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Barry K. Barnes,
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Roy Del Ruth
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At an estate auction in WWII England, two strangers meet and muse about their families' history and possible connections. Flashbacks reveal the story of the sweet, rich, and beautiful Clarissa Richmond and her friendship with bitter, impoverished Hesther Snow. Their fates are intertwined even as their paths diverge. Clarissa marries the handsome but cruel Marquis of Rohan while Hesther becomes an actress. Eventually, the two women meet again and Clarissa brings the scheming Hesther into her household. As Clarissa searches for true love, Hesther plots to take away everything that belongs to her. Written by
The Gypsy Portent and the Woman of Deadly Nightshade.
The Man in Grey is directed by Leslie Arliss and adapted to screenplay by Margaret Kennedy and Doreen Montgomery from the novel of the same name written by Eleanor Smith. It stars Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Phyllis Calvert and Stewart Granger. Music is By Cedric Mallabey and cinematography by Arthur Crabtree.
A forerunner of Gainsborough's Wicked Women movies, The Man in Grey is a delicious slice of British noir pie.
Proudly decked out in period attire, story is ripe with dastards, narcissists, connivers, the selfish and the cruel. Headed up by Mason's Lord Rohan and Lockwood's Hesther Shaw, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want in life. It doesn't matter who is around them, friends and family etc, if they can in any way hinder their respective selfish goals then they will be trampled upon and not a further thought will be given. It all simmers to the boiling point where lives will not just be ruined, but also ended.
The four principal players are great, their respective careers well on the way to leaving behind considerable bodies of work. Arliss (The Night Has Eyes) keeps the story simple in spite of the many character strands and traits jostling for meaty exposure, and photographer Crabtree (Waterloo Road) accentuates the miserablist ambiance with sharp black and white lensing.
The use of black-face on white actors is awfully out dated, as is some of the dialogue, but don't hold these things against The Man in Grey. It's a darn fine bodice botherer, resplendent with characters straight out of noir's dark alleyways. 8/10
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