Archive P

Piccadilly (1929)

Good looking silent/part-talkie melodrama with Anna May Wong as a nightclub dishwasher who is groomed to replace the star.

Script: Arnold Bennett

Director: E.A. Dupont

Players: Gilda Gray, Jameson Thomas, Cyril Richard, Charles Laughton

Piccadilly Incident (1946)

The incident is an air-raid which brings two people together. However, the war that brought them together also tears them apart.

The film that first teamed Anna Neagle with Michael Wilding was a huge smash hit.

Script: Nicholas Phipps

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Michael Laurence, Frances Mercer, Coral Browne, A.E. Matthews, Edward Rigby, Brenda Bruce, Leslie Dwyer, Maire O'Neill, Neville Mapp, duncan McIntyre, Michael Medwin, Madge Brindley, Roger Moore, Harry Locke

The Pickwick Papers (1952)

James Hayter was born to play Pickwick but some of the rest of the cast struggle to get the tone right in this okay adaptation.

Script adapt.: Noel Langley. (o.a. Charles Dickens)

Director: Noel Langley

Players: Alexander Gauge, James Donald, Lionel Murton, Nigel Patrick, Kathleen Harrison, Joyce Grenfell, Donald Wolfit, Hermione Baddley, Harry Fowler, George Robey, William Hartnell, Joan Heal, Diane Hart, Sam Costa, Athene Seyler, D.A. Clarke-Smith, Alan Wheatley, June Thorburn, Gerald Campion, Mary Merrall, Cecil Trouncer, Max Adrian, Hattie Jacques, Noel Purcell, Gibb McLaughlin, Walter Fitzgerald, Helen Goss, Dandy Nichols, Joan Benham, Marianne Stone 

Pimpernel Smith (1941)

Leslie Howard (director, producer and star) updates The Scarlet Pimpernel for this tale of refugees fleeing from the Nazis. He's the absent-minded professor who's really running the escape operation. Entertaining with memorable moments particularly the climax in a foggy railway station.

Script: Anatole de Grunwald, Roland Pertwee

Director: Leslie Howard

Players: Francis L. Sullivan, Mary Morris, Hugh McDermott, Raymond Huntley, David Tomlinson, Ronald Howard

Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945)

Mervyn Johns is the Victorian chemist. Googie Withers is the brassy barmaid whose husband dies of strychnine poisoning. Director Robert Hamer was always more comfortable with a costume drama than modern life and this is one of his best.

Poster for Pink String and Sealing Wax

Script adapt.: Diana Morgan, Robert Hamer. (o.a. Roland Pertwee)

Director: Robert Hamer

Players: Gordon Jackson, Sally Ann Howes, Garry Marsh, Mary Merrall, John Carol, Catherine Lacey, Jean Ireland, Frederick Piper, Maudie Edwards, Pauline Letts, Ronald Adam, Valentine Dyall

A Place of One's Own (1945)

A retired couple buy a large country house even though it's suspiciously cheap. They move in with the wife's young companion and some servants and look forward to a peaceful life. But the companion starts having hallucinations. Is her mental condition linked to the possible murder of a young woman forty years earlier?

A Place of One's Own can be classified as a Gainsborough melodrama. Yet, despite being a period piece and featuring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood, it's often overlooked. 

Unusually for Gainsborough, contemporary critics enjoyed the film yet audiences wouldn't go near it. Why was that? Blame perverse miscasting. 36 year old James Mason gets to play the retired old gentleman while his grey-haired wife is played by Barbara Mullen (31). And who else could they pick for the sweet, shy, virginal, youthful companion but Margaret Lockwood (34)? No doubt she would have ripped the bollocks off anyone who suggested she was too old for the role.

Audiences in 1945 would have expected a film starring Lockwood and Mason to be a rollickingly-good bodice-ripper, but A Place of One's Own was never going to be anything other than a gentle little piece. The mood here is ethereal rather than thrilling. 

Bernard Knowles moved into the director's chair for the first time with this film, and as befits the work of a former cinematographer it looks good. He takes the unusual decision to keep the house well-lit. Though the period recreation is virtually flawless, the lighting scheme recalls the Art Deco fantasies Astaire and Rogers danced through rather than a spooky old house.

Some of the sequences in the film are effective, but Knowles can do nothing with the cast. The mis-casting and heavy makeup reduce the main performances to the level of a village drama society. The plot would have made a nice half hour of telly, but as the basis of a feature it's stretched more than it can bear. 

It's hard to see why the critics raved. Maybe they valued a refuge from the last days of the war, or from the even greater horror of the "tastelessness" of Gainsborough's usual product. Whatever the reason, this is another case where they got it wrong and the public got it right.

Script adapt.: Brock Williams. (o.a. Osbert Sitwell)

Director: Bernard Knowles

PlayersDennis Price, Ernest Thesiger, Helen Haye, Michael Shepley, Dulcie Gray, Moore Marriott, Gus MacNaughton, O.B. Clarence, John Turnbull, Helen Goss, Edie Martin, Muriel George, Henry Longhurst, Aubrey Mallalieu

The Pleasure Garden (1926)

Hitchcock's first picture as a director. It's the story of two chorus girls and the men they take up with. It features good performances from the two girls (Virginia Valli and Carmelita Geraghty) and a very impressive one from Miles Mander. Hitchcock's direction is less impressive and he shows little sign of the genius to come. However there are pointers to the themes which would come to dominate his work: violence against women, voyeurism, suspense.

Script adapt.: Eliot Stannard. (o.a. Oliver Sandys)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: John Stuart, George Snell, C. Falkenburg, Frederic Martini, Florence Helminger, Nita Naldi

The Pleasure Garden (1952)

A group of people wander about a park stifled by their inhibitions and mysterious park keeper, until a Free Spirit liberates them.

This arty short is a real oddity. It's slight and silly and little better than most student films, but it does have a few assets.

Its main asset is the cast. The Free Spirit, Mrs Albion, is played by Hattie Jacques, with her husband John le Mesurier as the park keeper. Also in the cast are Jean Anderson, Jill Bennett, Maxine Audley and Lindsay Anderson. 

Another asset is the cinematography by Walter Lassally. He'd go on to get an Oscar for Zorba the Greek, but here he's at the start of his career and making the move from documentary. 

The location is the remains of the Crystal Palace terraces. This wild garden is the perfect place to set the story. The ponds and statuary are slowly being swallowed up by the weeds, and Nature is taking over from the order of Man. These ruins are long gone now, and this film is one of the best records we have of the place.

The Pleasure Garden is not going to be to everyone's taste, but it's a sweet slice of 50s nonsense and worth seeing.

Script: James Broughton

Director: James Broughton

Players: Diana Maddox, Kermit Sheets, Derek Hart, Hilary Mackendrick, Gladys Spencer, John Heawood, Victoria Grayson, Daphne Hunter, Mary Lee Settle, Gontron Gouldon