Archive M

Michael and Mary (1931)

A woman's first husband comes back from the dead with blackmail on his mind.

Hoary old story held together by Edna Best's performance.

Script adapt.: Angus Macphail, Robert Stevenson, Lajos Biro. (o.a. A.A. Milne)

Director: Victor Saville

Players: Herbert Marshall, Elizabeth Allen, Frank Lawton, D.A. Clarke-Smith, Sunday Wilshin, Ben Field, Margaret Yorke

The Middle Watch (1940)

Greta Gynt and Kay Walsh are stuck on a battleship at sea after a party, and Captain Jack Buchanan has to hide them from Admiral Fred Emney. Fun farce.

Script adapt.: Clifford Grey, J. Lee Thompson. (o.a. Ian Hay, Stephen King-Hall)

Director: Thomas Bentley

Players: Leslie Fuller, Jean Gillie, David Hutcheson, Reginald Purdell, Bruce Seton, Martita Hunt, Romney Brent, Louise Hampton, Ronald Shiner

Midshipman Easy (1935)

The adventures of a lad at sea, from the well-loved children's novel.

Future TV star Hughie Green takes the title role in this enjoyable adaptation.

Script adapt.: Anthony Kimmins. (o.a. Captain Marryat)

Director: Carol Reed

Players: Roger Livesey, Margaret Lockwood, Harry Tate, Robert Adams, Lewis Casson, Dennis Wyndham, Tom Gill, Frederick Burtwell, Desmond Tester, Dorothy Holmes-Gore, Norman Walker, Arthur Hambling

The Mikado (1939)

Good version of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. Most of the performers are from the D'oyly Carte company with the exception of Yank import Kenny Baker as Nanki-Poo. With his squeaky speaking voice and bizarre looks he sticks out from the rest. The performances are as theatrical as you would expect, but since they've been honed by many nights in front of a live audience, they still work. The Technicolor photography is the main interest for non-G&S fans.

Script adapt.: Geoffrey Toye. (o.a. W.S. Gilbert Arthur Sullivan)

Director: Victor Schertzinger

Players: Constance Willis, Jean Colin, Martyn Green, Sydney Granville, John Barclay

The Mill on the Floss (1936)

A feud between the heads of two households affects the lives of the children.

George Eliot's novel gets a tame, prettified adaptation that was liked in its day but now seems hopelessly faded.

Script adapt.: John Drinkwater, Garnett Weston, Austin Melford, Tim Whelan (o.a. George Eliot)

Director: Tin Whelan

Players: Frank Lawson, Victoria Hopper, James Mason, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Griffith Jones, Fay Compton, Mary Clare, Sam Livesey, Felix Aylmer, Athene Seyler, Eliot Makeham, Amy Veness, William Devlin, Ivor Barnard, David Horne, O.B. Clarence, Cecil Ramage, Pauline de Chalus, Martitia Hunt, James Roberts, Philip Frost, Anna Murrell, A.W. Payne, William Holloway, Eldon Gorse, Hilary Pritchard, Beatrice Marsden, Fred Withers, A.E. Johnson, Sidney Monckton, Cynthia Stock, Geraldine Wilton, Edmond Willard

The Million Pound Note (1953)

Mark Twain's story is turned into a nice little film. Gregory Peck is the object of Ronald Squire's and Wilfrid Hyde White's bet that a man could live without spending money provided he already has plenty of it.

Still from The Million Pound Note

Script adapt.: Jill Craigie. (o.a. Mark Twain)

Director: Ronald Neame

Players: Jane Griffiths, A.E. Matthews, Joyce Grenfell, Maurice Denham, Reginald Beckwith, Brian Oulton, John Slater, Hartley Power, George Devine, Bryan Forbes, Ann Gudrun, Hugh Wakefield, Ernest Thesiger, Wilbur Evans, Ronald Adam, Joan Hickson, Eliot Makeham, Harold Goodwin

Millions Like Us (1943)

The classic Home Front drama. It's surprisingly unsentimental considering the times in which it was made. Launder and Gilliat had the knack of getting British stiff-upper-lip-ness just right, so that the wartime optimism and heroism of ordinary people seems natural. This film is probably their crowning glory.

Script: Frank Launder, Sydney Gilliat

Director: Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliat

Players: Patricia Roc, Anne Crawford, Eric Portman, Gordon Jackson, Joy Shelton, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Valentine Dunn, Megs Jenkins, Terry Randall, Moore Marriott, John Boxer, Irene Handl

Miracle in Soho (1957)

Weak romantic comedy written and produced by Emeric Pressburger who badly needed Michael Powell's acerbity here to cut through the sentiment.

Script: Emeric Pressburger

Director: Julian Amyes

Players: John Gregson, Belinda Lee, Cyril Cusack, Peter Illing, Rosalie Crutchley, Marie Burke, Ian Bannen, Brian Bedford, Barbara Archer, John Cairney, Billie Whitelaw, Lane Meddick, Julian Summers, Harry Brunning, Douglas Ives, George A. Cooper, Cyril Shaps

Miranda (1948)

"There's something fishy about Miss Trewella"

We knew someone was going to say that, for Miss Trewella is a mermaid and every fish joke in the scriptwriters' handbook is going to make an appearance sooner or later in this film.

The plot is pretty thin. Miranda the beautiful mermaid captures a doctor and persuades him to take her to London for a holiday disguised as an invalid. There she proceeds to have a great time: a little bit of sightseeing and a whole lot of flirting.

The plot is only an excuse for those fish gags and for a cast of classy performers to do their thing. Top of the bill is Glynis Johns as Miranda. This role made her a big star and that's no surprise since she's enchanting. She's both bold and innocent but never overplays. With her looks and that fabulous voice it's no surprise that the men flock to her.

As her conquests, Griffith Jones, John McCallum and David Tomlinson have little to do but look entranced and bewildered in turn. Googie Withers, Sonia Holm and Yvonne Owen as her rivals have more fun. Best of all is Margaret Rutherford as the nanny hired to look after Miranda. She doesn't get much to do either, but Rutherford can do more with a couple of scenes than most actresses can do with a six-part mini-series.

The film was a huge hit. The saucy but sophisticated humour struck a chord with Austerity audiences. We're less innocent these days so there is little shock value in watching glamorous people make light of adultery, but in 1948 this must have been thrilling. Classing this as a fantasy film seems to have given its makers license to abandon any moralising. Certainly, there's no Good Time Girl in this period's cinema who has quite such a nice time without paying for it afterwards. The outrageous final gag has a kick even for today's audience and must have sent people home laughing and speculating.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Peter Blackmore, Denis Waldock

Director: Ken Annakin

Players: Maurice Denham, Zena Marshall, Gerald Campion

Miss London Ltd (1943)

When American Evelyn Dall comes over to wartime London to take her half of an escort agency, she finds Arthur Askey in charge of the other half and the business on its knees. The reason? The "stock" is too old. So she teams up with Askey to find the most glamorous girls in the city to help entertain the troops. Cue one of the best musicals of the forties.

One of the reasons for the film's success is the songs are good. Mostly co-written by Val Guest, they are surprisingly witty. Askey and Dall get the jolly ones while Forces Sweetheart Anne Shelton mainly deals with the soppy ones. Shelton is one of the drawbacks of the film. Naturally she handles the songs well, but spends most of the film putting herself down. She's a big healthy lass and there's no point pretending she's a glamour puss, but she must have the biggest inferiority complex in cinema. Besides, who wouldn't look like a Navvy next to the likes of Jean Kent.

This was Val Guest's first feature as director and he puts a lot into it. The opening number on Waterloo Station (The 8.50 Choo Choo) is surprisingly stylish and gets the film off to a good, breezy start.

Askey clowns about well. He's at his best trying to pick up new staff, or when singing The Moth Song. He, Dall and ITMA regular Jack Train form a great partnership. 

Script: Val Guest, Marriott Edgar

Director: Val Guest

Players: Richard Hearne, Max Bacon, Peter Graves, Virginia Keiley, Ronald Shiner, Iris Lang, Una Shepard, Sheila Bligh, Noni Brooke, Pat Owens

Miss Robin Hood (1952)

The writer of a girls' adventure serial is involved in a scheme to steal a whiskey formula by his greatest fan: an eccentric old woman.

If you're looking to cast an eccentric old woman then number one on virtually everyone's list would be Margaret Rutherford. This star vehicle plays to her strengths as the sort of batty old dear it's impossible to faze. She bounds about like an Old English Sheepdog, her lumpy bits seemingly moving independently of each other, from one craze to another. No matter how mad the scheme, she approaches each one with a wide-eyed certainty of success. It's a familiar act, but very welcome.

Playing the straight man to her charming loon is Richard Hearne. Now best remembered, if at all, for his anarchic Mr Pastry character, he's rather effective as the uptight family man whose life is turned upside down by Rutherford's Miss Honey. The leads play off each other very well and he doesn't allow her to have everything her own way. However, he's at his best when faced with his family. As the only man in the house he's the perfect model of the 50s father.

The leads are surrounded by the cream of character players. James Robertson Justice as the owner of a distillery is his usual domineering self, Peter Jones as a smarmy would-be writer and Sid James as a knitting taxi driver are the most memorable.

Miss Robin Hood is often seen as a failed Ealing clone, but there's more going on here than that. There are touches of surrealism which brings it closer to French film comedy than English. One notable moment has a five year old calmly lighting a match and burning her copy of a magazine in the publishers foyer. Rutherford is always accompanied by pigeons for no better reason than it looks good.

Where Miss Robin Hood falls down is in the last act where the resolutions are just too easy. James Robertson Justice gives up the rights to the formula with scarcely a murmur. Hearne's boss has already decided to give him his job back before his readers storm the offices to demand his reinstatement. Even the police looking for stolen money are easily foiled by Hearne's wife. However, for all its slightness, Miss Robin Hood is fun while it's on.

Script: Val Valentine, Patrick Campbell

Director: John Guillermin

Players: Michael Medwin, Edward Lexy, Frances Rowe, Eunice Gayson, Dora Bryan, Eric Berry, Russell Waters, Reg Varney, Suzanne Gibbs, Francis de Wolfe

Miss Tulip Stays the Night (1955)

A crime writer and his wife spend the night in an isolated house. Their cosy evening is interrupted by an old woman who demands to stay the night. In the morning she is found dead.

It's fair to say that Miss Tulip Stays the Night does not have a very good reputation. In fact it's considered a total turkey. Its reputation is well deserved.

The main problem is the script which seems to rely more on ridiculousness than smartness. The plot is nonsensical and doesn't allow room for effective business from its cast of comics.

The second problem is the casting which on paper is rather intriguing but in practice is ineffectual. Diana Dors is cast as one of those perfect 50s wifeys: nicely turned out, smart, pleasant. It's a role that any number of actresses could do with ease, but it's a shocking waste of Dors. Then we have the return to film of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge. It's lovely to see them, but why cast them so they never appear in a scene together? Hulbert does quite well in the role of a policeman, but Courtneidge is lumbered with playing a mad old woman and her equally mad sister and fails to be anything other than irritating.

Sadly Miss Tulip Stay the Night fails to raise a laugh.

Script: John O'Douglas, Bill Luckwell, Jack Hulbert

Director: Leslie Arliss

Players: Patrick Holt, A.E. Matthews, Joss Ambler, Pat Terry-Thomas, George Roderick, Brian Oulton

The Missing Million (1942)

Scotland Yard investigates the disappearance of a young millionaire and his connection to a notorious blackmailer, The Panda.

Usual Edgar Wallace stuff and no matter how many people he kills, it's hard to take seriously a criminal called The Panda.

Script adapt.: James Seymour. (o.a. Edgar Wallace)

Director: Phil Brandon

Players: John Stuart, Linden Travers, John Warwick, Patricia Hilliard, Ivan Brandt, Brefni O'Rorke, Charles Victor: Marie Ault, James Donald

Mist in the Valley (1923)

To get away from an arranged marriage, a young woman runs away from home. She falls in love, but tragedy strikes and she goes on trial for the murder of her father.

Handsome melodrama which makes much of its beautiful location shooting.

Script adapt: George Dewhurst. (o.a. Dorin Craig)

Director: Cecil Hepworth

Players: Alma Taylor, G.H. Mulcaster, James Carew, Esme Hubbard, John MacAndrews, Gwynne Herbert, Maud Cressall, Charles Vane, Douglas Munro, Lionel d'Aragon, Bertram Terry, Fred Rains