The Shrike

The stage manager and the understudy, a mésalliance that nearly proves fatal and all but ends in a city psychiatric ward.

The director’s studied resemblance to Bogart in this role is an inside joke not too close to the vest, anyway.

The great Hollywood star is a rival to her, she won’t go to London for spite, meddles in the work, brings it down to nothing, holds trumps, the key literally, in fine behaves exactly like everyone’s worst nightmare of a critic, Ellsworth M. Toohey in King Vidor’s The Fountainhead.

This is as fine a portrait as can be drawn. The film is properly varied in its resolution, a fact complained of by reviewers.

A.H. Weiler of the New York Times, “an uncommonly absorbing and provocative drama.” Leonard Maltin, “almost succeeds”. Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “softening the misogynism of the original play.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “of little interest”.


The Cockleshell Heroes

It just happens to be the bloody gospel truth about the Bordeaux operation against blockade-runners.

An extremely capable director treats the Forbes & Maibaum screenplay to a series of turns five or ten years ahead of the time, in color and CinemaScope.

It has a unique analysis of l’entre-deux-guerres in Trevor Howard’s speech on the Great War and the director asleep at the end of it. “Come along, hero.”

The curious aspect of volunteering winds up in Wellman’s Lafayette Escadrille, it’s a Marine who goes AWOL to paste his wife’s lover.

The depth charge attack en route further suggests the new circumstances of the war.

The two-man craft employed give the great metaphor, Flaherty’s Nanook of the North.

Enright’s Gung Ho! is very much a tacit definition of the Royal Marines, in the interviews before training but also in the disagreement over the meaning of the term.


I Accuse!

“A brave chapter in the history of France.”

The traitor Esterhazy, he needs money, Dreyfus must pay.

The rather hopeless captain of artillery defended as a protégé and experiment whose desk is something of a military position, nib and holder, inkpot, nib and holder, inkpot, family photographs... nonplussed at his court-martial, soldiering on after a fashion. Devil’s Island, “perhaps I’m dead and don’t know it... each day is a century of silence that has to be endured.”

The Esterhazy court-martial, “a secret file which no-one can examine, a judge who refuses to admit evidence,” Clemenceau to Zola in attendance.

The end of the affair, Esterhazy’s confession to a London publisher, for money.

A film of notable precision in the acting, a firm basis of Ken Russell’s Prisoner of Honor. early days for such a cast, six months after Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, the significance not lost on Ferrer, who realizes the power of the CinemaScope screen to convey half a dozen simultaneous performances or two quite separately (cp. Some Came Running, dir. Vincente Minnelli, later that year). The limpid reality of the thing, a most ridiculous lie, all but palpable.

Nothing is more eloquent, with Dieterle it’s Zola, Russell brings the heroism of Picquart into view, Ferrer observes Dreyfus as the central figure, the pivot of the affair, which after the war had no doubt come to look prophetic. Elements of the theme certainly figure in The Devils and Mahler...

Gore Vidal screenplay, Freddie Young cinematography, William Alwyn score.

The beauty of it, a regular Othello, went by the boards in Gotham, “Mr. Ferrer’s Dreyfus is a sad sack, a silent and colorless man who takes his unjust conviction with but one outburst of protest and then endures his Devil’s Island torment lying down. He is a chilly hero who stirs mere intellectual sympathy,” thus Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. Variety, “strong, if plodding, entertainment... Jose Ferrer takes on the heavy task of playing Dreyfus and of directing. His performance is a wily, impeccable one, but it comes from the intellect rather than the heart and rarely causes pity... The action is throughout rather static.” Leonard Maltin, “sincere but pretentious”. Time Out cants, “runs through the facts, and only once or twice touches on the ambiguities of the ‘Dreyfus Affair’ which made the infamous case, for France at the end of the 19th century, a compelling national tragedy.” Britmovie, “compelling film, perhaps intended as an allegory about the McCarthy era... José Ferrer’s acting demonstrates more technique than emotion.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide) has “the still-controversial l’Affaire Dreyfus of the late 19th century... manages to make several allusions to America’s own McCarthy-era ‘witch hunts’.Halliwell’s Film Guide, “stolidly... unsuitably... tends to flounder”.


Return to Peyton Place

The horror of all horrors, a Gotham publisher, expands the horizons of that Peyton Place High School valedictorian and columnist on the Peyton Place Times at five bucks a throw, she’s a celebrity with a bestseller called Samuel’s Castle, which retails the events of Robson’s Peyton Place.

It raises the hoodoo in town, where mothers really are.

The nightmare redoubled, expanded to the dizzying heights of New York fame, a small town whirl.

Directed with sterling candor and bravery, most particularly in the climactic scene, where the two biggest mothers (Eleanor Parker and Mary Astor) compete in talking through their hats at a town meeting, as it were.

“Basically Return to Peyton Place is a high-class soap opera,” Variety said, “but it is the veteran Astor who walks off with the picture.”

It explains how the amateur narrator of Robson’s film came to write so forcefully.

“Foreign entanglements” are the key, correspondence from Gotham is “foreign mail”, says the postman.