Heiress Ann Harding is swept off her feet by smoothy Basil Rathbone, but has she married a madman?
Terrific version of an Agatha Christie short story.
Script adapt.: Frances Marion. (o.a. Agatha Christie)
Director: Rowland V Lee
Players: Bruce Seton, Binnie Hale, Jean Cadell, Bryan Powley, Joan Hickson, Donald Calthrop, Eugene Leahy
With a large gift from a distant relative dependent on their not being in debt, a young couple are forced to take drastic measures to raise money. And so the wife pawns her husband.
As the couple we have husband and wife team Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly. The 50s was their decade. They were ubiquitous – conquering stage, film, radio and television. Their bland professionalism, offset by their Canadian accents, was particularly suited to TV chat shows and panel games. It was also a good match for the sort of inoffensive family-friendly comedy that the film industry churned out throughout the decade.
They play a pair of bohemians living the artistic life on a houseboat in Chelsea. The only thing that actually distinguishes them from the standard 50s dream of suburbia is the unbecoming goatee he sports.
Many of the rest of the players are unfamiliar. Chief among these is Reg Dixon making a try at a film career after becoming a popular radio star. He plays one of the pawn shop partners, perpetually harassed by his family. He never made it in films, but on this showing it's a pity. He has a certain droll charm like a lanky Sidney Howard
John Laurie is well cast a stuffy lawyer who gets caught up in the couple's schemes. He has fun with the part particularly when he's being seduced at a not very scandalous party. Laurence Naismith is less happily cast as a rough, tough lumberjack. Frankly, Esma Cannon would have been a better fit for the role.
Love in Pawn is a pleasant way of spending an hour and twenty minutes. It won't stick in the mind but it's jolly enough while it's on.
Script: Guy Morgan, Frank Muir, Denis Norden
Director: Charles Saunders
Players: Jean Cason, Walter Grisham, Avice Landone, Tom Gill, Alan Robinson, Dorothy Gordon, Benita Lydell, Hal Osmond
A prince and a bar maid fall in love, but she sacrifices herself when his kingdom calls.
Gracie Fields is in fine form despite the thin material.
Script: Robert Edmunds
Director: Maurice Elvey
Players: John Loder, Allan Aynesworth, Esme Percy, Veronica Brady, Horace Kenney, Norah Howard, Robb Wilton, Fred Duprez, A Bromley Davenport, Ivor Barnard, Eric Maturin, Elizabeth Jones, Esme Church, George Sanders
A train driver loses his colleagues' holiday money and has to replace it quickly.
The Love Match starring Arthur Askey and Thora Hird was the big hit of the Blackpool summer season. Unusually, it transferred to London's West End where it surprised everyone by repeating its success. John Baxter was looking for a project to fill his Group 3 slate and the production's working-class credentials were right up his street.
The original cast was retained with Anthea Askey being bumped down the cast list in favour of the more glamorous newcomer Shirley Eaton. The most impressive cast member is the relatively unfamiliar face of Danny Ross as Eaton's gormless love interest. Looking the dead-spit of Larry Grayson and behaving like Frank Spencer he's wildly unsuited to the statuesque Eaton but he steals every scene he's in.
Other than Ross, there's little out of the ordinary about The Love Match. The stars perform adequately, but they never surprise. The hasty transfer to the screen leaves the script looking rather threadbare and several plot strands go nowhere. For instance, Askey has a run in with a snooty ref, played by William Franklin, who then comes to lodge in his home. After the initial shock, he's scarcely seen again. Also, in order to see his son plays football, Askey steals a train and disrupts the entire North-West rail network - nothing is made of this afterwards.
Like much of Group 3's output, The Love Match was quickly forgotten. As a footnote, Askey, Ross and co-star and the play's author Glenn Melvyn played the same characters in the short-lived sitcom Love and Kisses.
Script adapt: Geoffrey Orme, (o.a.) Glenn Melvyn
Director: David Paltenghi
Players: Glenn Melvyn, James Kenney, Edward Chapman, Robb Wilton, Maurice Kaufmann, Patricia Hayes, Derek Kirby, Russell Waters, Peter Swanwick, Vi Stevens, Jill Adams, Dorothy Blythe, Ben Williams, Reginald Hearne, George Hirste, Iris Vandeleur, Sydney Bromley, June Martin, Bob Vossler, Leonard Williams, Richard Ford, Peter Godsell, Isabel George
Walter Greenwood's tale of depression, poverty and industrial unrest in Lancashire would never have got past the censors a couple of years earlier, but surprisingly the outbreak of war made the censors less touchy about union activism and prostitution.
Deborah Kerr gets the star-making role of the mill girl with only one way out of poverty.
Script adapt.: (o.a.) Walter Greenwood, Barbara K. Emary, Rollo Gamble
Director: John Baxter
Players: Clifford Evans, Joyce Howard, Frank Cellier, Mary Merrall, George Carney, Geoffrey Hibbert, Maire O'Neill, A. Bromley Davenport, Peter Gawthorne, Martin Walker, Iris Vandeleur, Marie Ault, Marjorie Rhodes, Kenneth Griffith, B. John Slater, Muriel George, Charles Williams, Colin Chandler, Jordan Lewis, Dennis Wyndham, Ben Williams, James Harcourt, Terry Conlin, Charles Groves
Airmail is surprisingly cheap is the message in this animated short, but you've got to look hard for it. The backgrounds are vaguely Daliesque landscapes in Dufaycolour but in the foreground we have mad, jittery line drawings drawn directly onto the celluloid by Norman McLaren. The Postmaster General banned the film, seeing possible obscenities in the ever-changing images.
Director: Norman McLaren
A department store worker and a piano student fall in love during the daily commute to work. His job at the shop is Scapegoat - he gets fired every time a customer complains. He gets himself sacked for real when the student finds his job funny, but soon realises a man must have a decent job if he's going to support a wife. She, meanwhile, finds herself playing the piano for a gang of burglars.
This is one of those charmingly amateurish British musicals the 30s produced so well. It proclaims: we may not have dancers like Fred and Ginger, or songwriters like Gershwin or Berlin, or directors like Busby Berkeley, but when it comes to endearing silliness we're world class.
Leading the silliness is Jack Hulbert at the top of his game. There's nothing he won't do to entertain us short of getting his kit off. Leonora Corbett makes an agreeable ingénue: she's got that posh 30s accent sadly, but has enough backbone to be more than just decoration. Gordon Harker heads the supporting players as the matchmaking bus conductor.
A large part of the charm of Love on Wheels are the glimpses of real life the location shooting gives us: Green Line buses working their way through the suburbs, busy London streets, and Selfridges standing in for the department store. But the studio sets by Vetchinsky and Ian Dalrymple also impress.
Director Victor Saville keeps the action moving and, while Love on Wheels is never going to make the critics Top 100 list, it certainly leaves a smile on your face.
Script: Victor Saville, Angus Macphail, Robert Stevenson, Douglas Furber
Director: Victor Saville
Players: Edmund Gwenn, Leonora Corbett, Tony de Lungo, Roland Culver, Charles Courtneidge, Percy Parsons, Martita Hunt, Miles Malleson, Lawrence Hanray
Margaret Lockwood is the concert pianist whose attempt to join the WAAF fails when the medical reveals she has a dodgy heart and has only a few months to live. She decides to see as much as possible before the Grim Reaper arrives, but there's a war on and Cornwall is the best she can manage. She begins to write music but soon meets skiving engineer Stewart Granger. Naturally, she doesn't tell him about her condition and he doesn't tell her that he's not in the war because he's due to go blind in a few months. Still they fall in love despite their best efforts and all is set for a great weepy finale.
This flimsy nonsense was one of the great hits of the war. With its tale of doomed love and its message about living life for the moment it was exactly what people wanted - an affirmation of the need to fight wrapped up in a gorgeous, romantic package.
Sceptics might find plenty to laugh at throughout the film. If Lockwood is looking for life then why go to a Cornish backwater when London had the blitz, the blackout and 100,000 hunky Yanks looking for a good time? Why does everyone assume Granger is skiving because he's idle when thanks to conscription any healthy young man was either in War Service or in Gaol? Why are Granger and Lockwood so annoyingly vague about their medical conditions?
And then there's that composing lark. Films have always bordered on the silly when they've attempted to show any artist at work, but music composers generally come across as complete nutters. Lockwood is a prime example. All it takes is a bit of a breeze and a few squawking seagulls and she's off creating The Cornish Rhapsody (by Hubert Bath).
Since Lockwood's a concert pianist she has lots of glamorous dresses to wear, supposedly made before clothes rationing. They're mostly hideous but boy do they use loads of material! Poor Patricia Roc has to make do with dungarees and a turban for most of the picture. No wonder she loses out to Margaret.
Reginald Purdell does a neat turn as a camp waiter, Tom Walls is less successful as a bluff Yorkshire millionaire. A young Moira Lister has a few lines but is almost unrecognisable thanks to the two stone of puppy fat she's carrying.
If you're not into soppy romance then this is a film to avoid, but if you are then this is hugely enjoyable.
Script adapt.: Leslie Arliss, Doreen Montgomery, Rodney Ackland. (o.a. J. W. Drawbell)
Director: Leslie Arliss
Players: Dorothy Bramhall, Vincent Holman, Joan Rees, Walter Hudd, A. E. Matthews, Beatrice Varley, Harriet Cohen, Bryan Herbert, Josephine Middleton, Lawrence Hanray, Sydney Beer
Some directors hit the big time with their first film, Michael Powell had to labour long and hard in the quota-quickie salt mines before he was able to claw his way out. The Love Test is one of the films he had to churn out before he could escape. His only mention of it in his autobiography is to call it "a desperate attempt by me to imitate an American B-feature". He's being unkind. It's not up to much but it does have some fascinating aspects.
The Chief Chemist at a Research company is retiring due to ill-health (acute hiccups!) and first in line as his replacement is frumpy blue-stocking Mary (Judy Gunn). Thompson (David Hutcheson) incites his fellow workers to revolt against having a woman boss. Only John (Louis Hayward) is against it because he considers Mary's ability as a chemist is all that matters. Thompson's plan is to distract Mary by throwing a man at her and John draws the short straw. Once John shows some interest, naturally Mary starts to make an effort to look good - better clothes, plucked eyebrows etc. It looks like the plan is going to work, but the Chief Chemist leaves suddenly and Mary gets the job despite now looking like a frivolous girlie.
Thompson's new plan is to slow down the company's research into flame-proofing celluloid until Mary gets the sack. At this point a cynic might suggest that if she can't see how the workers are behaving (mixing cocktails, doing the crossword, knitting) then maybe she's not actually up to the job. Thompson also puts a spanner in the works of John and Mary's romance by telling her about the earlier plan. A bit of sabotage means that Mary sacks John. However, he's just discovered the elusive formula. Thompson's attempt to claim this as his own is discovered and Mary and John are reunited for a happy ending.
Plenty of films of the period feature women who have jobs, but this is one of the few in which the job is the basis of the film. The script however doesn't carry this through into the characterisations. There are other women working in the lab, but they don't get a chance to even speak let alone actually stop what the men are doing to Mary. They just go along with whatever the men decide. The only other woman with a significant role is Googie Withers as a dumb sexpot secretary who is also Thompson's girlfriend (but doesn't mind giving John some practice in lovemaking technique or Thompson going out with Mary). Her role is underwritten and completely unbelievable.
Louis Hayward as John is almost totally spineless. He might protest at Thompson's plans but he still lets them happen. It's hard to believe that he'd soon be off to Hollywood to be one of the great swashbucklers. Judy Gunn can't make Mary anything other than an over-passive fool. Bernard Miles appears as Thompson's sidekick but seems as pleased as everyone else when Thompson gets his comeuppance.
With a better script this could have been a winner: somewhere inside there is the basis of a sparkling sex comedy, but it just doesn't happen. Powell can't breath any life into the story. He does give us one interesting image: the celluloid they use to test each formula is a little doll and they burn on a regular basis. He tries a few tricks to jazz things up a bit but none of them really come off. Sadly, this is just an interesting failure.
Script: Selwyn Jackson
Director: Michael Powell
Players: Maurice Hatcheson. Morris Harvey, Aubrey Dexter, Eve Turner