John Mills is the all-singin', all-dancin' juve lead of this antique musical in which he woos the girl of his dreams by giving her a Rolls-Royce and posing as a chauffeur. Musicals don't get much sillier (and songs don't get much worse) but there's a lot of fun to be had here. Robertson Hare steals the picture, particularly with his trombone testing sequence.
Script: Austin Melford
Director: Graham Cutts, Austin Melford
Players: Grete Mosheim, Norah Howard, Paul Graetz, Jack Hobbs
Another batty Gainsborough melodrama. Rich lass Anne Crawford and poor lad Stewart Granger grow up loving each other, but nasty cad Dennis Price also has the hots for Crawford. Granger asks for Crawford's hand but insists he won't marry her until he has made his fortune. Crawford's dad dies leaving her penniless but luckily Granger has rescued a rich merchant from an attempted mugging and the merchant promises to publish Granger's novel and give him a few jobs to tide him over until the royalties roll in.
The first job is to carry some jewels to Spain. He shares a cabin with Robert Helpmann who offers to help, but who is actually Price's henchman. On a visit to a taverna Granger meets sultry dancer Jean Kent who falls instantly in love with him. He's not interested, but she discovers Helpmann's plot against him and tries to warn him. He's ambushed on the road and is left for dead but Kent finds him and nurses him back to health. Luckily for her, the bullet he took leaves him with amnesia and that rather fetching grey streak through his hair.
Back in England, Crawford is persuaded that Granger is dead and so marries Price. The marriage is not a happy one. We're not told what Price did to her on their honeymoon, but whatever it was she doesn't want it to happen again. Granger gets back his memory and leaves Kent but when he hears news of the marriage, he returns to Kent and marries her. How can we get to a happy ending from this?
To really enjoy this film you have to work at suspending your disbelief. It's hard work persuading yourself that the hot Spanish mountains where Granger and Kent spend their romantic idyll aren't really the Brecon Beacons. It's pretty difficult to believe that future smoothy D.J. Pete Murray is a Spanish peasant boy. It's utterly impossible to believe that any man in his right mind would prefer Anne Crawford to Jean Kent.
Director Arthur Crabtree handles the action scenes well and, as a former cinematographer, makes every shot look good. What he can't do is impose an overall style on the actors. Granger and Crawford play it fairly straight, though her style of acting is more suitable for the theatre. Jean Kent is utterly lovely though she occasionally looks awkward as if it's suddenly occurred to her how silly the script is. At other times she seems to think "If they want Spanish, I'm bloody well going to give them Spanish" and does the full arm-waving, head-tossing, eye-flashing bit. Price does his Victorian cad thing with a touch more aggression than usual.
The real oddity is Robert Helpmann. He does little bits of pantomime as if he's still at Sadler's Wells in one of his great comic dancing roles. He's also extremely gay - he cops a quick feel of Granger's biceps, seems to rather enjoy himself when Granger's sparing partner is knocked against him, and has a very bizarre relationship with Price. When he tells Kent "It's no use trying your feminine wiles on me" the audience can only nod in agreement.
It's hard to claim that Caravan is a good film - it doesn't have enough courage for its kitsch convictions. A faster pace overall might have helped, but then we would have had to lose the Brecon Beacons love-nest scenes which are amongst the most lyrical in the film. The film is full of memorable images and has a great, if predictable, climax. So what if it's a load of old nonsense!
Script adapt.: Roland Pertwee (o.a. Lady Eleanor Smith)
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Players: Gerard Heinz, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Peter Murray, Mabel Constanduros, Merle Tottenham
Alec Guinness is the wheeler-dealer on his way up in this Arnold Bennett comedy. Valerie Hobson, Glynis Johns and Petula Clark are the women he meets on his way. This is just such a charming film.
Script adapt.: Eric Ambler (o.a. Arnold Bennett)
Director: Ronald Neame
Players: Edward Chapman, Joan Hickson, Michael Horden, Wilfrid Hyde White
Sid Field's brief film career came to an end with this one, and so did Walter Forde's rather longer one. Pity, because it's good fun.
Oliver Cromwell is in power and our hero is caught up in a plot to restore the monarchy. Margaret Lockwood does well with the role of Nell Gwyn and shows a gift for comedy that was rarely used again (though this is very much a minority opinion).
Script: Noel Langley
Director: Walter Forde
Players: Mary Clare, Jerry Desmonde, Claude Hulbert, Brian Worth, Irene Handl, Miles Malleson, Peter Bull, John Salew, Patrick Troughton
Terry-Thomas is the incompetent diplomat trying to negotiate a mineral treaty with a tiny island. Ian Bannen is the naive young king, with Lucianna Paluzzi as the main rival to his throne. Peter Sellers and John le Mesurier are the crooked powers behind the two innocents.
It starts brightly with a lot of fun poked at Civil Servants and the end of empire, but it tails off into a confusing muddle. Terry-Thomas has an untypical role, as a bumbling idiot rather than a machiavellian cad, and carries it off well. John le Mesurier gives a rare bad performance, but then Latin American General is hardly type-casting.
Script: Roy Boulting, Jeffrey Dell
Director: Roy Boulting, Jeffrey Dell
Players: Thorley Walters, Miles Malleson, Raymond Huntley, Kynaston Reeves, Marie Lohr, Marne Maitland, Nicholas Parsons, Irene Handl, Kenneth Griffith, Ronald Adams, Sam Kydd, Michael Ward, Marianne Stone
During a Venetian carnival, an actor thinks his wife is having an affair.
Yet another version of the "actor playing Othello tries to throttle Desdemona" story. This starred Matheson Lang reprising a role he'd played ten years earlier, however it's more remembered for the presence of Chili Bouchier playing his wife and wearing one of the most revealing dresses in British cinema.
Script adapt.: Donald Macardle. (o.a. Matheson Lang, C. M. Hardinge)
Director: Herbert Wilcox
Players: Joseph Schildkraut, Lilian Braithwaite, Kay Hammond, Dickie Edwards, Brian Buchel, Brember Wills, Alfred Rode and His Tzigane Band
Sally Gray is the Victorian ballet dancer trying to keep her virginity safe from cad Michael Wilding by marrying Bernard Miles.
Extremely dour Gainsborough melodrama, which audiences disliked as much as the critics, probably because Gray isn't playing the sort of ball-breaker Margaret Lockwood does so well.
Script: Stanley Haynes, Peter Ustinov, Eric Maschwitz, Guy Green
Director: Stanley Haynes
Players: Stanley Holloway, Jean Kent, Catherine Lacey, Nancy Price, Hazel Court, Brenda Bruce, Anthony Holles, Ronald Ward, Dennis Arundell, Amy Veness, Mackenzie Ward, Phyllis Monkman, Bebe de Roland, Carpenter Corps de Ballet
David Niven is the Major who takes money owed to him from the company safe and then faces a court-martial. He gives one of his best ever performances in this tense courtroom drama. As a drama it pays more attention to the minutiae of court procedure than the machinations of the plot, but that's part of its appeal. Niven's low-key, human performance always manages bring us back to the personal level when things get overheated.
Script adapt.: John Hunter (o.a. Dorothy and Campbell Christie)
Director: Anthony Asquith
Players: Allan Cuthbertson, Margaret Leighton, Noelle Middleton, Maurice Denham, Laurence Naismith, Geoffrey Keen, Clive Morton, Victor Maddern, Michael Bates, Timothy Bateson
Not one of the classic series, this is a so-so naval comedy starring farceurs Brian Reece and David Tomlinson as the sailor and the politician who accidentally swap identities. Worth seeing for A.E. Matthews scene-stealing.
Script adapt.: Val Guest. (o.a. Ian Hay, Stephen King-Hall)
Director: Val Guest
Players: Peggy Cummins, Eunice Gayson, Joan Sims, Lionel Murton, Reginald Beckwith, Desmond Walter-Ellis, Ronald Shiner, Peter Coke, Ronald Adam, Alfie Bass, Joan Hickson, Toke Townley, Sam Kydd, Donald Pickering, Everley Gregg
Virginia McKenna is war-heroine Violette Szabo who joined the British Secret Service and worked behind enemy lines. It's grim and downbeat with a strong central performance.
Script adapt.: Lewis Gilbert, Vernon Harris. (o.a. R.J. Minney)
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Players: Paul Schofield, Jack Warner, Maurice Ronet, Bill Owen, Billie Whitelaw, William Mervyn, Sydney Tafler, Victor Maddern, Michael Caine
Lord Lebanon is the last of his line and his mother is determined to arrange a marriage between him and distant cousin Isla Crane. But who is responsible for the series of murders that beset Marks Priory? Has centuries of inbreeding brought a strain of madness into the family?
Well, yes. This is an enjoyable haunted house melodrama. The performances tend to emphasise the theatrical origins of the film, but that's part of the charm. Penelope Dudley Ward makes an agreeable heroine, but it's Marius Goring and Helen Haye as the Lord and his mother who stick in the memory.
George King's direction provides a few spooky moments, particularly the final stalking of the heroine by a sinister shadow. Remarkably, King keeps the camera moving throughout the film. He has a reputation for static, talkie film-making but if we only had this movie as evidence of his career then we'd be thinking of him as Britain's answer to Max Ophuls.
Script adapt.: Edward Dryhurst. (o.a. Edgar Wallace)
Director: George King
Players: Felix Aylmer, George Merritt, Ronald Shiner, Patrick Barr, Roy Emerton, George Hayes, John Warwick, Torin Thatcher, Elizabeth Scott
A middle-aged woman marries a younger man - but he's already bumped off his first wife.
Gripping drama which provided Margaret Lockwood with her last great role.
Script adapt.: John Creswell. (o.a) Janet Green
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Players: Dirk Bogarde, Kay Walsh, Kathleen Harrison, Robert Flemyng, Mona Washbourne, Walter Hudd, Philip Stainton, Myrtle Reed, Lita Roza