Archive S


Silent Dust (1948)

A man builds a cricket pavilion in honour of his heroic son who died in the war. But the son is in reality a coward, a deserter - and still alive.

This play transfer shows its theatrical origins, but director Lance Comfort gives it all he's got.

Script adapt.: Michael Pertwee. (o.a. Michael and Roland Pertwee)

Director: Lance Comfort

Players: Stephen Murray, Nigel Patrick, Sally Gray, Derek Farr, Beatrice Campbell, Seymour Hicks, Marie Lohr, Yvonne Owen, James Hayter, Maria Var, Edgar Norfolk, George Woodbridge, Irene Handl

The Silent Enemy (1958)

Laurence Harvey plays Ltd 'Buster' Crabbe, underwater war hero, in this true life tale. It's not one of the classic fifties war films but the underwater stuff makes it a little different.

Script adapt.: William Fairchild. (o.a. Marshall Pugh)

Director: William Fairchild

Players: Michael Craig, Dawn Addams, John Clements, Gianna Maria Canale, Sidney James, Alec McCowen, Howard Marion Crawford, Nigel Stock, David Lodge, Cyril Shaps, Derren Nesbitt

The Silent Passenger (1935)

When the body of a titled blackmailer is discovered in a trunk at French Customs, the husband of one of his victims comes under suspicion. 

Above-the-title star John Loder plays the man under suspicion, but who cares about him when all eyes are on Peter Haddon as the first screen incarnation of Lord Peter Whimsey. Haddon's a curious choice; he has the posh mannerisms and the not-handsome-but-not-unattractive looks, and he can certainly pass as an idiot, but his voice does rather let him down. What's meant as a languid drawl comes across as a nasal blockage and one wonders if he spent most of the filming schedule with a bad cold.

The main difficulty with The Silent Passenger is that we're shown who committed the crime so there's little interest in watching Lord Peter go through the motions of uncovering the truth. John Loder lacks the vulnerability necessary for audiences to care about his plight and Donald Wolfit, as the murderer, doesn't get enough background material to work with for us to care much about him either.

Though The Silent Passenger is a handsome production, and rather watchable, it's hard not to see it as a missed opportunity. This is material that Alfred Hitchcock or Walter Forde would have handled better. Director Reginald Denham doesn't reach the heights those other two were capable of reaching. He does create a few good sequences, notably the climactic fight between Loder and Wolfit in a train repair shed. As the pair battle, a slowly-moving train bears down on them and spectacularly crashes through the shed gates.

It's would have been interesting to see how Haddon would have developed the role of Lord Peter if there had been a sequel to this, but sadly it was not to be.

Script adapt.: Basil Mason (o.a. Dorothy L Sayers)

Director: Reginald Denham

Players: Mary Newland, Austin Trevor, Aubrey Mather, Robb Wilton, Ralph Truman, Percy Rhodes, Frederick Burtwell, Gordon McLeod, George de Warfaz, Vincent Holman, Ann Coddrington, Dorice Fordred, Annie Esmond 

Silver Blaze (1937)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson pay a visit to their old friends the Baskervilles and find themselves in the middle of a mystery involving a missing horse and its dead trainer. Of course the real mystery is the dog in the night - why didn't it bark?

Once lauded as the definitive Holmes, Arthur Wontner has since been eclipsed by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. This is a shame since he made a pretty fair stab at the character even though he was already in his fifties when he started. Silver Blaze was the last of his five appearances as the great detective. His Holmes here does occasionally seem a bit doddery but then it is meant to be set twenty years on from the Baskerville hound case, and he's not been well.

The plot of Silver Blaze has the original story at its core. However there are several additions including that catchy Baskerville name (the US title was Murder at the Baskervilles). The plot is instigated by a crooked bookie paying Moriarty to nobble the eponymous horse. Thus the film comes down to a battle of wills between the arch enemies. Inspector Lestrade also puts in an appearance, having transferred to Exeter.

Ian Fleming as Watson is undoubtedly better cast than Nigel Bruce, yet is nowhere near as memorable. Lynn Harding makes an agreeably nasty Moriarty though he's a bit too hearty to really nail the character. None of the other cast members makes much of an impact.

Thanks to the ending of the quota and the bankruptcy of producer Julius Hagen, the series came to a stop here. On this evidence, that was a shame.

Script adapt.: Arthur MacRae, H Fowler Mear. (o.a. Arthur Conan Doyle)

Director: Thomas Bentley

Players: John Turnbull, Robert Horton, Lawrence Grossmith, Judy Gunn, Arthur MacRae, Arthur Goullet, Martin Walker, Eve Gray, Gilbert Davis, Minnie Rayner, D.J. Williams, Ralph Truman, Ronald Shiner, Danny Green, Syd Crossley

The Silver Fleet (1943)

Two submarines are being built in occupied Holland and the resistance are determined to sabotage them. Well-made drama produced by Powell and Pressburger, which lacks that touch of magic.

Script: Vernon Sewell, Gordon Wellesley

Director: Vernon Sewell, Gordon Wellesley

Players: Ralph Richardson, Esmond Knight, Googie Withers, Beresford Egan, Frederick Burtwell, Kathleen Byron, Willem Akkerman, Charles Victor, John Longden, Dorothy Gordon, Joss Ambler

Simba (1955)

Dirk Bogarde and Virginia McKenna get caught up in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.

Good to see British filmmakers tackling a torn-from-the-headlines drama - shame they made it look so fake.

Script.: John Baines, Robin Estridge

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: Donald Sinden, Basil Sidney, Earl Cameron, Orlando Martins, Marie Ney, Joseph Tomelty, Frank Singuineau, Ben Johnson, Huntley Campbell, slim Harris, Glyn Lawson, Harry Quash, John Chandos, Desmond Robert, Errol John, Willy Sholanke

Simon and Laura (1955)

Adequate comedy of media couple Peter Finch and Kay Kendall who are happy in public but battling in private. Lots of jibes at the awfulness of fifties TV now no longer seem credible but the performances make this a watchable production.

Script adapt.: Peter Blackmore. (o.a. Alan Melville)

Director: Muriel Box

Players: Muriel Pavlow, Ian Carmichael, Hubert Gregg, Maurice Denham, Thora Hird, Richard Wattis, Terence Longdon, Joan Hickson, Cyril Chamberlain, Marianne Stone, Muriel George, Charles Hawtrey, Gilbert Harding, Isobel Barnett, Shirley Ann Field, Jill Ireland

Sing as We Go (1934)

What's a Lancashire mill lass to do when the mill closes down? Go to Blackpool to look for work and give us the best portrait of seaside holidays in the 30s.

Of course the mill lass has to be Gracie Fields and this film is the one she's best remembered for. No wonder. No British star has ever had a vehicle so exactly tailored to their talents. The plot is a loose collection of reasons for her to do a bit of acting, a bit of clowning and a lot of singing.

Director/producer Basil Dean was reputed to be rather snobby about the Fields and Formby vehicles he was forced to make. He only did them in order to finance the highbrow stuff for which he really wanted ATP to be remembered. Of course, the dull biopics of Mozart etc. are largely forgotten while the low stuff is embedded in the nation's consciousness.

Despite Dean's antipathy, he brought out the best in our Gracie. The key to this success is the location filming: real places, real situations and above all real people. Put Gracie Fields in front of an audience of "her people", give her an excuse to perform and you can't go wrong. Whether she's selling song sheets or toffee, parading in a beauty contest or nearly going under a tram she's the centre of attention and rises to the occasion.

She's less certain when dealing with the demands of what little plot there is. This consists of her carrying a torch for mill owner's son John Loder but standing aside when he gets amorous with Dorothy Hyson. There's also some nonsense about persuading the inventor of artificial silk to start production at the factory.

Scriptwriter J.B. Priestley knew his audience just as surely as Gracie Fields. This is a rose-tinted view of the depression-hit North but that is exactly what was wanted. Grace is a working class hero. She may be poor, but she's resourceful, optimistic, quick-witted, and gloriously stroppy. There's no forelock-tugging here. No wonder working class audiences loved her.

Photo of location shooting for Sing As We Go

Script: Gordon Wellesley, J.B. Priestley

Director: Basil Dean

Players: Stanley Holloway, Frank Pettingell, Morris Harvey, Arthur Sinclair, Maire O'Neill, Ben Field, Olive Sloan, Margaret Yarde, Evelyn Roberts, Norman Walker, James R. Gregson, Richard Gray, Margery Pickard, Florence Gregson, Muriel Pavlow

The Singer Not the Song (1960)

Dirk Bogarde is the leather-clad Mexican bandit with the hots for priest John Mills. Mad casting and wild subject matter can't quite atone for a dreary script.

Dirk Bogarde dressed up for The Singer Not the Song

Script adapt.: Nigel Balchin. (o.a. Audrey Erskine Lindop)

Director: Roy Baker

Players: Mylene Demongeot, John Bentley, Laurence Naismith, Eric Pohlmann

Single-handed (U.S. Sailor of the King) (1953)

C.S. Forester's novel, Brown on Resolution, comes to the screen with Jeffrey Hunter as the WWII hero who keeps a German ship in harbour in order to save the British fleet. A remake of For Ever England.

Script adapt.: Valentine Davies. (o.a. C.S. Forester)

Director: Roy Boulting

Players: Michael Rennie, Wendy Hiller, Bernard Lee, Petr Van Eyck, Patrick Barr, Victor Maddern, Robin Bailey, Sam Kydd, John Schlesinger

Six-Five Special (1958)

A pair of young women board a train to find it packed with entertainers.

This flimsy plot provides an excuse for cashing in on the hit TV pop series. Rock 'n Roll may have ruled the world at this time, but here it's skiffle that holds sway. Includes performances from Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark and Cleo Laine as well as a host of other notables.

Script: Norman Hudis

Director: Alfred Shaughnessy

Players: Diane Todd, Avril Leslie, Josephine Douglas, Pete Murray, Finlay Currie, Freddie Mills, Jim Dale, Dickie Valentine, Joan Regan, Russ Hamilton, The King Brothers, Don Lang and His Frantic 5, Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra, Mike and Bernie Winters, Jackie Dennis, Victor Soverall, The Kentones, Desmond Lane, The John Barry Seven, Jimmy Lloyd

The Six Men (1951)

A criminal organisation is undermined by a mysterious figure.

Dull thriller which plays like one of Edgar Wallace's rejects.

Script adapt.: Reed de Rouen, Michael Law, Richard Eastham. (o.a. E and MA Radford)

Director: Michael Law

 Players: Harold Warrender, Michael Edwards, Olga Edwardes, Peter Bull, Avril Angers, Desmond Jones, Ivan Craig, Reed de Rouen, Christopher page, Edward Malin