Animated short in which stock footage of industry is manipulated in Technicolor to produce a kaleidoscopic riot of colour.
Director: Len Lye
The Euston to Liverpool Express leaves the station and speeds through the countryside. Suddenly it comes across an obstacle on the track and crashes. A title appears: Three Days Earlier.
Well, we've been here before with Friday the Thirteenth. There it was a bus that crashed. Unlike that film ,we're not told how many people are killed (probably because a train has far too many passengers for us to get involved with) but other than that it's business as usual for this portmanteau movie.
The Engine Driver. It's just a slice of ordinary life for engine driver Jack Warner. Wife Gladys Henson dreams of him getting an inspector's job and living a nine-to-five life, while daughter Susan Shaw dates Patric Doonan but still carries a torch for a Yank she met in the war and the fun times she had with him.
The Orchestra Conductor. John Clements carries on with pianist Irina Baronova. Wife Valerie Hobson puts the mockers on it by pointing out to the new love her husband's string of previous affairs.
The Fugitive. German Laurence Payne, on the run from a POW camp and reluctant to go home, is aided by Joan Dowling to get to Canada. She steals money but there's only enough for one boat ticket.
The Actor. Peter Finch strangles estranged wife Mary Morris and hides her body in a trunk.
Out of these four it's the story of the orchestra conductor that probably has the most interest for modern audiences. It's played mainly for laughs and has some fascinating glimpses of a 40s TV studio. However, it's Valerie Hobson's insouciant attitude to her husband's adultery that's most striking and sparks memories of the Profumo Affair.
The acting honours go to Mary Morris who shows the sense of style that saw her through fifty years of scene stealing. Next to her, all the other characters are bland stereotypes.
Sidney Cole directed the Engine Driver section and acquits himself well. He gets nice, low-key performances from his cast in an early attempt at the sort of social realism that would dominate the 60s. This section is free of the sort of patronising of the working class that many consider to be Ealing's chief fault. This was his only attempt at directing fiction and he returned to editing and producing.
Train of Events has its merits, but it can't overcome the restrictions of the script. Within five minutes of each story starting you can predict exactly what's going to happen. Even the prospect of a big crash can't give it the surprise it needs.
Script: Basil Dearden, T.E.B. Clarke, Angus Macphail, Ronald Millar
Director: Sidney Cole, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden
Players: Miles Malleson, Philip Dale, Leslie Philips, Wylie Watson, Arthur Hambling, Percy Walsh, Will Ambro, John Gregson, Gwen Cherrell, Jacqueline Byrne, Neal Arden, Thelma Grigg, Olga Lindo, Dennis Webb, Laurence Naismith, Doris Yorke, Michael Horden, Charles Morgan, Mark Dignam, Guy Verney, Lyndon Brook, Philip Ashley, Bryan Coleman, Henry Hewitt, Johnnie Schofield
A wartime reunion turns into a hunt for the traitor who betrayed the group to the Gestapo.
Script: Michael McCarthy
Director: Michael McCarthy
Players: Donald Wolfit, Jane Griffiths, Robert Bray, Anton Diffring, Carl Jaffe, Oscar Quitak, Rupert Davies, John Van Eyssen, Karel Stepanek, Christopher Lee
A musical production is forced to open in a "haunted" theatre.
Uneasy mix of thriller and musical with neither element up to much.
Script adapt.: (o.a.) Gerald Verner
Director: David Macdonald
Players: Francis Day, Patricia Dainton, John Bentley, John Laurie, Olaf Olsen, Nora Nicholson, Harry Locke, Barry Baskcombe, Robert Urquhart, Michael Ward, Betty Hare, Ronald Leight-Hunt, Hamilton Keene, Anthony Verner, Colin Croft, Nelly Arno
An expedition to recover buried treasure is hijacked by a pirate.
Pleasant enough Disney version of the classic tale, dominated by Robert Newton as Long John Silver.
Script adapt.: Lawrence E. Watkin. (o.a. Robert Louis Stephenson)
Director: Byron Haskin
Players: Bobby Driscoll, Finlay Currie, Basil Sydney, Walter Fitzgerald, John Laurie, Francis de Wolff, Dennis O'Dea, Ralph Truman, Geoffrey Keen, Geoffrey Wilkinson, John Gregson, William Devlin, Harry Locke
Eddie Constantine and Dawn Addams are on the hunt for Nazi loot.
Too much plot and not enough action sink this thriller.
Script: Jack Andrews, Jeffrey Dell
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Players: Marius Goring, Nadine Taylor, Christopher Lee, Walter Gotell, Gaylord Cavallaro, Georgina Cookson, Willy Witte, Clive Dunn, Sheldon Lawrence, Penelope Horner, Derek Sydney, Hubert Mittendorf, Anna Turner, Leslie Hutchinson (Hutch), Tsai Chin, Steve Plytas
Following the success of Quartet, here's another compendium of Somerset Maugham short stories. The cast is less starry, but the stories are better realised.
Script adapt.: R.C. Sherriff, Noel Langley. (o.a. W. Somerset Maugham)
Director: Ken Annakin, Harold French
Players: James Hayter, Michael Horden, Nigel Patrick, Kathleen Harrison, Felix Aylmer, Lana Morris, Henry Edwards, Glyn Houston, Eliot Makeham, Harry Fowler, Anne Crawford, Naunton Wayne, Wilfrid Hyde White, Michael Medwin, Clive Moreton, Bill Linden-Travers, Jean Simmons, Michael Rennie, John Laurie, Finlay Currie, Roland Culver, Raymond Huntley, Andre Morell, Marjorie Fielding
When a strange cloud descends in the Alps, decapitated corpses are discovered.
Like The Quatermass Xperiment, this is a swift film version of a TV series; though the series never became the national obsession Quatermass was. It works, but the strains of the budget are very apparent.
Script adapt.: Jimmy Sangster. (o.a. Peter Key)
Director: Quintin Lawrence
Players: Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Warren Mitchell, Andrew Faulds, Jennifer Jayne, Janet Munro, Stuart Saunders, Frederick Schiller, Colin Douglas, Derek Sydney, Richard Golding, George Herbert, Anne Sharp, Caroline Glazier, Garard Green, Jeremy Longhurst, Anthony Parker, Leslie Heritage, Theodor Wilhelm
Technicolor Victoriana in which Jean Kent works her way up from chorus girl to duchess. It's a lively romp, but lacks the spark of greatness.
Script adapt.: Denis Freeman. (o.a. Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon)
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Players: Andrew Crawford, James Donald, Hugh Sinclair, Lana Morris, Bill Owen, Hattie Jacques, Michael Medwin, Harcourt Williams, Joan Young, Heather Thatcher, Dilys Laye, Elspet Gray, Ian Carmichael, Christopher Lee, Roger Moore, Anthony Steele, Sam Kydd
Printer dreams of being a detective and uncovers a forgery ring.
Lots of Formby fun, with Googie Withers along for the ride too.
Script: Anthony Kimmins, Angus Macphail, Michael Hogan
Director: Anthony Kimmins
Players: Garry Marsh, Gus McNaughton, Joss Ambler, Ronald Shiner, Martita Hunt, C. Denier Warren, Beatrix Fielden-Kaye, Basil Radford, Esma Cannon, Tiger Tasker
Norman Wisdom's first starring role is the template for his subsequent films. Put a gormless prat (Wisdom) into a recognisable setting (a department store), give him a girl to adore from afar (Lana Morris), a caddish rival who is up to no good (Derek Bond), a boss to annoy (Jerry Desmonde), surround him with familiar character actors (Joan Sims, Michael Ward, Esma Cannon) and let him cause havoc until the final reel when he gets the girl and the approval of his father-figure boss.
When it came out, the critics scarcely noticed it but somehow it struck a chord with the public and there were queues around the block for it. Just why is one of the great mysteries of British cinema. Granted, Wisdom had become well known for his appearances on television, but television was still a rarity in most households. He's also sharing above-title billing with Margaret Rutherford which probably helped a little. Ultimately it must come down to serendipity (and to the relative absence of any similarly gormless rival since the end of the war).
The film is still very entertaining today. Wisdom's really appealing though it's easy to see the bad habits which made his later films unendurable (begging for our sympathy, noise substituted for wit, straight singing). He's at his best when matched against his best straight man Jerry Desmonde. Desmonde spent a large part of his career as straight man to Sid Fields, so he plays effortlessly against Wisdom, and would do so in five more films.
Wisdom clowns his way through several good sequences - chasing his girlfriend's bus on roller skates, setting fire to himself at the company dinner, rounding up the gang of crooks at the end. His first meeting with his new boss is wonderful as he persuades Mr Freeman to nick cigars and booze from the big man's office without realising who Mr Freeman is. Most fun is his competition with a rival window dresser (Michael Ward). When Wisdom introduces himself as the new dresser, Ward's reply of "You? How utterly grotesque!", delivered with all the acid camp Ward can muster, makes the scene. Naturally it ends in the total destruction of the china they are displaying.
Margaret Rutherford sails through the store being gracious, trying on wonderfully ridiculous hats, and stealing everything that isn't nailed down (including the picture). Her role is scarcely more than a bit part, but she deserves star billing for the sheer magnificence of her presence and for giving us a rest from Wisdom so he doesn't wear out his welcome.
This is a funny, good-natured romp which is important for making Wisdom a star. Perfect entertainment for the seven year old in all of us.
Script: John Paddy Carstairs, Maurice Cowan, Ted Willis
Director: John Paddy Carstairs
Players: Moira Lister, Megs Jenkins, Michael Brennan
A Highland laird quarrels with the locals and bans them from his land. A visiting American gets involved with the dispute and falls for the laird's daughter.
Margaret Lockwood and Orson Welles star in this Scottish whimsy which put a nail in the coffins of their respective careers and didn't do much good for director/producer Herbert Wilcox either.
The main problem is the script which starts off as a light comedy and lurches into social melodrama. Casting Welles as the laird was also a mistake, particularly since Lockwood plays his daughter (and is older than him). He does the full ham bit as though he doesn't care. Mercifully he and Lockwood don't need to put on Scottish accents but John McCallum does and comes a cropper.
Add to the mix some appallingly fake sets and a syrupy sub-plot about a girl with polio. The American (Forrest Tucker) is secretly her dad and she pleads for him to get the road open (it's her only entertainment - you couldn't get telly in the Highlands in the early 50s). She's meant to be dying but recovers by the end. There's no explanation for this.
Script: Frank S. Nugent
Director: Herbert Wilcox
Players: Victor McLaglen, Eddie Byrne, Margaret McCourt, Archie Duncan, Ann Gudrun, Alex McCrindle, Mary Mackenzie, Jack Watling, Peter Sinclair, Janet Barrow, Albert Chevalier, George Cormack, Dorothea Dell, Grizelda Harvey, Alastair Hunter, William Kelly, Stevenson Lang, Robin Lloyd, Duncan McIntyre,
Ghastly farce in which Hy Hazell's plans to turn her cottage into a tea room are disrupted by her daughter's friends.
Script adapt.: Brock Williams. (o.a. Jane Garland)
Director: Francis Searle
Players: Robert Urquhart, Sally Smith, Garry Marsh, Vera Day, Tony Quinn, Brenda Hogan, Denis Shaw, Bill Shine, Bruce Seton
Honeymooners fall out during a trip on the yacht Turtle. Director Wendy Toye made two classic shorts but her career in features foundered on rubbish like this.
Script adapt.: Jack Davies, (o.a.) John Coates, Nicholas Phipps
Director: Wendy Toye
Players: John Gregson, June Thorburn, Cecil Parker, Keith Michell, Elvi Hale, Avice Landone, Betty Stockfeld, Jacques Brunius, Michael Bryant
An elderly aristocrat tells his son in law of his adventures with women in his younger days.
The 50s are often seen as a retrograde era when it comes to women in films. From its earliest days right up to post-war reconstruction the film industry created fabulous roles for women that spoke directly to an audience keen to see itself reflected through a glamorous mirror. Then come the 1950s something happened. Suddenly war films were in vogue, cowboy films became A-pictures and roles for women were significantly reduced to wives and girlfriends. There are many reasons for this, and many academic papers have been written describing those reasons, but whatever the reasons 50s cinema is largely unsatisfying for those looking for a Sing As We Go or a Black Narcissus or something barking mad from Gainsborough. However, there are one or two films which buck the trend and try to say something about women's lives. The Truth About Women is a feminist tract wrapped up in a great big chocolate-box bow.
At first it's unclear what The Truth About Women is about. There are echoes of The Rake's Progress and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in its structure of a central male figure and the women he encounters. Laurence Harvey is at his blandest - a pretty cypher - as the man. It's only as the film progresses that you realise it's not about him it's about them.
The first woman he meets is an ardent Edwardian feminist (Diane Cilento) anxious for a society-shocking trial marriage before attempting the real thing and more than happy to keep him if his allowance is cancelled as a result. Fate intervenes in this relationship which is largely played for laughs, and there is a succession of others but it's only when we realise Julie Harris has given up a promising art career in order to be a wife and mother that the pieces start to fall into place. All the women, no matter their circumstances, are trying to negotiate their way through society's rules on how they should behave and what they should be.
The Truth About Women is the biggest production Muriel Box got to direct. The clothes are designed by Cecil Beaton and the sets are handsome though hardly spectacular. The cast is as good as she got too. However, The Truth About Women was barely released and audiences missed it. Some of this may have been due to studio politics but some of it is undoubtedly due to the product the studio was given.
The fact is, The Truth About Women lacks sex. It needed that dash of European sauciness to lift it that Ophuls or Renoir could have provided. Harvey doesn't bring much to the table other than looks - his attempts at light comedy make him seem camp rather than nimble which is fatal to the romance. His co-stars are stuck in that clean 50s Rank Starlet groove. Only Elina Labourdette as a Parisian society hostess arranging the love lives of others rises above the crowd to give a memorable performance.
Though The Truth About Women was a failure it didn't deserve to be quite such a big failure. Critics at the time thought it was treated unfairly and they were right. Seen 60 years later, age has been kind and it seems like an interesting cultural document in the battle for women's liberation.
Script: Muriel Box, Sydney Box
Director: Muriel Box
Players: Laurence Harvey, Diane Cilento, Jackie Lane, Eva Gabor, Lisa Gastoni, Julie Harris, Mai Zetterling, Michael Dennison, Derek Farr, Roland Culver, Elina Labourdette, Wilfred Hyde White, Marius Goring, Christopher Lee, Griffith Jones, Catherine Boyle, Thorley Walters, Ernest Thesiger, Ambrosine Philpotts, Robert Rietty, Balbina, Althea Orr, Hal Osmond, John Glyn-Jones