becomes upwardly mobile during the years of the First World War.
* Arthur Barras is the son of Richard Barras, owner of the Neptune Colliery. He is unhappy with his father's values but also feels too weak to do much about it.

Reactions to the failure of industrial action on safety issues in the coal mines are crystallized in the characters of Davey and Joe, who take vastly different routes in escaping from the working class. While Davey becomes an MP in order to fight for nationalisation of the mines, Joe essentially joins the mine owners.

Jenny Sunley is Davey's indifferent wife who craves social status, and other characters have short but distinct tales of their own. Cronin shows a broad sympathy for the workers and a dislike of the bosses, but also allows that at least some of the bosses can be decent at a personal level.

Central to the story is the Neptune coal mine and a catastrophe that occurs there. The Great War is also a factor: do you volunteer to fight, volunteer for non-military duties, use trickery to evade service or openly defy the system by refusing call-up? There is a brief description of one of the tribunals that examined conscientious objectors, often refusing to accept their objection as valid. There is also a clear commitment to the idea of nationalising the mines, replacing the mass of small private owners that existed at the time.

The novel ends with most of the men much changed, and it is an excellent description of working-class life in the North of England during that period.


*The 2000 film "Billy Elliot" was inspired in part by Cronin's story and similarly focuses on a community of coal miners during a strike in North East England, as well as on a miner's son who goes against the grain [cite web | url = | title = "Scotsman" interview (2002)] . "Billy Elliot the Musical" 's opening sequence, entitled " [ The Stars Look Down] ", pays tribute to Cronin's novel.

*The Canadian band, Rush, named the fifth track on its 2002 album, "Vapor Trails", after Cronin's novel.

*In 2004, North Eastern playwright, Alex Ferguson, adapted the novel for NTC Theatre Company. An ensemble of five actors played all the parts: Alan Park (Joe Gowlan/ Arthur Barras), Ross Waiton (Davie Fenwick), Kim Evans (Jenny Sunley/ Hughie Fenwick), Jackie Fielding (Martha Fenwick), and Steve Wedd (Robert Fenwick/ Richard Barras). Directed by Gillian Hambleton, the play met with resounding critical success, breathing new life into Cronin's timeless tale.




*Vermilye, Jerry. "The Great British Films." Citadel Press, 1978, pp 49-51. ISBN 080650661X

ee also

*"E le stelle stanno a guardare"
*"The Stars Look Down (1974)"

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