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. . . how much better it would have been had it been made by Paramount, had starred Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, and had been directed by Lubitsch or Mamoulian. This British effort makes a stab at the genre, but lacks the necessary vivacity. It is almost as if they were afraid of being saucy, when sauciness was the very essence of the piece. Some of the blame must lie with the casting of the male lead. Victor Varconi is too stolid (one might almost say stodgy) for a role which would have been better played with an air of sans souci. An extended marionette scene is so out of place as to suggest padding, when this sort of plot needs to proceed at a romping pace.
This film is much better than its lurid title and publicity suggest.
For one thing, it has a legitimate, though somewhat conventional, dramatic structure a la "Petrified Forest" et al: a small group of people, some with pre-existing personal problems, are confined in one location, when the incursion of a "deus ex machina" puts their problems into a new perspective.
For another, it is shot in beautifully lucid black and white. Jack Cox's work here merits comparison with Gregg Toland. The night scenes in particular are skilfully lit, in which respect it puts to shame most latter day colour films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has much in common with the Astaire/Rogers movies being made
by RKO at that time. The plot concerns a bachelor playboy and an
aspiring songstress thrown together by an embarrassing accident. He
pursues her, she rebuffs him, but he persists, and after some amusing
misunderstandings eventually sees off a rival suitor and wins her
heart. The action takes place in a high society world of partying by
gay young things, with never a hint of real life. The settings
(nightclubs, expensive apartments, and ocean liners) are pure 1930s art
deco. J Elder Wills' sets for this film fall not far short of the best
of Van Nest Polglase.
So much for the similarities; now for the differences. The musical numbers fall a long way short of Porter, Berlin, or Kern. There is only one notable dance by the leads, which is well enough done, but not memorable. The ensemble choreography throughout is, however, very good.
Whereas the Astaire/Rogers series relied on supporting players like Eric Blore or Edward Everett Horton for comic relief, Lupino does his own comedy. A former acrobat, he is adept at trips and entanglements. He has two memorable scenes of this sort, one involving a knotted length of sheets, and the other a knitter's ball of wool.
The print quality of the film in the recently released "The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection, vol. 6" is superb, with lustrous black and white doing full justice to the settings.
Stanley Lupino came from a famous theatrical family; he was a cousin of Lupino Lane and the father of Ida Lupino. Charles Penrose, who plays the perpetually laughing passenger on the liner, was the first performer of "The Laughing Policeman" song, written by his wife.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The plot of this murder mystery was already a cliché when the film was
made. An elderly, wealthy, and disagreeable bachelor summons his
nephews and nieces, for whom he has no affection, to his large country
house, other residents being his solicitor, an impassive butler, and a
neurotic housekeeper. Over dinner the host informs his guests that he
intends to change his will, but before he is able to do so he is found
Fans of the genre will be familiar with the devices that detective fiction writers use to invent original solutions the butler did it, they all did it, the victim did it, the detective did it and in watching this film may well be anticipating an unusual twist which will add interest to the otherwise humdrum story. If so, they will be disappointed. The ending is abrupt, unsurprising, and anticlimactic.
The small part of the housekeeper is played by Katie Johnson, who two years later would win a BAFTA award as best actress for her performance as the old lady in The Ladykillers. The rest of the cast are all competent performers, many of whom went on to have busy TV careers in supporting roles without achieving star status.
This film, previously thought to be lost, is now published on DVD by the Odeon Entertainment Group.
In the 1930s English film studios produced a number of sparkling
musical comedies, using established stage performers such as Lupino
Lane, Jessie Matthews, and Jack Buchanan. Meanwhile Hollywood
(particularly Warners and MGM) was working the backstage musical to
exhaustion, including the "Broadway to Hollywood" theme of family acts
broken up by the ambitions of a talented member, while Fox explored the
introduction of serious music into in its popular Durbin films. The
early 1940s saw the dying throes of these sub-genres. The 1950s were
the golden years of Hollywood musicals, with MGM in particular
producing a stream of classic musicals, some of them based on
successful operettas, others being film adaptations of the naturalistic
type of musical introduced to theatres in the previous decade by
authors such as Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Given this history, it is hard to imagine what madness seized Ealing Studios in 1957 in trying to ape the Hollywood musicals of 20 years earlier. Did they perhaps think that filming in colour would make all the difference? If so, they were mistaken. For us Britons, this film is squirmingly embarrassing. "Champagne Charlie" (1944), "Trottie True" (1949), and "Cardboard Cavalier" (1949) had also failed to impress as film musicals, but at least they tried to create a genuinely British style. "Davy" attempts to jump on a strictly American bandwagon which had long since pulled out.
The chief interest in the film for us now is seeing early appearances of Bill Owen, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor, Liz Fraser, and Bernard Cribbens, all of whom would become well known and loved, and feature in a number of "Carry On" films.
If a film was described as "made by 20th Century Fox, featuring Vivian
Blaine, Carmen Miranda, Phil Silvers, Harry James, and Perry Como," you
might reasonably expect the sort of bright, brash, and breezy
Technicolor musical of which TCF were the masters during the 1940s.
If a film was described as "a black and white political satire about an upright young man duped into standing for office only to find that he was intended to front for a gang of corrupt politicos," you might reasonably expect the sort of film of which Frank Capra was master, perhaps starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur.
It is unlikely that you would envisage one film to fit both descriptions, but "If I'm Lucky" does just that. Perhaps we shall never know what prompted TCF to produce this unlikely hybrid, but surprisingly it works quite well. The musical numbers are neatly integrated into the plot, Phil Silvers' usual over-exuberance is kept in check, one misses Technicolor only during Carmen Miranda's numbers, and the political shenanigans are carried mainly by Edgar Buchanan, Reed Hadley, and other supporting players, thankfully making little demand on Perry Como's acting abilities.
This is not a particularly good movie, but nor is it a bad one, and it is sufficiently unusual to warrant attention.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The various strands of this movie, each satisfactory in itself, do not
blend well together.
Ann and Lucille both work in the same hotel, as public stenographer and telephonist respectively. They share an apartment and regularly date men to get a free meal sometimes having to walk home. This is Warner Bros 'gold digger' territory, usually inhabited by Joan Blondell or Una Merkel, but here adequately covered by Lola Lane and Esther Muir.
The 'serious' element of the plot concerns the efforts of a shady firm of engineering contractors, Hendricks and White, to beat their upright competitors, Martin and Son, to public contracts by fair means or foul (preferably foul).
Ann meets Jimmy Martin, and there ensues a battle of the sexes of the knockabout kind usually associated with screwball comedies.
The mood however suddenly turns to emotional drama when it appears that Jimmy has departed for Cincinnati to wed a society girl, and this after having spent the night with Ann.
To avenge her friend, Lucille sells her shorthand notebooks, containing details of the Martins' business, to Hendricks and White. When Jimmy returns to marry Ann, the two girls have to take drastic steps to recover the notebooks.
The mixture of genres makes for an uneven film.
The Alpha DVD of this film is watchable, but both video and sound show the age of the material. Curiously, it bills Duncan Renaldo as Lane's co-star. This appears to be a mistake as to who played the role of Jimmy, or it might reflect the fact that Renaldo went on to great success as the Cisco Kid, while Collier retired the following year, having been in films from the age of 14.
This is an ill-advised and poorly executed revival of an out-dated type
of comedy. Although purporting to be set in contemporary times (i.e.
1954), the nature of the plot and the style of its exposition are
redolent of films made twenty years earlier, a feeling reinforced by
the inclusion in the cast of those two old stalwarts of 1930s comedy,
Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge.
The central plot is a murder mystery of the artificial Agatha Christie type, the contrived solution to which is expounded in dialogue so swiftly in the closing minutes of the film that after its test screening, one baffled viewer's notes read, "Who murdered who? And why?" The comedy is provided by Hulbert and Courtneidge individually, rather than in tandem, and consists of an embarrassing reprise of their well-worn bits of shtick. Courtneidge does not launch into her "two dozen double damask dinner napkins" routine, but one would hardly be surprised if she did.
Diana Dors is her usual beautiful self, but is ill-matched with Patrick Holt as her husband. The actress Ida Patlanski listed in the cast is also known as Pat Terry-Thomas, the wife of Terry-Thomas the English comic actor, whose dog Archie plays the role of Archie in this film.
The film has been restored and issued on DVD by the British Film Institute, together with production details which reveal that the final version of the film was influenced by the script writer, the head of the commissioning company, the producer, the director, one of the actors (Hulbert), and the British film censor, which perhaps explains its lack of cohesion.
Three years earlier, RKO had issued a comedy thriller, "Behave Yourself!" which too was about a young married couple becoming inadvertently embroiled in crime, in which too the wife's name was Kate and the dog's name was Archie. One wonders if the screen writer of "Miss Tulip" had seen that film and had residual memories of it. If so, it is a pity that he had not also remembered that the American film was not a mystery, the precise roles of all the miscreants being spelled out in the opening credits, leaving room for a great deal of comic action with far more entertaining results.
. . . that says "Any film written, produced and directed by one person
will be a stinker." This film is no exception.
It is not science fiction but science rubbish. The Van Allen belt catching fire is as likely as the force of gravity going rusty. The "world famous scientist" admiral makes his crucial calculations on a slide rule. When he asks the captain "Just exactly where are we?", the captain turns to a map of the world, jabs his finger at the South Atlantic Ocean and says "We're right here, Sir." The conventional submarine chasing them EXplodes because it has gone too deep. When the captain orders the engine room "All stop," the sub comes to a dead halt. And so on, ad nauseam.
It would be funny were it not for the truly frightening message that underlies the plot, namely that in any global crisis a US commander may take it upon himself to "save the world," and his chosen solution will be to nuke the problem. Half a century later we still hover on the brink of that precipice today.
This film features a racy plot and crackling dialogue. The two
principal characters, Sir Duncan Craggs and his Franco-Russian wife
Louise, have a free-wheeling morality in respect of extra-marital
affairs, each fully cognisant of the other's infidelities, but
tempering reproach with civilised restraint, in a manner somewhat
reminiscent of a Lubitsch sex comedy.
Their upper-class hijinks spill over from the West End of town houses and night clubs to a Limehouse Chinese laundry which acts as a front for a disreputable doss-house, with suggestions that it might be an opium den and a haunt of prostitutes. The film neatly contrasts the two milieus by a change of visual style, with the seedy locales shot in murky soft focus.
Yvonne Arnaud is delicious as Craggs' wife Louise, fracturing the English language with every sentence she utters. Stella Moya, as a beautiful Chinese girl, has little to do, but is suitably alluring. Robertson Hare's role is smaller than those of the other three leads, and he is well matched by Norma Varden as his domineering wife. (He does, however, get to lose his trousers at one point, a trademark feature of his.) A young Graham Moffatt, in an early role before joining the Will Hay team, makes the most of his single scene. The actresses playing the shop girls and secretaries in the early part of the film are all unbilled, undeservedly so.
The adaptation of the Aldwych farces to the screen was not always successful, but it is hard to fault this one.
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