A film wot is bleedin’ London, Chaplin was a bleedin’ Londoner, it shows. Des Esseintes can just stay home in Paree and watch this on the Champs-Élysées, that’s all. A late start at the peak of the silents, as far ahead in the cinema as it is possible to imagine nonetheless. In that regard, much like Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters. The wrong speed is like the wrong aspect ratio, a funhouse mirror.
The same romantic situation as in French without Tears (Kate loves Bert loves Nell loves Bill). Cute kid, Nell, recites the day’s events in pantomime to her mother, the film’s first two reels in half a minute. Sublime girl, parrying Bert in Thistle Grove, riding atop a charabanc with Bill, whence Minnelli has the lovers in The Clock. A day in the country as placid as Antonioni’s Blowup. The cinema has to be invented, as for Sternberg. In this lies all the pleasure and joy of the thing. An Englishman in a canoe (French without Tears) is an ancient Briton, an urchin from town playing his harmonica amongst the trees and fields is a rustic swain piping, the camera simply records this.
The “ruddy melodrama” Mordaunt Hall (New York Times) complains of is, of course, just what interests Asquith. The beauty of the construction is to complete the Lubitsch circle by having Bill attack Kate in a factitious attempted rape set up by Bert to disgust Nell, it happens just apart from the river of life in an Underground station. So Bert of the Power House scuppers Bill the Underground porter for Nell the shopgirl with a tale of unwanted love foisted on Kate the dressmaker. A pennywhistler bemuses tykes on a London street. Hall evidently saw Bruckman’s The Battle of the Century “on the same program,” all he said was “more pies are thrown than in any ten Mack Sennett productions,” Laurel and Hardy are not mentioned, “another nice mess”. Nell gets the drappie on the little bint, a cute kid herself who wants marriage with Bert something awful. And there is murder in it and a rooftop fight and finally that crane as if from Sternberg.
The function is to show the genius of the place, attended by Fortune who is blind On Approval, according to the well-apportioned gag, The Vagabond King.
According to Juliet Jacques of New Statesman (“a freelance journalist and writer who covers gender, sexuality, literature, film, art and football,” and who chronicled her sex change operation in the Guardian), “a sincere, touching document of its time” (but this is described as “exploring counter-culture in the arts,” etc.).
A Cottage on Dartmoor
The title humorously gives a pithy description of a passionate love. Asquith is of the opinion that the cinema ought to be able to express such things or why bother?
Emotional states, psychological states, a Mannerist heroine, the great study of a motion picture audience (Hitchcock takes notice of one not watching the show), Dearden capitalizes on this in The Smallest Show on Earth, the Powell & Pressburger weather eye is there from the very start.
“Crude... immature” (Halliwell’s Film Guide), from which total misapprehension other critics have refrained.
Known in America as I Stand Condemned. History is made...
An uncommonly influential or prescient film, with consequences far and wide. Doctor Zhivago, Alexander Nevsky, The Queen Of Spades, Great Catherine, Fahrenheit 451, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and The Bounty all owe something or other to it (it owes a little to A Farewell to Arms and King Vidor and Les Misérables).
What Asquith brought back from Hollywood was such a vision of Hollywood lighting as Hollywood hardly understood. He uses it for sculpture in relief and in the round, and if he reaches Vermeer at one point, it’s by an understanding of light and space. Within this overall framework and with these objects, his camera moves in constant composition.
French without Tears
The girl is American-bred, and so the mystery deepens, how this became Losey’s Accident by pure analysis. “Hitlaire!”, eyes to heaven, Prof. Maingot. Months before the invasion. Love’s Labour’s Lost upon the English gentleman (cf. Cukor’s Sylvia Scarlett, for that matter Lang’s Man Hunt), he gets the nudge, in a manner of speaking. Asquith has the joke, “aspects” of French, Tati’s facteur finds rondeur to slap and tickle.
After Pygmalion, and Channel Incident. Quite like Sylvia Miles in this part, Ellen Drew. Bernard Knowles director of photography, Jack Hildyard cameraman, David Lean editor, De Grunwald and Dalrymple screenplay, Mario Zampi producer.
Graham Greene at this time was given to making outlandish statements on the cinema, Halliwell’s Film Guide cites him in cold blood while itself commenting merely, “pleasant”.
Let another English gentleman test the waters, “all right, Diana, I’d do anything for you, even act as a sort of thermometer.” One stands corrected, “we call her a ship in the Navy,” one’s boat.
B.R. Crisler of the New York Times, “may be set down as easily the most lachrymose comedy of the season,” in which access of wit he went on to pan Laurel and Hardy in Saps at Sea (“lacks comic invention”) and Boris Karloff in The Man with Nine Lives (“movie medicos are at best a strange breed”). Time Out, “simply a historical curiosity.”
As they say, “nothing like discipline,” to which the reply is, “nothing.” The charming title song is not given a credit. The girl has ideas above her gare. The height of elegance is a legible signature (Cocteau). The human voice on a telephone in French, as natural as you please. Infinitely witty, which is why you have Ray Milland, Guy Middleton and Roland Culver dispensing it. “If he tries to give you the impression that I’m a scheming wrecker of men’s lives, you needn’t necessarily believe him.”
The memorable fracas over an India rubber concludes with a hand and arm reaching between two hands and arms to seize it (David Tree). It never fails, the more brilliant the film, the duller the critics. Give them a crock and they expound like Diogenes, Archimedes even. And it is a literary theme, question of a rejected novel (cf. Lang’s House by the River). The Foreign Office and the Admiralty are not un œuf-f-f. John Simon famously thought Losey’s film not all it was cracked up to be.
The one about the two conchies in Central Africa. The play is good, the play is great, the film is something else again. When they make a better film, you may be sure the British Film Institute will do its level best to inform the public. A film to put Lubitsch on the floor in stitches. “Don’t tread on any escargots.”
“I loved her for her character! Did you?”
“En français, in French, gentlemen, toujours en français. Vive la France! Vive la France!”
“Officers in the Royal Navy never pass out.”
“I suppose they just fall on the floor in an alcoholic stupor.”
“Tell us why we disliked you so much?”
“All right. Because, you all made up your minds to dislike me, before I ever came into the house. All except Diana, that is to say.”
It all happening there, where one is a leading specialist treating Hitler’s flaming throat, and the wife is a leading stage actress (Iphigenia, no less) named to a high government post amidst the tightening noose. “Now I’m married to the Reichsdirector of Popular Pageantry, I’m going to charge double fees.” The very fine comedy of the opening stretches is a factor in Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver, the structure also may be said to bear upon such a thing as John Osborne’s The Right Prospectus (dir. Alan Cooke) or Tom Stoppard’s The Romantic Englishwoman from the novel (dir. Joseph Losey), but then it all really happened to Fritz Lang, after a fashion.
The German Resistance, a thing of old Heidelbergians to begin with, whose annual New Year’s Eve reunion is closed down and one of their number killed by the Gestapo. As in the days of the witch trials, denunciations are a matter of jealousy and greed and blind superstition. “I was there, I saw the look on his face, he was enjoying himself!” The charm of the New Order lies in its lying, Nietzsche’s “homage Vice pays to Virtue.”
Merely a question of politics at first to which one laughing pays no heed, then of goosestepping SS men in one’s street (“probably make you very fit”), then a “very becoming” new black uniform on the young brother-in-law, formerly a painter, and then the murder of a priest in his subsequently smashed-up church, only the beginning of a thousand-year Reich.
“That’s sheer treason,” says the wife, “I won’t listen to it.” Simon Gray in Butley (dir. Harold Pinter) remembers the doctor switching his work lamp off and on after she leaves for Stuttgart and her official duties. “The intellectual blackout is complete,” says the good doctor in his first broadcast to the nation. A fireside chat from a different locale each night at 10:30 with the Gestapo hot on the beam. “If we follow a madman, we are madmen ourselves, and we are doomed.” Popular pageantry means stadium rallies and forty-foot banners in wind supplied by “our good doctor” Goebbels. In Berlin on a narrow sidewalk with a wide policeman, one steps into the gutter and goes around him.
The astounding construction pivots on a woman’s vanity table and an actor’s dressing room, and then Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (cf. Capra’s Meet John Doe, whence perhaps the entire misprision of Andrew Sarris in The American Cinema). It comes down to three days before Poland is invaded in back of a lie, that and the vision of one returning from the concentration camps. “Karl, what have they done to us?”
“Not us, everyone.” Homage to Foreign Correspondent (dir. Alfred Hitchcock). “You cannot escape responsibility by blaming it on your leaders, if you allow this thing to happen the blame is yours and you will earn the loathing of posterity!” Wyler remembers the bullet holes (Penn too in Bonnie and Clyde), Cartier the deceptive homeliness (also from Hitchcock) in 1984, Pollack the essential structure down to the bullet holes in Three Days of the Condor, the grandeur and precision of feeling expressed with quintessential reserve are certainly English, even American according to Ford Madox Brown, “both of us true inheritors from the Norsemen of Iceland, whose ladies would take horse and ride for three months about the island, without so much as a presumptuous question on their return from the much tolerating husbands of the period.”
T.M.P. of the New York Times, “although there is an undeniable amount of truth in what the film has to say, it is blunted and made implausible by the lurid accumulation of atrocities on the heads of the Gestapo” (as A Voice in the Night “at the Globe” in May of 1941). Daniel Etherington (Film4), “Second World War era propaganda”. Radio Times, “wartime propaganda drama.” TV Guide, “typical wartime propaganda”. Sandra Brennan (All Movie Guide), “WW II propaganda film.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “flagwaver.”
In the village of Throppleton, among the smart set of businessmen with country houses.
Minnelli later on takes a pointed view in Father of the Bride, Asquith is an all-rounder who follows the course of events somewhat more dispassionately, a central organized plan reveals itself as the wedding materializes from a cricketer’s halting proposal to a general mobilization of womenfolk abetted by the men.
The jokes are very swift and keen, at last by the grace of God the couple are hitched.
The reason for it all is in three parts, on good feminine advice the polite groom abducts the nervous bride in her father’s motorcar, passing the groom’s father on the road at a good clip the latter is all but sideswiped, he shouts after them, “lunatic!” The son, not recognizing him, of course, shouts back, “idiot!” This Œdipal gag is followed by a chaste night in the new flat (power not on), a road accident and a session with the magistrates, “old baskets” as they are.
Even this only adds to the swelling hilarity resolved at the altar.
Five times production was halted by the Blitz, says T.M.P. of the New York Times in a rather glowing review.
Cottage to Let
A brilliant screwball comedy laid on in Scotland at an inventor’s digs. A Spitfire pilot drops in by parachute, he’s a Nazi spy. A Nazi spy coordinates the kidnapping of the inventor, he’s with M.I.5.
It begins, typically, with a misunderstanding. Is the cottage a military hospital, a home for evacuated children, or indeed to let?
Very choice performances, and a dicky bombsight over 9000 feet, plus a charity bazaar and an old water mill on a loch.
A Welcome to Britain
A truly inspired masterpiece that is merely a job of work for the Ministry of Information “with the assistance of the U.S. Office of War Information” on behalf of the War Office to let G.I.s know where they are, which is a pub, a home, a school, a railway station, a taxicab, a hotel, a training camp, a ship, the enemy coast.
Co-directed with Burgess Meredith, who talks to the camera in uniform throughout, score by William Alwyn.
We Dive at Dawn
The Drake motif carries right through, the Sea Tiger’s steady captain has a butler of that name who arranges luncheons and soirées with various “aunts”, the raid on occupied Denmark and the Jolly Roger flown upon the submarine’s return generally express it.
The crew are married unhappily or betrothed reluctantly or vying for a girl, the voyage has been uneventful, they’re given a new assignment.
The captain musters all their forces for the sinking of the Brandenburg.
No result is perceptible, the depth charges burst, the submarine leaks, lies doggo, rolls over and plays dead.
Then the raid for supplies, home and dry.
Olivier’s great foreigners, this one cousin to the Italian balloonist in Saunders’ Conquest of the Air and the French trapper in Powell & Pressburger’s 49th Parallel. The sea route of Bacon’s Action in the North Atlantic or nearly, then he comes over, in retrospect. “It all starrrted in 1939.” Not Keats’ tourist, Eliot’s Stranger. English boarding house. “All modern conveniences.” Hyde Park, Speakers’ Corner, where Shaw delivered his reviews. A revolving stand of postcards, for visitors. Will Hay, Paul Muni, Olivier...
He’s got a screw, for breaking the ice. Big business in Britain, her father and grandfather. “Thou wast not borrrn forrr death, immorrrtal birrrd.” It needs work, that screw. “I still say it’s very revolutionary.”
Ian Holm has such another Russian in Poliakoff’s Soft Targets (dir. Charles Sturridge). Behind the scenes at the pageant of English history (he yawns).
A romance in two parts. 1940, Europe gone, England besieged. The Battle of Britain. A broadcast on the BBC, cello and nightingale, searchlights. Shipbuilding. The casting of the great screw. Germany invades Russia. Churchill addresses the nation.
The pageant in aid of his native city (he applauds, laughs at himself). “The International” must be played, the pageant mistress discusses it with the bandmaster in uniform and a couple of lady Britons of old and John Bull. Britannia with drawn sword sets the maiden free. The band, like Stravinsky and Diaghilev, settle on “Song of the Volga Boatmen”.
The screw is subject to metal fatigue in tests. He begins to appreciate a music hall jest. It might be George M. Cohan, Little Ivan Ivanovich, “remember me to Nevsky Prospect.” The inspiration in a cup of tea. “Well, that’s that,” a bit of extra work at the shipyard is all.
No Highway (dir. Henry Koster) remembers this. Laughter and freedom are not equated, but “there is no laughter where there is no freedom.”
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times had no use for it, English and all, “limp and dampish”. Variety was overwhelmed but praised Felix Aylmer, “would excite risibility in a mummy.” Time Out Film Guide, “very cosy it all is, too.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “pleasant, aimless” (Richard Wilmington thought he was being condescended to, qua cinemagoing Englishman).
Fanny by Gaslight
The death of a prosperous panderer to gentlemen, at the hands of a drunken bullying lord. The suicide of a cabinet minister who has ruined his life through filial piety. The wounding of his assistant in a duel with the cur. It ends in France, where another duel was taking place.
Critics seem generally to have objected to this on various grounds. “Simple, obvious, hackneyed” (Punch). C.A. Lejeune for the New York Times simply reported from London that “the customers love it because so many dreadful things happen”. Variety found fault with the editing and the tempo, and would have had “all the bawdy-house sequences” excised. These viewpoints recur in subsequent reviews.
The Way to the Stars
Basil Wright noted the overture at the abandoned air station, Resnais emulated it in Nuit et brouillard.
The marriage token, a lighter, changes hands but the new man has jitters.
The excellent poems are “Missing” and “Johnny in the Clouds”, expressing the idea.
The Winslow Boy
A five-shilling dismissal from Royal Naval College goes at last to trial on Magna Carta.
Before he got to the main English system he employed in The Browning Version, Asquith still had the complicated variant of Hollywood lighting he uses here. The very intricate screenplay carries the drama in set-ups put together by him and his actors that render a series of precise accounts.
A great price is paid by Winslow père and the family, even the barrister (Robert Donat in one of Asquith’s extraordinary leading roles), but the weight is lifted at the last.
Neither Time nor the New York Times had any patience with the film. There was a bumper crop that year, or BAFTA would certainly have awarded Best British Film and Best Film from any Source.
The Woman in Question
A perfectly-turned item, gem or brummagem as regarded by friends or lovers in the light of an investigation into her death by strangulation with a silk scarf at a seaside hotel.
A comedy nonpareil, a Rashomon with a parrot in its cage saying “Merry Christmas”, rather placidly admired by Bosley Crowther in his professional capacity as the film expert of the New York Times, but really far above rubies in price.
The Browning Version
His translation of the Agamemnon, “flawed” saith our hero “the Himmler of the lower fifth,” whose own youthful and unfinished version in rhymed couplets is preferred by an admiring pupil.
An amazing screenplay, that might veer out of its way at any time and represent Nabokov’s Pnin or Albee’s George, but doesn’t.
After wasting his whole life and everybody else’s, Rattigan’s schoolmaster is made to say “I’m sorry”.
Asquith is so keen on the subject that his direction is said to be invisible, but a quick glance shows his distinctive lighting in full sway.
The Importance of being Earnest
The two characters are Algernon Moncrieff and his older brother Ernest John Worthing, known as Jack.
Algernon’s sport, Bunburying, consists in having a sick friend to call upon whenever social responsibilities are too pressing. Jack, that is Ernest, is always able to depart from the exclusively “high-toned” demeanor expected of him as the guardian of a pretty ward by going into town after one of his wicked younger brother’s escapades.
There is no friend, no brother, Jack and Algy do not know until the last scene that they are related.
That is the simple, evident structure. There is a great deal of superstructure required to sort the mess out, and while this is of signal interest, having two or more themes in counterpoint (the attractiveness of the wicked, the very title of the play, etc.), it is generally distributed along the lines of respectability or seriousness or earnestness in love, and even for Lady Bracknell a young girl’s fortune is an earnest of her marriageability.
The play has had many critics who, like GBS, do not think it is important because they do not see it is earnest. That, and not Asquith’s direction, is the main reason why some reviewers have balked at the film in the very terms used by Shaw on the opening night. “It amused me, of course; but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening.” And yet it is a very touching play, the two brothers, the handbag, Miss Prism’s three-volume novel, the two girls of town and country, Canon Chasuble, and (in Asquith’s film) Lady Bracknell riding the rails.
General security, check check doublecheck, safety of the central figure, hamstringing his best work (Arrowsmith, dir. John Ford).
Triple-fast supersonic aircraft, the M7 prototype, future in space.
The peculiar constellation of its early piloted tests.
From the sea like Mitchell’s seaplane (The First of the Few, dir. Leslie Howard) to the stratosphere at a very pure diagonal. Danger of G forces, pressurized suits, a traitor in high places.
A very fine thing, achieved by Asquith precisely after the initial crisis is resolved as suborbital flight (X-15, dir. Richard Donner). A certain debt to Breaking the Sound Barrier (dir. David Lean) is gladly paid.
The absorption of the work, a groundling’s love, the young lovers of Things to Come (dir. William Cameron Menzies), administrative difficulties, a self-serving ally.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “wholly incredible”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “quite adequately presented.”
R.J. Minney, Puffin Asquith, “many believe” the director was miffed.
Desmond Dickinson cinematography, Benjamin Frankel score, William Fairchild screenplay, from the poet of The Way to the Stars.
The Final Test
England v Australia, an American at the cricket. “He’s come up in the batting order.”
“And down in the age group.”
Rattigan & Asquith record the moment of inspiration in a poète de dix-sept ans, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it—or have I?” Pinter’s Hutton. “By kind permission of the Third Programme...”
“Did you know they were televising Turtle tonight?”
“No, were they?”
“You’re sacked!” The author of Follow the Turtle to My Father’s Tomb on “Chekhov and cricket...”
The American, “I beheld today an astonishing spectacle, it was no less than the personal Dunkirk of an aging cricketer, but a crowd of many thousands with the wildest enthusiasm hailed it as his greatest triumph, no less,” a Senator. The legend and the fact.
A.W. of the New York Times, “definitely adds up to fun.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “flat”.
Rattigan’s screenplay of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (dir. Herbert Ross) is certainly a consequence of these researches.
The Young Lovers
A firm basis on the Odile/Odette theme for The Tamarind Seed (dir. Blake Edwards), The Human Factor (dir. Otto Preminger), and The Russia House (dir. Fred Schepisi), not to mention Romanoff and Juliet (dir. Peter Ustinov).
Asquith has Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps for his pivotal turn in the last act.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times (“beautifully directed... nicely acted”) found “very poor common sense” (as Chance Meeting). Variety, “under Asquith’s polished direction, the two leading players bring a genuine freshness to their roles and give point to the arty touches used by the megger to bring home the sensitive side of the story.” TV Guide, “good Cold War romance”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “quite nicely put together”.
The greatest tribute to Capra, a translation of Broadway Bill (or Riding High) into the Royal Artillery, thus acknowledging the transformation of Job into It’s a Wonderful Life, the Gospels into Meet John Doe, etc., an artistic tour de force (the U.S. title is Court Martial).
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “a judicial issue of trifling consequence and of no significance whatsoever to the turn of events in the world.” Variety, “a subject of dramatic intensity.” Time Out, “lacking only the final ounce of sheer cinematic flair.” Leonard Maltin, “a solid drama.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “witty... classy”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “good... convincing... serviceable”.
Orders to Kill
Liquidation of a wayward asset in Paris under the Occupation. It’s an American job, the French are losing operatives, the British help train a Yank for it, a fighter-bomber pilot grounded after fifty missions. One hundred masterpieces are contained within this framework, the finely articulated structure proceeds notably by steps, now one thing, now the next, a prismatic, kaleidoscopic thing, ultimately.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times simply couldn’t follow it, “this promising melodrama loses steam and credibility”. Time Out, “a way above average Asquith film.” Leonard Maltin, “low-key psychological study”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “strong, hard-to-take but well made”.
The Doctor’s Dilemma
The elephant and the blind doctors, Jesus and the doctors, anything but a satire of the medical profession, which is what Variety and Bosley Crowther of the New York Times took it for, the latter most enjoyably, what was that deathbed scene for, he wanted to know.
The vehement satire of critics and academics and people who give awards and grants to save a Blenkinsop because a Dubedat only makes them think of James Joyce’s gentle lady, “she said her name was Dubedat, and then she did, bedad!”
The nasty business of picking up the widow afterward is handily taken care of, she marries a collector of great pictures, in honor of her husband’s memory and wishes, cf. Jacques Becker’s Les Amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19).
An out-of-date play, Variety thought.
Television is a central motif of this composition, and Asquith modulates toward its neutral application of light to prepare his great effects at the close. He also abates composition after giving a handful of sharp angular inset views early on (and the silhouette of a stopped train filling the screen in a flashback, with escaped POWs hiding beneath it, and a German soldier peeking between the cars).
Bogarde effectually shows a transition between his dual roles (one of which is an actor standing before his mirror), making possible his dubious identity at the trial when a third avatar is introduced.
Beneath the legal metaphor is a military one, the victor only being decided when his consciousness returns, availing him a memory of the attack and his proper defense.
The game is played with tricks, ruses, feints and guises, such as the baronet’s American wife, the Canadian smelling out a fingerless villain (The 39 Steps), the terrible revelation of the hospital patient known only by his bed number, Fifteen, and the superb jockeying of Bogarde among his characterizations.
This is a great working–out of cinematic problems to achieve a great abstraction, the victor’s guilt resolved, before the ultimate refinement of Asquith’s later films, and in fact something like the yellow Rolls-Royce is visible in the car dealership scenes.
A very brilliant analysis of the essential problem. Capitalism has its gifts, socialism its considerations, there is a modus vivendi and still more, each in its way is most humorously unsatisfactory as a mere instrument of human will, life does not follow such absurd programmes.
It is easy to build a hospital for the poor and a factory to replace a sweatshop, but humanity is strangely not served by such things always, in every way. And where is the man of science without money to command?
Wolf Mankowitz arranged this out of Aragno’s arrangement of Shaw for a clear picture, completely irresistible. Film critics, if one may be pardoned for putting Bosley Crowther on the spot in his New York Times review, have scarcely seen it at all.
Variety did not give itself the excuse of being distracted by Sophia Loren’s charms but took a thoroughly professional view of the film and came out considerably ahead.
Peter Sellers has the “annual dinner at Romano’s” number to let you know “who you are dealing with.”
Guns of Darkness
A coup d’état at the presidential palace of Tribulacion, banana republic.
A “new boy” with Napier International Plantations, chafing at the collar. “Be different,” says his French wife, the winegrower’s daughter, “please, try!” It gets to murder in the street next day, New Year’s. “There’ll be a trial, of course, in the sports arena.” The liberal regime, lately ousted by the army, falls into his lap (Richard Brooks’ Crisis, John Huston’s Under the Volcano).
All over by Christmas, so to speak. “Look, I’m English, um, you saw the flag.”
It’s the interstices that tell the tale of company wives and the boss. “You have such wonderful manners, Hugo.”
A pure source of Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. A complicated impressionistic set of fragmentary images quite in Asquith’s line that, having undertaken the thing for whatever reason or none, must come to terms with political quicksand as that and nothing more, for example. Hard brutal facts are another feature of the landscape, politically speaking, such as a whitewashed wall for instructing villagers who “may not have heard the good news of our revolution.”
“Another job bitched up, is that what you were gonna say?” The war with its strange bedfellows, an end to bosses of a certain kind (cp. Things to Come, dir. William Cameron Menzies).
By John Mortimer from the author of Furie’s The Naked Runner, cinematography Robert Krasker, score Benjamin Frankel.
New York Times, “familiar terrain”. Variety, “director Anthony Asquith is slightly off form with this one.” Time Out, “there is, in fact, rather more to it.” TV Guide, “too many implausibilities.” Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “may wear too many hats to be identified as either an adventure, a treatise on non-violence, a psychological study, or whatever.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “a few tiny comments about violence.”
Crœsus times three and the Duchess of Brighton (Margaret Rutherford) plus a gigolo (Louis Jourdan) at London Airport.
Max Buda (Orson Welles) the Yugoslavian film director has an Italian starlet (Elsa Martinelli) in tow, his next film is Lessing’s Mary Stuart but she shan’t even play Elizabeth. He kisses his elderly accountant right on the lips for devising a tax dodge that will save him a million pounds sterling by leaving England before midnight.
Les Mangrum (Rod Taylor) the Australian tractor manufacturer has to be in New York this afternoon or lose his company to Amalgamated Motors.
Madame Andros (Elizabeth Taylor) is leaving her enormously wealthy husband Paul (Richard Burton) for the gigolo.
The Duchess has accepted a job at a Miami hotel as Assistant Social Directress, to save her home.
Fog closes the airport.
Andros threatens, bribes, and writes a suicide letter.
Mangrum’s secretary Miss Mead (Maggie Smith) encounters Andros in the writing room of the airport hotel lobby, he gives her a blank cheque.
The accountant hits upon another dodge, marriage to the starlet for one fiscal year, and gets another kiss.
The fee for six weeks’ shooting at the Duchess’s home means she doesn’t have to fly to Florida.
Madame Andros also stays home.
Beautifully written, acted, and filmed.
The Yellow Rolls-Royce
The film proceeds along a revolving formula, let us say, and doubtless with reference to Renoir’s Le Carrosse d’or. The Englishman sells it after his French wife dallies with a Foreign Office underling in it. The American gangster sells it after his moll dallies with an Italian photographer in it. The rich American widow ships it back to America after a dalliance with a Yugoslav partisan in it, just before America enters the war.
That this structure, in the lapse of time conveyed, could have any significance beyond a plush ride in a finely-appointed automobile does not seem to have occurred to reviewers in the general run of things.
England between the wars, Italy under Fascism, World War II.
Thus the modalities, which absolutely escaped A.H. Weiler of the New York Times, to be specific.