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This is a rather remarkable little British film, a sort of boy's view
of going to sea, that boasts several excellent performances and one
that is downright astonishing. Master Easy goes to sea in the 1850s
under the watchful eye of the ship's captain (Roger Livesey) who is a
family friend. Easy has grown up thinking life's virtues are built
around zeal, fairness, and cooperation. On board, his views are tested
by sea sickness, a mean first mate, and other midshipmen (all in their
teens) jockeying for position. But by ignoring all orders and common
sense, Easy comes to the fore in a series a Napoleonic war-time
adventures involving a Spanish family from Sicily and an Italian
Hughie Green at age 15 is perfect as the midshipman hero of the story and throws himself into the role. After boyhood, Green was apparently a British TV "personality" involved in all kinds of game shows and such. But here as a young actor he just about perfect for his role. Roger Livesey has fun as the indulgent captain, and Margaret Lockwood has an early role Donna Agnes. Also notable is Harry Tate as Mr. Biggs. But among all the fun there is a remarkable performance by Robert Adams, a black actor, who plays Mesty. Mesty's job onboard the ship is rather vague, but he becomes Early's protector and right-hand man. He's promoted to the rank of corporal and later saves Early's life by fighting the Italian desperado and throwing him over a cliff. The class and bravery of this black character in a 1935 British film outpaces anything I can think of in an American film of the era.
This hugely enjoyable film is part of the ongoing Ealing Rarities DVD series from UK and was directed by Carol Reed.
Colleen Moore stars as Pert Kelly, a sales girl in a department store
by day and a jazz baby by night. One night she meets a guy (Neil
Hamilton) who happens to be the son of the department store owner. They
hit it off, but when she's late for work the following morning, she's
called into his office and they discover who they are. She's fired by
the store owner, but she thinks the son did it. Rich daddy tries to
protect his son from that kind of girl and talks him into testing her
by taking her to a hotel to see how she reacts. Is she a good girl?
Does it matter? After all, why be good? Moore is terrific as the
dance-crazed flapper (who still lives at home with mom and pop). With
her signature hair-do and skimpy dresses, she the very picture of the
silent flapper. Hamilton is also good as the naïve son. Co-stars
include Jack Norton as the drunken boyfriend, Bodil Rosing as the
mother, John St. Polis as the father, and Edward Martindel as the store
owner. Look fast for Grady Sutton, Mischa Auer, and Jean Harlow among
This film was recently released on DVD after a massive effort to restore its video elements from several sources and its excellent Vitaphone soundtrack. After being listed as a lost film for many decades, we now have a shiny new version restored and available.
Story about love and betrayal in a lighthouse off the coast of New
Compelling and visually mesmeric as the pounding surf the film keeps cutting to. The actors might be a tad hammy but hell it's 1931 and each has his/her moments. Fay Compton is terrific as the bored wife, Edmund Willard is excellent as slimy Cass. Ian Hunter may be the uneasiest of the actors. Frank Harvey is good as the husband. Long scenes without cuts and fantastic photography more than compensate for the familiar story.
The film was actually banned in Australia and New Zealand. Compton is best remembered for THE HAUNTING as the owner of Hill House but she had a long career in Brit silent films. This was her second talkie. The woman Compton is chatting with in the opening scene is terrific, not idea who she is.....
Elizabeth of Ladymead (1948) offers star Anna Neagle 4 characters to
play. In each vignette (she dreams after walking into a wall) she plays
a wife awaiting her husband's return from war. The sly script is not so
much about wars or even husbands (they never really change), but looks
at how women have changed. All the women are named Elizabeth and all
the stories occur at the country estate Ladymead.
The Crimean War wife is a proper little thing who bravely awaits and crochets doilies. The Boer War wife tries to stay active and becomes a suffragette. The WW I wife becomes a "lost generation" hedonist, and the WW II wife has become a capable business woman who turns the estate into a money-making farm. Neagle is terrific and almost shocking as the would-be flapper dressed in garish purples and greens and wearing war-paint makeup. The husbands are all played by different actors, as are the mothers (who move in during the various war years). Very entertaining. Hugh Williams play the current-day husband. Co-stars include Isabel Jeans, Edie Martin, and Jean Anderson. Oh, and the wall Neagle walks into used to be a doorway as seen in the earlier stories.
LONELY ROAD offers Clive Brook at his suave best as a man who drives drunk and crashes on a beach where a smuggling operation is underway. He's beaten up and left on the beach. When he's found, it is assumed his injuries are from the crash. After recovery he is driving to Scotland to rest and spends the night in Leeds where, at a dance hall, he meets a girl (a radiant Victoria Hopper) and the plot goes on from there. I suppose there are too many coincidences for the plot to really hold together, but the joy here is in the performances of Brook and Hopper. Also good are the snarling thug played by Charless Farrell (not the Hollywood star), the housekeeper played by Ethel Coleridge, and Lady Anne played by Nora Swinburne. The alternate title is "Scotland Yard Commands," which is pretty awful. Hopper gets to sing the title song "Lonely Road." And love that car!
Two-part drama that has Anthony Quayle as an American scientist helping
a spy agency with a defector who has stolen some experimental killer
virus samples. He needs to pass them on to Quayle so he can perfect a
vaccine before the enemy uses the virus. He poses as a honeymooner with
a blonde agent (Zsa Zsa Gabor) in London and makes contact. But
something goes wrong and there is a killing for which Quayle is charged
with murder. Enter Anna Neagle as a successful Brit lawyer.
All Quayle will tell her is that he is innocent. He also refuses to take the stand in his own defense because under cross examination he'd have to tell the story about the virus.
The case seems doomed until a witness (Katherine Kath) for the prosecution comes forward and claims she saw the murder from her apartment window. This finally gives Neagle something to work with since the witness seems a little shaky.
After Neagle visits the apartment and discovers a bullet hole, she's able to reconstruct the murder, but she has to get the witness to admit she has lied. But even this might not be enough to save Quayle if he has to take the stand.
What follows is a very clever use of legal precedence, a slight loophole in the law.
Neagle is excellent as the lawyer. Quayle's American accent seems oddly flat but he is otherwise solid. Gabor is surprisingly good as the agent. Kath is excellent as the witness. Others in the cast include John Le Mesurier as the judge, Dora Bryan as the silly switchboard operator, Hugh McDermott as the annoying Bernie, Patrick Allen as Kennedy, and Leonard Sachs as the defector.
THEY CAME TO A CITY is based on a play by J.B. Preistley and stars
Googie Withers and John Clements. It's sort of an "Outward Bound" story
of disparate people who find themselves on a road that leads to a
monolithic waiting room before a giant door. While waiting, each person
explains his/her life, hopes, gripes, etc. When the door finally opens
they descend in "the city." We never see it. As they emerge from the
city, some are struck by the new social order, happiness of the people,
the freedom, etc. while others are repelled by what they see. This
utopia seems based on socialist views.
Coming toward the end of WWII, the story is framed by a couple sitting by a roadside overlooking a manufacturing city. They are arguing about what kind of world will emerge after the war. Will things be different. A man wanders by (J.B. Priestley himself) and he joins in, telling the story of his utopia.
Those who hate "the city" include a selfish dowager who browbeats her mousy daughter, a man of the landed gentry who lives on inherited money, a ruthless industrialist who makes money in order to make more money, and a jealous wife who hates anyone to has the things she wants. Those who like the city include the mousy daughter, an old charwoman, the henpecked husband, the world-weary barmaid (Withers), and the stoker (Clements) who has searched the world for a paradise.
While not very cinematic, the overall idea is quite interesting, and the actors (mostly from the stage play) are quite good. Besides Withers and Clements, the film co-stars Raymond Huntley and Renee Gadd as the Strittons, Ada Reeve as the charwoman, Mabel Terry-Lewis and Frances Rowe as the dowager and daughter, A.E. Matthews as the industrialist, Norman Shelley as the landed gentry.
Sprawling costume drama casts Margaret Lockwood as a gypsy girl Jassy
who has second sight. She gets a job as maid in the household of a
once-great family who have lost everything due to father's (Dennis
Price) gambling. But she falls in love with the son (Dermot Walsh)
whose ambition it is to regain the family estate from the cruel master
Later, Jassy gets a job at the school for girls where she befriends the daughter of the cruel master (Patricia Roc) and poses as her friend when the girl is expelled from the school. She moves into the estate where she is made housekeeper. But the cruel master has his eye on her.
In another storyline, a brutish blacksmith beats his wife and daughter (Esma Cannon) causing the daughter to lose her voice via a throat injury. She eventually gets a job as maid in the estate where Jassy has gone to live. The "loony" as she is called, becomes the devoted slave to Jassy.
After a riding accident, the cruel master is saved by the loony. He is returned to his estate where Jassy takes full control. But after his death Jassy and the loony are accused of murder.
Lockwood is terrific as Jassy, the gypsy girl who is kinder and truer than all the grand people around her. Cannon turns is a superb performance as the pitiful loony. Dennis Price, Patricia Roc, Dermot Walsh, and Basil Sydney are also very good. Co-stars include Linden Travers, Ernest Thesiger, Cathleen Nesbitt, Susan Shaw, Hugh Pryse, Jean Cadell, Beatrice Varley, Torin Thatcher, and Nora Swinburne.
Love story set in the Austrian Tyrol stars Ivor Novello (in his last
film) as a hotel keeper who falls for an English teacher (Fay Compton)
who is on vacation.
Compton plays an aging woman (she's 35) who dreams about a mountain village and love. She finds both on her vacation, but her friend (Esme Church) warns her against being silly and ruining her life. Yet Compton is set to "run away" and stay in the village with Novello until she learns his secret.
Interesting look at two different cultures and unrequited love. Among the hotel guests are a "modern" unmarried couple who share a room (Jack Hawkins, Diana Beaumont), a vacationing parson and his old-maid sister (George Zucco, Muriel Aked), and a traditional German couple. The story show us the "modern" couple who defy conventions but are snubbed by "polite society." On the other hand we see the "proper" woman who has become a nosy old maid with no life of her own.
Will Compton defy convention and stay in the Tyrol with Novello? Or will be pay heed to her friend's advice and go back to England and her job? Fay Compton is excellent as the wavering teacher. She has a lovely scene where she sings a sad English ballad, and she's believable as the woman who knows her chance at love may be her last. Novello is also excellent as the hotelier who wants more love in his life. Despite some awkward rear projections, the film has a nice look and the Austrian mountains are gorgeous. After almost 2 dozen films, this was Novello's final film role.
Mister Cinders (1934) is a delightful British musical starring Clifford Mollison and Zelma O'Neal in a take-off of the Cinderella story. Mollison is a poor relation living and working in the mansion of a cousin. The household is dominated by a a social-climbing wife. An American millionaire is saved from drowning by Mollison but the old lady steers the credit toward her bizarre sons. When O'Neal is called to collect daddy, she almost runs over a cop so she exchanges identities with a woman going to the mansion to work as a maid. O'Neal poses as a maid but gets the real story on the old lady and her worthless sons. They all end up at a ball hosted by the millionaire and the story plays out. Mollison is good as Mr. Cinders and it's interesting to see O'Neal in a starring role. She's quite good. Several good songs. Co-stars include Esme Church as the old battleaxe, the odd Western Brothers as her sons, Finlay Currie as the American, W.H. Berry as the dimwitted cop, Edmund Breon as the husband, and Lorna Storm as Minerva. Watching this, it's hard to figure why Zelma O'Neal was basically a bust in films.
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