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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

Books, films, series etc that feature umbrellas

Umbrellas, have naturally made their way into fiction because they can turn up in all sorts of unexpected places, easily get lost, borrowed, or stolen. They can also serve as weapons, shields, metaphors or even for magic

When reflecting on umbrellas, the first umbrella that came to mind was Mary Poppins’ parrot-headed accessory which accompanies her on her adventures, errands, and the occasional flight over Cherry Tree Lane in Pamela L. Travers book entitled Mary Poppins.

Use the YouTube link to watch Mary Poppins’ arrival

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J K Rowling, Hagrid, a hulking hairy half-giant becomes Harry’s friend and uses a frilly pink umbrella in which he has hidden his wand, to conjure a curling pink pig’s tail from the seat of his unkind cousin Dudley’s trousers

Use the YouTube link to watch Hagrid Gives Dudley A Tail

Umbrellas have also been used as the catalyst for an entire novel e.g.

In Howards End by E.M. Forster Helen Schlegel absent-mindedly picks up Leonard Bast’s umbrella at a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Leonard is a clerk who possesses very little money or social standing but yearns for education, art, culture. After the concert, Leonard goes to the Schlegel house on Wickham Place to retrieve his umbrella and the gulf between their classes is apparent,  particularly when Helen inadvertently insults his umbrella. To them umbrellas don’t have the same significance particularly as they have countless umbrellas whereas he has just the one, in poor condition .

As the story continues there follows an exploration of class relations, social norms and women’s rights in early 20th century England — a time when, “the Angel of Democracy” proclaims that “all men are equal — all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas.” (E.M. Forster)

Roald Dahl wove his short story moralistic entitled The Umbrella Man entirely around umbrellas and deception. The story is about a master trickster who with a sob story and feigning vulnerability cons people into buying an umbrella for a pound (one that he has stolen from the pub earlier) The moral being to not always trust first impressions because when you first meet someone they may not always reveal their true personality.

Use the YouTube link to watch Tales of the Unexpected - Roald Dahl - 'The Umbrella Man' - Sir John Mills -Sir Michael Gambon

Umbrellas can be a central focus of attention in films, but conversely they can also be used for the opposite purpose to provide cover from the sight of others. This effect is exacerbated in crowds, where it has become more common to see umbrellas used to create a sense of anonymity.

Alfred Hitchcock solicits the help of an umbrella in the film Foreign Correspondent The chase for the Mayor’s assassin takes places beneath a sea of black brollies

Use the YouTube link to watch FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Assassination

By contrast, the umbrellas in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report are colourful.

Umbrellas are used to create/reinforce specific characters too.

In Disney’s Peter Pan (by J M Barrie) John Darling is a young boy with matching dark brown hair and eyes and fair skin. He wears round glasses, a white nightshirt, a black top hat, and a pair of black dress shoes, and carries a black umbrella imitating his father George

Jiminy Cricket is the deuteragonist of the 1940 Disney animated feature film Pinocchio (based on the story by Carlo Collodi). Jiminy is Pinocchio’s conscience and is depicted as a wisecracking, anthropomorphic cricket that dresses in the style of a 19th- or early 20th-century gentleman, characteristically wearing a blue top hat and always carrying a burgundy umbrella on his person

One of the pivotal characters in Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is a woman living on the very edges of society having been driven mad by grief and trauma. The woman, shunned by her community, carries an umbrella; “a shabby inky thing, half unfurled,” which she brandishes at passers-by (and occasionally hits them with).

There are numerous other titles and images in films where we see an umbrella prominently portrayed:

e.g. British intelligence agent John Steed in The Avengers, with his grey canopy and knobbled wooden handled umbrella. In times of need it transformed to reveal a steel blade hidden inside, making for a deadly accessory ideal for the eccentric yet sophisticated spy.

Another secret agent to arm himself with an umbrella is the Harry Hart in the spy spoof, The Kingsman. This time the accessory has had a modern-day makeover boasting a bullet proof, transparent canopy that can fire an amnesia dart and produce electric handcuffs, and the handy weapon is brutally used on a bunch of deserving thugs to which Hart crows, “Manners. Maketh. Man.”

When defence lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, is followed by a CIA agent down the backstreets of New York in Steven Spielberg’s thriller Bridge of Spies, Hanks wears a grey mackintosh-style raincoat, dark grey tonal stripe single-breasted suit, trilby and a large black umbrella with a chestnut wooden handle and this is perfectly mirrored by the man shadowing his trail.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy's 1964 musical film, tells the story about the dichotomies of life—success and hardship, youth and maturity, love and heartbreak centred around an umbrella shop. Set in the quiet town of Cherbourg, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg tells the story of a young couple, 17 year old Geneviève , living and working with her mother in an umbrella shop, and Guy a 20-year-old mechanic. The film, highlights umbrellas of all colours particularly the opening scene, with all the colourful umbrellas seen from above

Use the YouTube link to watch Excerpt: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)

Gene Kelly made good use of an umbrella in Singin’ in the Rain by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly as he tossed and span the black canopy of his umbrella with its polished wooden hooked handle whilst singing about falling in love. Interestingly , the umbrella loses its utility as an object of protection throughout the scene, as it appears that he has no intention to protect himself from the rain thereby introducing the idea of an umbrella being a source of fun in the rain whether it covers us or not.

Use the YouTube link to watch Singin' in the Rain - Gene Kelly

Finally to finish a compilation of the umbrellas that the late Queen Elizabeth 11 used to complement her many colourful outfits

Queen Elizabeth - The Umbrella Queen

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