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Let right be done!
aromatic-216 July 2001
This is my second favorite movie of all time, after A Man For All Seasons. Both are spectacular to me because they embrace, discuss, and analyze philosophies and ideals. Both are also spectacular because of once-in-a-lifetime leading man performances. Scofield, quite justly, won Best Actor of 1966. I think he his portrayal was the Best of the 20th Century -- but I digress.

Donat is equally eloquent, compelling, and vulnerable as Sir Robert Morton. Donat is, in my opinion, one of the best 10 actors ever, and has a screen presence, and an embedded sense of irony, few have ever equalled. Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Margaret Leighton are absolutely superb in their roles as well. And there is a marvelous dance hall cameo from Cyril Ritchard and Stanley Holloway.

The brittle exterior of Sir Robert belies a passionate and sensitive lover of the law. Many times actors have essayed crusty characters trying to hide their hearts of gold, this portrayal goes so infinitely beyond that it makes all others look like pale imitators.

This is a movie that demands to be seen. The recent remake with Northam and Pidgeon was surprisingly good, but this one is pure greatness.
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Enduring Greatness
the_old_roman26 August 2001
This is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, and since I turn 92 next month, I have seen a fair number of movies. Robert Donat, one of England's greatest actors ever, embodies the true-life soul of Sir Robert Morton, a high-powered attorney, who sacrificed his success for principle. Sir Cedric Hardwicke as magnificent as the accused boy's beleaguered father. Margaret Leighton's chemistry with Donat is flawless. The dialogue by Terrence Rattigan is equally classic. There are also wonderful small bits by Stanley Holloway, Cyril Ritchard, and Ernest Thesinger. If you wish to see a classic English film, almost unknown in this country, rent this one, and you are in for a treat.

Incidentally, there is also a 1998 version of this movie starring Jeremy Northam and Ian McKellen. Although it does not approach the greatness of the original, it is a more than satisfactory homage, and well worth seeing in its own right --- AFTER you've treated yourself to Donat's classic performance.
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Let right be done - a drama in early 20th century England
barryrd28 January 2009
This film kept me in suspense not knowing what the outcome would be. The acting, period atmosphere and historical recreation are all outstanding. The Winslow Boy is directed by Anthony Asquith and has a stellar cast led by Cedric Hardwicke, Robert Donat, Margaret Leighton and others. The film evokes a period of time when honour, self-sacrifice and the heavy arm of authority ruled countries such as England in the name of the common good.

The setting is the Edwardian Era of early 20th century England and into this time and place, we find a youth who has been expelled from a naval academy for stealing. The family believes he is innocent and his recently-retired father, distant from his children, ageing and afflicted with arthritis, sees an opportunity to strike a blow for his youngest child against injustice. In jurisprudence, it is called let right be done.

In this heroic effort, Arthur Winslow the father, played by Cedric Hardwicke, is backed by the strong conviction of his daughter Kate (Margaret Leighton) and Sir Robert Morton who takes on the government of the day (Robert Donat).

Thirteen-year old Ronnie Winslow is expelled from his academy for theft. The evidence against him is real but the son is adamant that he is innocent. Arthur Winslow believes his son and takes the matter to his lawyer and eventually to the Cabinet. He is paid a visit by Robert Donat, as Sir Robert Morton, a Member of Parliament, who takes up the case.

One of the most hard-hitting scenes is a ruthless cross-examination. The boy maintains his innocence and the MP leaves their home convinced of the boy's innocence. The badgering is relentless and had me on the edge of my seat as Donat hurls one accusation after another at the boy, who does not bend during the ordeal.

Sir Robert takes a shine to Kate, Arthur Winslow's daughter, who is played by Margaret Leighton. She superbly performs the role and risks her engagement by pressing the MP to proceed with the case, which has now become a national sensation.

There is a dramatic showdown in the House of Commons and the First Lord of the Admiralty, egged on by Sir Robert, agrees to let the case go to court. The final outcome has added emotion as the senior Winslow, and Sir Robert are tired and ailing.

This is an excellent period piece as well as high drama with great acting by the leading players and those in supporting roles, particularly Kathleen Harrison, the housekeeper. The era is evoked with scenes taking place on golf courses and men's clubs where politicians discuss matters of state, not to mention the churches, concert halls and railway stations. The nation's affairs are dominated by the suffragettes and the Irish question. All-round great entertainment. Highly recommend.
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total class
didi-56 May 2003
I hadn't seen this but was aware of its starry remake some fifty years on; having now seen both, this is the better movie for several reasons. Firstly, three brilliant actors in the cast: Cedric Hardwicke, who still fools me every time and it is a surprise and joy to discover it was him after all when the credits roll; Robert Donat, who had another definitive role in this to add to Mr Chips; and the lovely Margaret Leighton, as the suffragette Winslow daughter who isn't at all militant. Secondly, the plot, which manages to weave quite a few threads along with the central story of little Ronnie Winslow and the stolen postal order. And lastly, because of the sparkle and energy of the script and the detail put into every frame. It's a wonderful film which keeps the attention from wandering, and I highly recommend it.
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Best of British
grahamclarke14 August 2006
Terence Rattigan, once the toast of London's West End, fell very much out of favor when a new generation of playwrights made his plays seem antiquated and irrelevant. It took David Mamet's excellent filming of the "Winslow Boy" to remind us, that at his best, Rattigan was an exceptionally fine dramatist. Having much enjoyed the movie, I was curious to see the 1948 version directed by Anthony Asquith, who worked on a number of occasions with Rattigan.

It's an exceptional film from all accounts. Asquith's adaptations of theater works for the screen are excellent. Without opening them out too extensively they manage to avoid being stage bound, (Pygmalion, Browning Version, Importance of Being Earnest).

Being already familiar with the storyline, I simply sat back and savored the wonderful performances, and what performances they are. Cedric Hardwicke as the father lacks the softness of Nigel Hawthorne's portrayal and yet that's what precisely makes it ultimately more moving. Robert Donat overflows with charisma and Margaret Leighton plays her very first screen appearance with much intelligence and total aplomb.

The best of British
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Getting Justice for a Young Boy - in the days of the Bunny Hop
theowinthrop2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It has been said that the various public sensations in the period before World War I were the last times that public attention and anger could be brought forth in defense of the individual who seemed to be wronged. This was true in France from 1894 to 1906 om the Dreyfus Affair, and in Russia in 1911 - 1913 in the "Blood Libel" trial of Mendel Beiliss. One might consider later events (Sacco - Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, Caryl Chessman) showed similar outbursts of indignation could occur long after World War I was over, but the turn of the 20th Century seemed very fruitful in these cause celebres.

Terence Rattigan, like all good dramatists, knew that you could squeeze much dramatic juice out of a good, real judicial drama. He would do a play based on the tragedy of the Rattenbury - Stoner murder trial of 1935. He would also do a wonderful extra-judicial drama called "The Winslow Boy" based on a 1910 - 1914 cause celebres that rocked Edwardian England. It was the Archer - Shee Case, with the family name changed to Winslow for the purposes of Rattigan's stagecraft.

Martin Archer - Shee was a young naval cadet who was at the Naval War College when he was wrongly accused of stealing postal money orders from his fellow classmates. He was expelled from the school as a result, protesting to all he had not done this. His father believed him, and got England's premier barrister, Sir Edward Carson, to help force a government reversal of this disgraceful action.

Carson is best recalled for his masterful (but tragically effective) destruction of his old college mate Oscar Wilde at Wilde's first trial against the "slander" of the Marquess of Queensbury in 1895. But he was far better than that incident (which he always secretly regretted - he saw Wilde years later as a poverty row derelict in Paris). If you doubt this, check into his excellent prosecution (as Attorney General) of the wife-murdering poisoner Severin Klosowski ("George Chapman", the "Borough Poisoner") in 1903. He did oppose the Home Rule Movement of Parnell and his successors, but Carson loved his native Ireland and hated the 1922 division of the island into Eire Free State and Northern Ireland. He would try (with Kevin O'Higgins of the Southern Irish Government) to restore the two sections together, but O'Higgins' assassination in 1927 ended that attempt.

Carson's best features came out in his defense of Martin Archer - Shee. He refused, despite repeated dismissive behavior of the Asquith government, to give up protesting their high-handed behavior to the boy. The fact was the government's proof of Archer - Shee's criminal activities was weak: a young cadet was known to have cashed the stolen postal orders, but the identification with Archer - Shee was feeble at best. In the end he managed to manipulate the government (weakened by a serious scandal of it's own involving the Marconi Wireless Company) into reviewing the actions. In the end the decision of the Naval authorities had to be reversed by the House of Commons in a special vote, and then a trial was held in which Archer - Shee was acquitted. World War I was soon upon Europe. Martin Archer - Shee joined the army and died in Flanders Fields.

Rattigan was not the only one to see the dramatic possibilities of the story. Alexander Woolcott wrote about it several times, and even attempted to edit a volume of the "Notable British Trials" series on the case. But Rattigan had to humanize the story even more.

First the name of the family is changed to "Winslow", and the spotlight is on Martin's father. Arthur Winslow is played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who is actually a kind hearted man behind his stern Edwardian facade. He is more concerned with his older boy Dick's (Jack Watling's) interest in the "Bunny Hop" dance craze over his studies at Oxford than with the younger, more sensible "Ronnie" (Neil North). The social ostracism of the disgraced family, effecting the engagement of his daughter Katherine (Margaret Leighton) and the standing of Dick at Oxford, forces Winslow to go to "Sir Robert Morton" (Robert Donat as Carson) for the justice he demands. Donat does not appear in the film until nearly half the film is done - but he dominates the second half while Hardwicke dominates the beginning. It is like the passing of a torch.

Donat's performance is a trifle stiff - but that is what Carson occasionally came across as. He is humanized in one way that is historically inaccurate - a romance blossoms between him and Leighton that did not between Carson and anyone in Archer - Shee's family. Still that is underplayed. Instead we watch how he will not be silenced by the indifference of the government in power. In particular the First Lord of the Admiralty (Walter Fitzgerald) and the Attorney General (Francis Sullivan). The former pretends to be more concerned in his golf game than the honor of a little boy. By the way, the play and film does not mention the name of this individual: it was Winston Churchill.

The film is a wonder - and oddly enough does not have the conclusion occur in the courtroom, but has a character describes what happened. But it all works well, and gives the audience a good feeling. Occasionally justice is done!
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Superior to 1999 Remake in Every Way!
fontanelli6112 June 2009
With all due respect to David Mamet, this is THE definitive version of this story. Based on an excellent stage drama by Terence Rattigan - itself based on an actual, (now) obscure British trial from a century ago - the film is unfortunately unavailable on DVD in the United States at this time. Watch for it to occasionally turn up on TCM, however. I agree with the rave review left by "the old roman" - it's worth staying up for. BTW, Robert Donat (of "The 39 Steps" fame) easily steals the film as the barrister Sir Robert Morton. After watching his performance, it's easy to see why he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1939 (for "Goodbye Mr. Chips") against such stiff competition as Clark Gable ("Gone With The Wind"), James Stewart ("Mr. Smith Goes To Washington") and Laurence Olivier ("Wuthering Heights")!
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Classic Study of English Manners and Preoccupations
l_rawjalaurence22 April 2014
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.
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All This For Five Shillings
bkoganbing2 January 2008
This film adaption of Terrence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy is highlighted by Robert Donat's performance of celebrated English barrister, Sir Robert Morton. It's one of Donat's best performances although he's more Donat that Edward Carson on whom the character is actually based.

If you want to see a more accurate portrayal of Carson and by name than the Oscar Wilde film starring Peter Finch is what you have to look at. In that one James Mason plays Carson who was by all accounts one mean man to cross, but a brilliant advocate. In that film Carson is appearing for the prosecution and he's relentless.

In his own elegant way Donat is relentless also, but he's also one cold blooded fish. As he plays Morton, the part is perfect for one of Donat's antiseptic portrayals.

The story concerns young Ronald Winslow played by Neil North who is expelled from the Naval Academy for the theft of a postal money order of five shillings. I'm sure even back in the Edwardian days this would go down as a petty theft, but it involves the military, His Majesty's military which does not make mistakes as we know.

Half the film is devoted to just letting young Mr. North have his day in court. This isn't America, he has to get permission from the government just to be allowed to defend himself. That is something that North's father Cedric Hardwicke is determined to see he gets.

It costs the Winslow family considerable. Older brother Jack Watling is not allowed to finish Oxford, sister Margaret Leighton's fiancé Frank Lawton breaks up with her because of the notoriety and Hardwicke's health goes down hill.

The Winslow Boy is based on a true incident from back in the beginning of the last century and it has good performances all around. Cyril Ritchard and Stanley Holloway do a couple of music hall numbers to capture the spirit of the time and are welcome indeed.

Still The Winslow Boy is Robert Donat's show and a good show it is.
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Noble, principled, but still dramatic and exiting!
ron10134631 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those pictures that sacrifices cheap thrills for a subtle, meaningful drama of ideas, which guarantees that it will never be made with quite this quality again.

One example: Terrence Rattigan intentionally eliminates what would certainly have been the most exiting scene--showing the outcome of the trial--just so he could maintain focus on how each character reacts to the verdict and how personal sacrifices paid off in pursuit of what is right.

While on that subject, I should note what was even more oblique in the plot was the failure to show (either to the characters or to the audience watching the movie) any evidence proving Winslow's guilt or innocence! And yet the movie still satisfies.

The real hero, as this picture shows, believe it or not, is the English rule of law, as established by the Magna Carta, that allows any citizen who is charged with a crime to defend himself in a court of law. Something you would never expect that a mere movie could do so well.

RonLev Philly
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A great, great movie
Cambridge UK10 April 2002
The film is based on a true episode, the Archer-Shee case. Sir Robert Morton in real life was Sir Edward Carson, an Irish Tory politician and brilliantly histrionic lawyer who successfully defended the boy, who was the half-brother of a fellow MP. Carson later married a much younger woman, though not the boy's sister. The Winslow Boy himself was killed during the First World War.
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the better version
WinterMaiden26 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
One of my favorite movies, "The Winslow Boy" is a perfect showcase for the talents of that great doomed actor, Robert Donat. The actor's lovely melancholy and the character's passion shine through the glacial composure of the upper class barrister, and Donat is beautifully matched by Margaret Leighton. Recognizing in each other their own integrity and passion for the point of social justice involved in the case, Donat and Leighton ever so delicately find their way to an unspoken understanding. It is the British banked-fires school at its best, spoiled in the 1999 version by Rebecca Pidgeon's snotty performance.

Here, though, as good as Leighton and Cedric Hardwicke are, the star is clearly Robert Donat, bringing his own exhausted pallor and haunting voice to a number of impassioned speeches and deliciously witty one-liners.
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Very good version of the play that does well with both social and legal drama
bob the moo21 February 2003
Arthur Winslow is the head of a respectable London family; however this threatens to change when his young son is expelled from military school for stealing a postal order worth 5 shillings. Winslow risks his wealth and his family to pursue justice for his son. However when the military court of appeal rejects him he has to appeal to the highest court in the land through MP Sir Morton.

Having seen a recent version of this play I was curious to see another and was glad when I spotted it coming onto television. The play itself is pretty stagy and because of this it doesn't suffer from being dated – the 1948 production values are easily the equal of the 1998 version. The film here differs from the recent version in that it has much more of the legal wrangling onscreen and not off. This makes the film much better as it encompasses both the social battle of the Winslow's and the legal one.

Both are involving and gripping but I must admit that I wasn't as caught up in the social drama as much as I wanted to be, because I felt that any family who's main worry in life was that there son had been excluded from school needn't worry about much! The fact that the Winslow's were able to get the ear of an MP just made it more difficult for me to get into – few people live in such high circles (even if they work in a bank!).

The cast are good. Hardwicke is good as Winslow but the real star of the piece is Donat as Sir Morton. He is very stiff but also has layers that he reveals as he goes – as well as carrying the weight of the legal thrills. The majority of the cast are good in roles of varying sizes and no-one does a noticeably bad job. Some are slight stereotypes but not to the film's detriment.

Overall this is a very good film and is better than the modern version. It mixes drama with wit and romance to good effect and puts the legal drama and the social drama on the same level rather than letting one suffer to the other. It had the potential to feel slow but the drama keeps it interesting throughout.
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A riveting fight for justice
TheLittleSongbird7 August 2017
After watching the Terence Rattigan DVD collection (with most of the adaptations being from the 70s and 80s) when staying with family friends last year, Rattigan very quickly became one of my favourite playwrights and he still is. His dialogue is so intelligent, witty and meaty, his characterisation so dynamic, complex and real and the storytelling so beautifully constructed.

'The Winslow Boy' is along with 'The Browning Version' and 'Separate Tables' one of Rattigan's best, containing all of the above and also showing his gift of giving his principal characters an emotional and psychological complexity in a real life situation (if not quite as much as 'The Browning Version'). Was even more blown away by this 1948 film than with the wonderful 1951 adaptation of 'The Browning Version', only because it doesn't have anything that rings false compared with 'The Browning Version's' contrived optimism at the end.

Not only is, again from personal opinion, this 1948 film is the definitive version of 'The Winslow Boy', though it also has the excellent 1976 BBC adaptation with Alan Badel and Eric Porter and the version with Jeremy Northam (which needs to be re-watched but remember it having a lot of good merits) to compete with, but it is also one of the best adaptations of any of Rattigan's plays.

Rattigan's involvement himself with the screenplay has a lot to do with it. It is an incredibly faithful adaptation to the play, practically unscarred and largely untouched, remarkable for a work so text-bound. Fidelity doesn't always come as a good thing when adapted, if too faithful the essence of the work can be lost, here it's the fidelity that makes 'The Winslow Boy' so impressive. Is it talky? Yes it is. That is not the fault of the film. The play is talky. Rattigan in general is talky, but the dialogue itself and the themes that Rattigan touches upon are so amazing that to me this is a rare case of talky not being a bad thing. Rattigan manages to maintain the essence exactly of his own work while also opening up the action and extending it, which immediately gives a more cinematic feel and immediately avoids the potential issue of being too stagy.

Anthony Asquith directs as assuredly as ever, never undermining the intricacies of the events and the complex character dynamic and sharpening up the legal and social dramas and Rattigan's class and hypocrisy insights. 'The Winslow Boy' is a beautiful looking film, lovingly shot with sumptuous settings and costuming.

From start to finish, even when dialogue heavy, the story is riveting, with a much tighter pace than the BBC version, and so much is told and done and in a way where one doesn't miss any of it. The highlight in the play has always been the interrogation scene between Morton and Ronnie, that's the case here in this film as well, some of the cleverest dialogue delivered with nail-biting tension and wit. The characterisation and character dynamic is spot on, where one feels sorry for the right people, amused by the right people, inspired by the right people and grow to hate the right people. The main conflict is so easy to root for (done with real intelligence and meat and one really wants justice done as much as the characters do), and Catherine sums up Morton perfectly in describing him as a cold fish that you grow to admire.

You need good acting to complement all this. The acting is more than good all round, especially Robert Donat whose Morton is even more unforgettable than Alan Badel's and a brilliant performance in its own right (one of his best). More than up to his level are a moving Cedric Hardwicke, a charming and witty Margaret Leighton and Neil North's relatable Ronnie. It was easy to sympathise too with Basil Radford and learn to dislike Frank Lawton in John's eventual treatment of Catherine later on. Wilfred Hyde White makes a distinguished appearance as well.

One expecting a climactic courtroom scene without knowing the play will be disappointed that one finds out the verdict a different way, but that's also how the play ends and it rings just as true this way.

In summary, fantastic film and just as great an example of Rattigan at his best. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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A truly great film
jdhb-768-6123415 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The Winslow Boy is, without doubt, a great film; in my humble opinion it is one of the greatest films ever made.

The story of Cadet Ronnie Winslow is a true one although the real name of the cadet was George Archer-Shee; Terence Rattigan, a playwright of the greatest quality, no doubt changed the name for reasons of propriety. Archer-Shee was accused of stealing a postal order while a cadet at Osborne Naval College and dismissed from his post; his father decided to challenge the dismissal and a battle royal ensued. While the real case had differences to the film, the essence was the same and Rattigan's play and the associated film tell the story in a way that fully demonstrates the drama, pathos and prejudices of the times.

The casting is impeccable and the performances outstanding. Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Ronnie's father is superb and Robert Donat as the great counsel, named as Sir Robert Morton in the film but actually Sir Edward Carson, could not have been bettered; his admittedly theatrical exmination of the boy before he accepts the case is sensational. That Donat is now largely forgotten is a tragedy, as is his early death. Margaret Leighton, another who died tragically young, is beautiful, strong-willed and brilliant as Ronnie's older sister who gives up her romance for the cause and eventually falls for Donat. The supporting cast is, without exception, wonderful if slightly elderly for some of their roles. Marie Lohr, Jack Watling, Francis L Sullivan and the rest are all superb. The atmosphere of the day, created by music hall interludes as well as by the overall surroundings, is perfect.

I've watched this film more times than I can remember but it never palls. The casting, script and acting are all of the highest quality; it is a perfect 10 out of 10
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An excellent film...based on a real life miscarriage of justice.
MartinHafer14 July 2018
"The Winslow Boy" has an interesting pedigree. The story is based on a real case involving a young cadet who was dismissed from his school without any sort of trial or due process. It seems in the early part of the twentieth century in Britain, there was a petty theft and the boy was punished even though it was not clear he'd committed the crime. Not surprisingly, the boy's father insisted there was a miscarriage of justice...but what makes it interesting is that the case didn't drop there but made its way all the way up to sessions of Parliament....where the case was championed by an MP. Some time later, the playwright and screenwriter, Terrence Rattigan, resurrected the story and wrote a play about it...and changed the names in the process. Now, some time after the play, the story finally made its way to film and Rattigan teamed up with one of his favorite directors for this well made movie.

It certainly helps the story that two very distinguished English actors appeared in two of the leading roles, Robert Donat and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Oddly, Donat was given top billing...even though he doesn't appear in the film until about the 40 minute mark! But both are mesmerizingly good...and the well crafted story really makes an impact on the viewer, as they, too, are outraged by the school's high-handed and unfair handling of the case...especially when the accused was a mere boy. Well worth your time.
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A great human rights film with wit and superb cast
SimonJack4 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A number of films have been made about great courtroom dramas. Some have been over basic human rights. And a few have been made about the challenges and efforts to get human rights cases to court. "The Winslow Boy" is all three of those things. The last was the most difficult and trying. Based on a true story, this is a masterful tale of family love, honor and integrity. But, it's one that shows the sacrifices, tribulations and dissensions among family members.

It is not a film about justice. It is about right. Justice falls within the law, but right is a higher aspect of life, humanity and civilization. And that is wonderfully articulated in this film. "Let right be done," could be another title for the film.

Besides the drama, this story is laced with humor throughout. It is masterfully handled so that the serious aspect is never forgotten. The humor is interspersed among the cast and relates to other things of the day. Popular music and phonographs, the suffrage movement, styles and dress of the day allow for some light respites in the family's two-year wait and worry about the case.

The story takes place in England. It is based on the George Archer-Shee discharge of 1908 that was tried and settled in 1910. The names of the characters have been changed, and some of the characters in the film are different from those in the actual case. But the details of the case are about as they occurred. That includes the final statement from the Attorney General.

Sir Robert Morton is based on Sir Edward Carson, a politician and one of Britain's brightest barristers of the time. Where Morton is single in this film, Carson was married. The Archer-Shee family in the film is the Winslows. The wrongly accused Ronnie Winslow in real life (George Arche-Shee) had an older half-brother but not a sister. The addition of Catherine Winslow in this film provides for some excellent discussions and witty dialog, as well as a subtle, underlying romance.

The cast for this story is superb. One can't imagine better choices for all the lead roles. Or any better performances. Robert Donat, one of the greatest actors of all time, plays Sir Robert Morton. He gives his character an air of aloofness that comes across clearly as snobbery. But, as the story unfolds he changes ever so slowly and later explains to Catherine Winslow why his detachment is intentional. Margaret Leighton is superb in the role of Ronnie's sister. Catherine also is an intellectual favorite of the father, Arthur Winslow. Cedric Hardwicke fills that role superbly. He has just retired from a major bank position. He suffers from severe arthritis, but is determined to clear his son's name.

Marie Lohr is excellent as Grace Winslow. She's at first, a trusting and caring mother, but then worries more about the family's comforts and social standing than about her son's honor. She has a long line of dialog in which she expresses her dismay over the case so disrupting their family. Jack Watling is very good as brother Dickie Winslow. His easygoing, modern attitude as a college student at Oxford is a contrast to the other characters and shows a diversity among family members. And, Neil North is superb as Ronnie. It was his first role in film, and his only substantial one of just ten movies. North was an antiques dealer with a very short career in acting as a boy. But, he returned to film more than 40 years later to play the First Lord in the 1999 remake of "The Winslow Boy."

Other characters are important in the story and are played superbly as well. Desmond Curry (Basil Radford) is a solicitor and friend of the Winslows who helps them secure Sir Robert Morton to handle their case. Frank Lawton is very good as John Watherstone, Catherine's fiancé. He eventually leaves her over the Winslow's persistence in pursuing the case. Kathleen Harrison is excellent and has one substantial line as Violet, the family's maid of 25 years. The rest of the cast excel in their roles. Most notable are Francis L. Sullivan as the Attorney General, Walter Fitzgerald as the First Lord, Nicholas Hannen as Colonel Watherstone, Ivan Samson as Captain Flower of the Naval Academy, Ernest Thesiger as handwriting expert Ridgeley Pierce, Evelyn Roberts as the Member of Parliament Hamilton, and Kynaston Reeves as Lord Chief Justice.

The real George Archer-Shee story is a very interesting read. It has a sad outcome with World War I. But, it included a government settlement to the family for its hardships in this injustice. It was a sizable amount. Sir Robert Morton alludes to compensation for the family in the end of this film. And, the movie leaves the audience with a happy thought of a blooming romance around the corner between Sir Robert and Catherine Winslow.

This highly entertaining and enjoyable film gives audiences a look at some top British actors of the day. It's a wonderful story with superb acting all around.

Here are some favorite lines. For more poignant and clever dialog, see the Quotes section under this IMDb Web page of the film.

Sir Robert Morton, "It has a certain ring about it, hasn't it? Let right be done."

First Lord, "In certain cases, private rights may have to be sacrificed for the public good."

Catherine Winslow, "But brute stubbornness may not be such a bad quality in the face of injustice."

Sir Robert Morton, "I'm very glad to hear it. Both of those activities would be highly unsuitable in that hat."

Lord Chief Justice, "You are prejudicing your case by these interruptions." Sir Robert Morton, "Oh? Do you really think so, my Lord?"
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Compelling family drama
SnoopyStyle20 April 2014
In pre-WWI Edwardian England, Ronnie Winslow is expelled from the Osborne Naval College for stealing a 5 shilling postal order from a fellow cadet. It's a blow to the father who believes in Ronnie after he claims to be innocent. The father wants a proper trial and the family takes the case all the way to the House of Commons where it becomes a cause celeb and a case of constitutional law.

Adapted from the Terence Rattigan play based on a true story, it is a very compelling story. It's a thrilling drama despite its old fashion nature. That's because the characters are so well drawn, and the nature of the drama is so human. It is about what is right and wrong. It is also a tale of David versus Goliath. The acting is quite natural. The only disappointment is that the trial is somewhat anti-climatic. The House of Commons debate is where the story climaxes. However that can't be helped by the movie.
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An Exciting Movie, But Read The Play
Curtis-2330 September 2002
This film adapts a play by Terence Rattigan, first staged in 1946. The author had a great story. An ordinary citizen battles the British government to gain a fair trial for his son, who has been expelled from a junior naval academy for the crime of stealing.

In the play, the father's crusade is important, but not the main dish. Rather, the focus is on the impact of the crusade on the boy's family circle, and how they respond. Every scene occurs within the home. The whole country may be arguing about the case, but the arguments we hear -- whether the boy is guilty; whether, even if innocent, his expulsion warrants so much fuss -- are made or quoted en famille.

This movie adaptation, on the contrary, moves out into the world where the public fight takes place: in the offices of naval officials, in the British House of Commons, and before the Lord Chief Justice. The approach is exciting, and makes it easy for the audience to follow the stages of the battle. A disadvantage is that it leaves less chance to experience what the play says about people and about life.

Usually, in dramas about battles for justice, a wrong has been done. The business of the action is to right the wrong. However, in Rattigan's play, it is never clear that a wrong has occurred. Although the play helps us believe that Ronnie Winslow did not cash a stolen money order as charged, at least one member of his family thinks he did, and no proof emerges that he did not.

If we assume he was innocent, did the degree of wrong to him warrant the battle waged, and the sacrifices it entailed? There is no indication of animus against Ronnie on the part of the academy, which had strong evidence for thinking him guilty. If their finding was incorrect, it seems a reasonable mistake. Moreover, the boy is happy in another school, and increasingly uninterested in the crusade. In these circumstances, how grave is the wrong? Does it justify the enormous public attention it receives, or the physical, social and financial costs to members of his family?

The play raises these questions stubbornly and extensively. That doesn't halt the action, which perseveres, as often in real life, toward a goal whose worth is uncertain. The movie, focused primarily on winning the battle, tends to pull away from the play's uncertainties. Nevertheless, in one respect it adds to them. When it takes us to court, it shows the family's lawyer running circles, fairly and unfairly, around the opposition. Is a battle for justice, unjustly waged, a battle for justice?

Robert Donat is very good as the family's forensic champion. I might have thought excellent, had I not been spoiled by Ian Richardson's superb (matchless? definitive?) performance of the role in a PBS broadcast of the intact play in 1988. As the father, Cedric Hardwicke is insufficiently forceful and expressive. Margaret Leighton as the daughter is pretty, but insubstantial. Neil North does well as the expelled boy. Cameo appearances by Cyril Ritchard and Stanley Holloway are fun.
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The movie augments the stage play brilliantly!
JohnHowardReid13 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Brilliantly directed by Anthony Asquith (who in private life was actually the son of the British prime minister who is severely criticized in the movie), this engaging film has the advantage of an engrossing screenplay by Terence Rattigan, which was firmly based on Rattigan's own 1946 stage play.

Aside from a let-down climax that not only occurs off-camera, but is disappointingly narrated by Kathleen Harrison, this is a superbly realized version of the stage play, expertly opened out to include some really engrossing extra material in not only its court scenes (involving that charismatic heavy, Francis L. Sullivan, in his most dominating stance, and Ernest Thesiger in one of his most engagingly ineffective), but also includes some lively episodes in both the House of Commons and a wide collection of London's music halls.
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Classic Writing and Filmmaking - The Winslow Boy: Best Film of 1948
arthur_tafero5 February 2021
The writing in this film is superb. Seldom do you get depth from more than one character in a film. This film has at least four characters that shine in great depth. There is the father, the daughter, the big-time lawyer, and the boyfriend of the daughter; all given ample opportunity to display their deepest emotions in a world-class script about a boy unjustly accused of a petty crime, There are many parallels in this Edwardian-era film to the struggles of black families who have children unjustly accused of petty crimes as well. Guilty until proven innocent seems to be a recurring theme. Emma Thompson is an incredible talent who dominates every scene she is in. This is one of the best films of the forties; and in my opinion FAR better than the academy award winner for that year - Hamlet. This was actually the best film of 1948.
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Mother's always right.
garethcrook10 November 2020
It's time for some more Robert Donut, starring here in The Winslow Boy. Expectations are high, this comes highly recommended by many, not least my Mum. To be perfectly honest, it's hard not to like films like this, it smacks of pleasantness, oh but there's a dark side. A proper one, this is a serious tale. Everyone is terribly well spoken, prim and well off. There are expectations. Expectations that young Ronnie Winslow (Neil North) doesn't live up to. He's accused of stealing at his authoritative Naval School. He swears he's innocent though and with his retired banker father (Cedric Hardwicke), well it's war! To be honest it's more of scandal at first, but one born of principle. Bloody hell they've got me talking like them. Enter Mr Donut as Sir Robert Morton "The greatest barrister in the country". Also a bit snooty. Ah but you see that's what makes him so wonderful. In a world of order, everything in its place, speak when you're spoken to, Morton is the maverick and Donut is magnetic. Winslow and his boy take the Navy to court. They want a fair hearing, they want to clear Ronnie's name, they want justice. It comes at a price though, one that upsets the dynamics of the Winslow family. Choices have to be made. Reputation over comfort. For all the flowery details of the day, it deals with some pretty heavy topics. Not least the ability to sue the Navy and by association the King "a dangerous precedent to set". What could tear a family apart though only serves to galvanise. All this gives the story real heft, but make no mistake, it's all window dressing for Donut to effortlessly take the reigns and shine. He's magnificent, be it in the humblest of scenes or in parliament, not to mention the courtroom itself. For all the heat on the Winslow Boy. The Winslow Girl, Catherine (Margaret Leighton) deserves as much of the spotlight. Leighton gives Donut a real run for his money in the star stakes. If their final scene together doesn't fill your heart with joy, there's little hope for you. This is a fantastic film, proving that old saying... Mother's always right.
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Much ado about petty theft...hardly worth the good cast assembled...
Doylenf31 May 2009
Frankly, I was bored by the tiresome plot about an upper class British boy who is accused of petty theft (five shillings) and "sacked" from school, much to the annoyance of his stern father (SIR CEDRIC HARDWICKE). It was a letdown. I was expecting too much after first reading the comments on this film. The smallness of the theft and the social class distinctions that were obviously meant to be pointed out with a sub-plot involving Hardwicke's daughter, were not sufficiently engrossing for me to care about the outcome.

ROBERT DONAT doesn't even enter the film until the first forty-five minutes and then his character behaves rather oddly and seems cold and distant. Donat, by the way, was already beginning to show faint signs of the illness that he suffered all his life--the asthma that gave his voice a nasal tone seemed to be affecting his health long before he made his last film.

MARGARET LEIGHTON is the chief bright spot in the tale and FRANK LAWTON is effective as her not so wealthy suitor. NEIL NORTH is excellent as the Winslow boy at the center of the story--but it's a long-winded, talky tale taken from a stage play by Terence Rattigan and could easily have been trimmed for the movie version.

The ending is somewhat disappointing in that we don't see the Donat's actual triumph at trial. Instead, the British maid, overwrought with emotion, comes tearfully into the living room with news of the verdict and gushes for five minutes about all the happenings before we close with an ending that suggests Donat may have an interest in seeing Leighton again. This implication was the only clever touch in the screenplay's rather limp ending.

Sorry, this very British melodrama was not my cup of tea. Director Anthony Asquith seemed to have a feel for courtroom dramas. WILFRID HYDE-WHITE has a brief moment, an actor later used in the director's 1959 version of another British courtroom drama, LIBEL. But his skill as a director was sorely tested by this material.
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