Archive P


Pool of London (1950)

Realistic, down-beat portrayal of life on the docks. There's a thin plot about smuggled diamonds but it's the background of trams and pubs and a vanished way of life that now excites most interest. That, and British cinema's first black/white romance between Earl Cameron and Susan Shaw.

Script: Jack Whittingham, John Eldridge

Director: Basil Dearden

Players: Bonar Colleano, Renee Asherson, Moira Lister, Max Adrian, Joan Dowling, James Robertson Justice, Michael Golden, John Longden, Alfie Bass, Leslie Phillips, Laurence Naismith, Victor Maddern, Sam Kydd, Michael Ward 

Portrait of Clare (1950)

Clare (Margaret Johnston) tries to put her granddaughter off an unsuitable match by telling her of the three men she married. Not very exciting by all accounts.

Still from Portrait of Claire

Script adapt.: Leslie Landau, Adrian Arlington. (o.a. Francis Brett Young)

Director: Lance Comfort

Players: Ronald Howard, Robin Bailey, Richard Todd, Mary Clare, Marjorie Fielding 

Prelude to Fame (1950)

Kathleen Byron (the mad nun in Black Narcissus) drives a young musical prodigy to the brink of suicide.

Still from Prelude to Fame

Script adapt.: Robert Westerby. (o.a. Aldous Huxley)

Director: Fergus McDonell

Players: Guy Rolfe, Jeremy Spencer, Kathleen Ryan, James Robertson Justice, Henry Oscar, Rosalie Crutchley, John Slater, Christopher Lee

The Price of Wisdom (1935)

A young designer is romantically torn between her old boss and his younger chemist.

Deadly dull posh melodrama. Even Roger Livesey can't save this one.

Script adapt.: Basil Mason, George Dewhurst (o.a. Lionel Brown)

Director: Reginald Denham

Players: Mary Newland, Roger Livesey, Mary Jerrold, Robert Rendel, Eric Cowley, Ann Codrington, Ivor Barnard, Cicely Oates

The Prime Minister (1941)

Disraeli biopic. An unpromising tale is presented as a patriotic morale booster. It doesn't work.

Script: Brock Williams, Michael Hogan

Director: Thorold Dickinson

Players: John Gielgud, Diana Wynyard, Stephen Murray, Owen Nares, Fay Compton, Will Fyffe, Lyn Harding, Pamela Standish, Leslie Perrins, Vera Bogetti, Anthony Ireland, Irene Browne, Frederick Leister, Nicholas Hannen, Kynaston Reeves, Barbara Everest, Gordon McLeod, Glynis Johns, Margaret Johnston

The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

Marilyn Monroe's arrival on these shores to make this film was a huge event. The pairing of her and Laurence Olivier was a publicist's dream. Pity they chose to do this rickety Terence Rattigan play. It's hard not to find the film disappointing even after all this time. It needed a Lubitch or a Wilder at the helm to make this soufflé rise, it got Olivier. Still, Monroe looks fabulous and happy - and that's enough.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Terence Rattigan

Director: Laurence Olivier, Anthony Bushell

Players: Sybil Thorndike, Richard Wattis, Jean Kent, Jeremy Spencer, Esmond Knight, Maxine Audley, Gladys Henson, Rosamund Greenwood

Princess Charming (1934)

Somewhere in Europe, a beautiful princess is wakened by the sound of gunfire. Yes, it's the revolution and there's scarcely time for a song before she has to flee to a neighbouring country where the king, her betrothed, awaits. Two problems: the revolutionaries won't allow any citizen to leave, and she's not that keen on the elderly king. The first is solved by a hasty, unconsummated marriage to the naval officer the king has sent to escort her, but this just makes the second problem more acute.

Whatever the name of the countries involved, we're firmly in the Land of Operetta and its English princess was Evelyn Laye. Princess Charming is probably the best of the attempts to translate her charm to the screen, at least for those who find Evensong too po-faced. It looks expensive and the songs are pleasant though unmemorable. Laye, and the rest of the cast, are in good form and it's only the uninspired script that prevents it being a classic of the genre.

For those who aren't into light opera, the chief appeal lies in the performance of Max Miller as the Insurance agent whose company has underwritten the royal marriage and who is determined to ensure its successful completion. Shorn of his saucy humour by the censors and his trademark loud suits by the demands of the plot, he still puts in an energetic turn.

Miller's outshone by the pairing of George Grossmith and Yvonne Arnaud as the king and his comfy mistress. As the handsome sailor, Henry Wilcoxon is less successful unless you're really into grumpy-looking blokes. The Mr Darcy thing only works if you get to see behind the glum facade, and you never do here. However, since Laye's choice is him or Grossmith, I suppose she takes the right decision. Hollywood knew better how to show off Mr Wilcoxon's charms: get him in a toga and as close to naked as the censors will allow.

Princess Charming can't compete with the best of the Hollywood or German operettas because it lacks the sexual spice that keeps the saccharine at bay, but it passes the time nicely enough. However, its old-fashioned charms couldn't compete at the box office with the up-to-the-minute sassiness of Laye's rival Jessie Matthews' Evergreen which opened at the same time.

Script: L duGarde Peach, Arthur Wimperis, Laurie Wylie

DirectorMaurice Elvey

Players: Finlay Currie, Ivor McLaren, Ivor Barnard, Francis L. Sullivan, Dino Galvani

The Prisoner (1955)

In an Eastern European country a cardinal is arrested for crimes against the state. The battle is on to break his spirit before his trial begins.

Based on the case of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, Bridget Boland's play was adapted for the screen to great acclaim yet now it is virtually forgotten.  This is strange because stars Alec Guinness, as the cardinal, and Jack Hawkins, as his interrogator were at the height of their careers.

Maybe it's the downbeat subject matter - dour dramas about life under Communism aren't the sort of things that show up regularly on Saturday afternoon telly. Maybe it's that debuting director Peter Glenville just doesn't have the caché that some of his contemporaries have. Maybe for all its serious intent, The Prisoner is really just an outsider's look at the subject matter - it can't hold a candle to some of the films that came out of Eastern Europe later when the system relaxed.

Whatever the reason, The Prisoner has disappeared off the radar. Yet there is a lot worth appreciating here. Chief of the pleasures is the cast, all of whom pull their weight. Naturally the leads do well, but the supporting players also give their all, particularly Wilfrid Lawson as the genial gaoler and Kenneth Griffith as Hawkins' creepy aide.

If you're a lover of serious drama, or just want to enjoy star acting, then it's well worth seeking out The Prisoner.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Bridget Boland

Director: Peter Glenville

Players: Raymond Huntley, Jeanette Scott, Ronald Lewis, Mark Dignam, Gerard Heinz, Richard Leech