In pre-WWI England, a youngster is expelled from a naval academy over a petty theft, and his parents raise a political furor by demanding a trial.In pre-WWI England, a youngster is expelled from a naval academy over a petty theft, and his parents raise a political furor by demanding a trial.In pre-WWI England, a youngster is expelled from a naval academy over a petty theft, and his parents raise a political furor by demanding a trial.
In Edwardian England, 13-year-old cadet Ronnie Winslow is expelled from the naval academy at Osborn for stealing a 7-shilling postal order. His father and sister become obsessed with proving his innocence at any cost to themselves and turn the case into a national cause celebre. —David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
Classic Study of English Manners and Preoccupations
By comparison with today's more pacey films, Anthony Asquith's version of the Terence Rattigan classic might seem somewhat slow, with long shots focused on the protagonists' faces and frequent use of the shot/reverse shot technique. As a piece of character-focused drama, however, the film could not be bettered. Set just before the outbreak of World War I, the film concentrates on the trial of a thirteen-year- old boy (Neil North), wrongly accused of stealing a postal order. His father (Cedric Hardwicke) is determined to fight the case, and engages top prosecuting counsel Sir Robert Morton (Robert Donat) to plead the case. While the film works as a courtroom drama, its main focus is on characterization; those small facial gestures that appear to say so little but actually say a whole lot about the protagonists' preoccupations. The Winslow family are concerned to maintain their English sang-froid, but that becomes very difficult as the case wears on. Hardwicke is quite brilliant at showing how the case affects Mr. Winslow; his tired expression as the film unfolds is rapidly superseded by a small smile as he discovers the result and staggers outside to talk to the press. Initially Donat appears as something of a cold fish, but he admits to Winslow's daughter Kate (Margaret Leighton) by the end that this is a facade constructed purely for public consumption. The ending is quite unexpected for both of them. For lovers of British variety of the mid-twentieth century, the film contains the added bonus of two performances by Cyril Ritchard and Stanley Holloway.
- Apr 22, 2014
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