Passing of the Third Floor Back
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The film focuses on a run-down boarding house in London, home to an assorted group of residents. Many of them cling precariously to their social positions with only one figure, the wealthy self-made businessman Mr Wright, being truly successful. The house is owned by the grasping Mrs Sharpe, who mistreats the maid, Stasia, a rehabilitated juvenile delinquent. The various members of the household are miserable and openly sneering and rude towards each other, the one exception being the respect shown by all to the powerful Mr Wright. In the case of one couple, Major Tomkin and his wife, this involves pressuring their daughter Vivian to marry Wright in spite of her obvious horror at the idea.
The house's familiar routine is thrown off-balance by the sudden arrival of a mysterious foreign stranger (secretly an angel), who earns the respect of the others in the house, especially that of Stasia. He takes a room on the "third floor back" and joins the residents for the dinner supposedly held in celebration of the marriage between Wright and Vivian. It becomes evident that she doesn't want to marry Wright, as she is in love with one of the other lodgers, and she storms out of the room. The desperate Major later tries to convince Wright that it is a misunderstanding and that the engagement is still on, as he and his wife are terrified by the loss of security if the marriage is broken off.
The stranger observes the meanness shown by the other members of the house, and gently encourages them to treat each other better and to pursue their dreams rather than live in fear about their precarious social position. This gradually begins to work, with some of the house's members convinced by his charisma. One bank holiday, the stranger announces that he will treat them all to a trip on a boat to Margate, surprising the more snobbish residents by insisting that the servants, including Stasia, will join them. Despite the initial awkwardness, the outing soon begins to go well. When Stasia falls in the River Thames, one of the women jumps in to save her life. Once she is rescued, she is looked after by the Tomkins, who treat her as though she were their daughter, and also begin to regret their bullying of their own daughter into a marriage with Wright. During the trip various members of the house begin to enjoy themselves and treat each other with more respect.
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