Waterloo Road

A centrally important film of the war, its theme and other motifs filter down through Boorman’s Hope and Glory.

The essence of it is fatalism as a kind of shirking that leaves the wrong people running the show at home, where the wife is an unweeded garden that must be tended even on French leave.

“No masterpiece,” says Tom Milne in Time Out Film Guide, “certainly.”

Gilliat is described by Pat Graham in the Chicago Reader as “a conventional light-comedy talent”.

Variety made some absurd remarks by way of admiration.

Halliwell’s Film Guide is a ass, but it cites Winnington and Mallett to the purpose.


Green for Danger

The death of a postman in August, 1944 at a wartime hospital after a direct hit on an A.R.P. shelter by a German V-1, something he calls a doodlebug.

The elongation of screenplay and direction serves to explicate the mystery in a number of ways.

This is by no means as difficult or “implausible” as Variety and the New York Times say it is, far from it (Time Out Film Guide and Film4 similarly share another view, that it is “likeable”).

The doctors and nurses in the operating theatre stand as suspects, jealousy, treason and other motives are put forward. The real one has for its modus operandi a green carbon-dioxide cylinder painted to resemble an oxygen cylinder, and there is a joke attached to this, the hospital is run by a physician-bureaucrat big on “positive thinking”, the paint is that used to change “waste” bins into “salvage” bins.

The death of a domineering mother in an air raid is guiltily laid by circumstances at the feet of the postman, a murder and suicide follow on this.


London Belongs to Me

Christmas, 1938 to the very eve of the war at No. 10 Dulcimer Street.

The jokes are central to the structure, Hitchcock’s Mr. Memory carries ledgers and is retiring and can’t remember his speech.

Maurice Elvey’s The Clairvoyant supplies Mr. Squales to the South London Psychical Society, you don’t need second sight to know what’s going on.

The cinema murder (Dearden’s The Blue Lamp) sends a boy to hang for going wrong and painting stolen cars and stealing one to cut out the middleman, a girl has been killed, there is a campaign to save his life as a victim of circumstances.

The peculiar structure has continually escaped the understanding of reviewers as “a dead-end film” (Bosley Crowther, New York Times) that “should have been a firstrate thriller. But it isn’t” (Variety, which found it puzzling, while the BFI says it’s charming but is not further illuminated), and there is Halliwell, “unconvincing but highly entertaining”.

A very brilliant film, to say the least.


The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan

Mr. Gilbert is a wit, the other a musician “taught by the pupil of Beethoven himself” with an oratorio at the Crystal Palace conducted by his own self to prove it, The Prodigal Son. The devil of it is, he can’t marry without money, and she is a fool for such things. As Phil Harris the bandleader on vacation roared to Jackson Benny over the radio, “sure miss the boys!”

Trial by Jury, “what Offenbach can do, Sullivan can do, eh?”

And now, if you please, I'm ready to try
This Breach of Promise of Marriage!

Though defendant is a snob,
I'll reward him from his fob.
So we've settled with the job,

And a good job, too!

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, a notorious and incorrigible dunce, provided on this occasion a bit of useful information, “in its presentation at the Bijou, the film is projected so that the musical scenes and the spectacle numbers are shown on an enlarged screen. The device, known as Mobilia, is similar, in this instance, to the familiar Magnascreen [cf. Magnascope for Wellman’s Wings, initially], used previously in some Broadway theatres. It makes for a comfortable and effective enhancement of the big scenes.Time Out in a similar case has nothing more to offer than “a chocolate-box extravaganza.”

“Genius, Arthur, isn’t the delicate plant Grace thinks, oh no no, it’s as hardy as a Jerusalem artichoke. Grace would have begun by mothering, but ended by smothering.” A London success. To New York for The Pirates of Penzance, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

The Savoy. Mr. Shaw and Mr. Wilde. “Lord Chancellors are never at a loss.” The Challis camera takes a princely view by Denys Coop. “The new illumination.” Gilbert’s waking nightmare (cp. An Ideal Husband, dir. Alexander Korda). Quotidian fame. The Leeds Festival. Critics, “human interest and probability” (one knows a widely-circulated film critic who has published a book retailing a real-life meeting with spacemen). The Mikado. “How does it feel to be married to a transcendent genius?”

“I suppose I’ve always taken it for granted, dear.” According to Peckinpah, another film critic with a hobby was Pauline Kael, “crackin’ walnuts with her ass.” Dr. Sullivan and H.M.Q. Water music, Ruddigore, “what a score!”

“What a title!” Un échec, The Yeomen of the Guard. The Royal English Opera House, subsequently the Palace, latterly the domain of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Gondolier... “where the Grand Inquisitor resides.” Young Godard could not be persuaded that the English cinema exists at all, “an enigma as much as a legend” is the way Tom Milne translates his remark. A gouty foot, “the new Mecca, apparently,” in the works (cp. French Cancan, dir. Jean Renoir).

In a contemplative fashion,

And a tranquil frame of mind,

Free from every kind of passion.

A command performance at Windsor, the Waterloo Gallery. Ulmer’s Carnegie Hall is another case in point. Ivanhoe... A bit of The Archers.

Halliwell’s Film Guide, “somehow fails to ignite”.


The Constant Husband

Beckett famously rebuked a trend in “Recent Irish Poetry” outward bound, even Yeats.

A supremely elegant joke, fabulously involved, Gilliat’s film.

He is not alone in his understanding of a world daily full of importunities not opportune (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, dir. Frank Tashlin).

Nuances and overtones include Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death for the amnesia victim’s car smash on the Atlantic coast of Wales, the shepherding psychiatrist Dr. Llewellyn in his noisy motorcar and sturdy jacket, and a lady barrister’s tears.

Army and Navy, Eton and Harrow, the multiplicity of wives is a nonsense, a second one is bigamous, which is why in the face of critical stupor Gilliat streamlined the whole thing as Left Right and Centre.

Bosley Crowther (New York Times) thought it a “trifle” spoofing “Sexy Rexy”, Variety that “the story could not be more slender,” the BFI (lost in “gender politics”) holds it “lacks the ambition and mass appeal of Launder & Gilliat’s best-known work,” Halliwell’s Film Guide has it a “flimsy comedy”.


She Played with Fire

A masterpiece on the subject of insurance fraud, consciously so, combining discretion with a long hand in the Hitchcockian arts of suspense and surprise to paint a grim picture of some filthy business that is ultimately quite simple, a case of art forgery and arson.

In England it’s known by its original title, Fortune Is a Woman.

Halliwell says it’s “slackly-handled” and “a disappointment from the talents involved” (screenplay by Launder and Gilliat, from the author of Marnie).

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity is a large part of the equation.


Left Right and Centre

If you have ever wished that the two opposing candidates would go somewhere and get stuffed, Gilliat has no more use for them than you have, he sifts it all out to a fare-thee-well and laughs.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times wasn’t having any, neither was Tom Milne of Time Out Film Guide.

The English version of Potter’s The Farmer’s Daughter has a Tory ass and a Labour virago fall in love on the hustings, there’s an end to them.

Their campaign managers bring up the rearguard of fiancée (posh model) and fiancé (bodybuilder) to square up the fight again, but model and muscleman fall in love just like everybody else.

The by-election is carried, however, and etc.

Halliwell thought the players saved it.



Only Two Can Play

If it isn’t one thing it’s another, the artistic equation.

The sub-librarianship can be had like the town councillor’s wife in fair Wales who really runs the library committee, then you’re her poodle boy.

A friendly rival connives at the post, joins her D’Arcy Players in a suit of armor for a new play set in fabled times and burns the place down.

“The dramatic critic of the Aberdarcy Chronicle at ten bob a time” takes no notice of this outcome and is dismissed, on the other hand he chucks in the sub-librarianship as well for home and hearth and wife and bawling babe and little girl with imaginary friend, not to mention the neighbors.

A satire of the literary life.


Endless Night

The title is from Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”, the theme is closely related to Edward Dmytryk’s Obsession and Victor Saville’s Conspirator.

A young natural-born English æsthete without money marries and then murders a young American heiress, the plan is concocted by his mistress, her German tutoress.

From Agatha Christie, score by Bernard Herrmann.

Halliwell had an unusually dim idea of the action, which he then considered “structurally weak”, the structure hides the facts of the case for the longest time to create a false protagonist identified with Iago, the form rather, structurally it’s a matter of razing “an ugly old Victorian house, half burned down” and erecting something else again by a famous, dying architect at a place in the South of England called Gipsy’s Acre.

The identification of the orphaned heiress with the spirit of the place, a Miss Townsend, is finely made.