Davey Fenwick leaves his mining village on a university scholarship intent on returning to better support the miners against the owners. But he falls in love with Jenny who gets him to ... See full summary »
Davey Fenwick leaves his mining village on a university scholarship intent on returning to better support the miners against the owners. But he falls in love with Jenny who gets him to marry her and return home as local schoolteacher before finishing his degree. Davey finds he is ill-at-ease in his role, the more so when he realises Jenny still loves her former boyfriend. When he finds that his father and the other miners are going to have to continue working on a possibly deadly coal seam he decides to act. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Carol Reed disowned the film, calling it "a gloomy little piece". He expected it to be a box office disaster and was highly surprised when wartime audiences warmed enthusiastically to it. See more »
Well, Fenwick, will the men work tomorrow?
Not if its to be in Scupper Flats, Mr. Barras.
[indicating a well-dressed union official]
Even against your union?
The union isn't being asked to work in Scupper Flats. On the other side of that coal seam is a million tons of flood water ready to rush right down on top of us.
You don't think I'd take a chance in floodin' me own mine, do you, Fenwick?
Well, show us the plans of them old workings, then!
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"Davey Fenwick leaves his English mining village on a university scholarship, intent on returning to better support the miners against the owners. But, he is trapped into marrying Jenny, and returns home as a local schoolteacher before finishing his degree. Davey finds he is ill-at-ease in his role, and he also soon realizes that Jenny still loves her former boyfriend; but, he decides to remain, working tirelessly on behalf of his friends, relatives, and neighbors," according to the DVD sleeve description.
Director Carol Reed's version of A.J. Cronin's "The Stars Look Down" is a historically important film, but one that can only be marginally recommended. There are flashes of brilliance from Mr. Reed, who went on to great acclaim in the 1940s. He moves the camera expressively. Reed always gives his actors something to do, with both their body (eg, raising an eyebrow) and surroundings (eg, pouring tea). But, most of the time, this makes performances very obvious. The soundtrack music blares repetitively. And, everything telegraphs the film's ending. The story remains strong and timeless, however, and it's ripe for re-make.
A fine group of British performers is featured. As a college-bound young lad, Michael Redgrave (as David Fenwick) is far too mature and distinguished in the early scenes, but does better later. His family includes an excellent Edward Rigby (as Robert), a morose Nancy Price (as Martha), and an animated Desmond Tester (as Hughie). While a more credible schoolteacher, Redgrave remains awkward in Reed's surroundings; he just doesn't look right slicing bread. On the other hand, co-stars Emlyn Williams (as Joe Gowlan) and Margaret Lockwood (as Jenny Sunley) bring their physicality and Reed's direction to success.
The film was a hit with US critics, and made several 1940 "Top 10" lists - most importantly, it closed in on "Best Picture" territory at #4 on the "National Board of Review" list, while Carol Reed's direction rose to #7 in the "New York Film Critics" poll.
****** The Stars Look Down (12/39) Carol Reed ~ Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Emlyn Williams, Edward Rigby
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