Survey results

Best Powell and Pressburger film

38 votes cast and there's a clear winner: 

A Matter of Life and Death - 14 votes

I Know Where I'm Going - 7 votes

A Canterbury Tale - 5 votes

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - 4 votes

The Red Shoes - 3 votes

Ill Met By Moonlight - 2 votes

The 49th Parallel - 2 votes

Black Narcissus - 1 vote 

The Small Back Room - 1 vote

The Spy in Black - 1 vote

A Matter of Life and Death was always likely to win this poll: "the most perfect combination of story, visual style, music and performance ever to hit the screen", "a classic, that should be shown to secondary school children, as a good old fashioned morality tale", "its narrative and style ahead of its time".

The surprise runners up were I Know Where I'm Going and A Canterbury Tale, and it was the latter that brought the most lyrical responses: "it conjures up that place and time that never really existed except in the minds of dreamer", "little understood at the time but now viewed from a distance takes on meaning", "atmosphere, suspense and a brilliant portrayal by Eric Portman", "it improves with each viewing". 

The Red Shoes ("brilliant sets, dodgy colour, great tale, exhausted just watching at the end") and Black Narcissus did poorly.

Of P and P's fifties films, only Ill Met By Moonlight got a vote. It seems their operatic experiments, Tales of Hoffmann and Oh... Rosalinda!!, though critically rehabilitated, haven't yet found a general audience. 

Note: I've been asked why I don't include Carlton Cinema in the What's On listings. Mainly idleness. The Radio Times doesn't list satellite/digital films with terrestrial films and I can't be bothered to go through the tiny listings for each day picking out films of interest, particularly for such a small audience. They do show an interesting selection of films including recently The Wild Heart, the American version of Gone to Earth. I emailed Carlton about six months ago to ask if they could supply me with listings but they didn't reply.

Oh, and I got an apology for last month's vote rigging.

Best film of the 30s

Well I'm shocked! Someone was so keen on one of the choices that they voted more than once - so frequently in fact that I'm tempted to declare the vote null and void. Excluding those votes that are obviously dodgy (same film, 5 times within 10 minutes several times) here are the results:

Oh, Mr Porter - 10 votes

39 Steps - 9 votes

Evergreen - 4 votes

Things to Come - 2 votes

None of the other films were voted for. I might have to look into the possibility of passing a cookie to users in order to identify individual surfers. But if the ballot rigging is that obvious maybe I don't need to bother. 

The King (or Queen) of Comedy

I think we had 30 respondents to the survey. I've had difficulties with my system the last month but I don't think that's affected the count. It has affected my memory because I'm sure I offered twelve choices, ten of which got votes. Arthur Askey was one who, sadly, didn't get any votes at all but I can't for the life of me remember who the other one was. Anyway, here are the ones you did vote for:

Cicely Courtneidge: 1
Sid Field: 2
George Formby: 1
Will Hay: 5
Kay Kendall: 2
Old Mother Riley: 1
Margaret Rutherford: 5
Alastair Sim: 5`
Terry-Thomas: 5
Norman Wisdom: 3

As you can see it's a four-way tie between Will Hay, Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim and Terry-Thomas. Their supporters sum up the stars' appeal:

Will Hay: His comedies have dated far better than any other comedy films of the same period - bar none.

Margaret Rutherford: impeccable timing

Alastair Sim: peerless, subtle, infinitely various

Terry-Thomas: humour with style and panache

The runners-up got praise too, and none more so than Norman Wisdom: "a hard working genius . . . an inspiration", "Long live Norm", "a living legend". Sid Field was "years ahead of his time and influenced so much post-war British comedy" while Old Mother Riley "takes me back to my childhood when life was simple".

The only artists mentioned who weren't listed were Peter Sellars and,  conditionally, Beatrice Lillie ("had she made more British films other than On Approval").

It was probably unfair to lump together comics like Formby and Wisdom with actors like Rutherford and Sim. I'll try to do better next time. And I'll try to get the results up quicker too!

Don't Laugh at Me

Is Norman Wisdom funny? There were twenty three responses to this month's survey and virtually everyone expressed an opinion, so I've only room for a representative sample .

First the results:

5 - A True Comic Genius 11 votes  
4 - Funny Man 7 votes
3 - Average 1 vote
2 - Unfunny 2 votes
1 - As Funny as the Black Death  2 votes

It's an overwhelming vote in favour of the little man, though even those who like him have reservations ("lapses into pathos somewhat mar his style", "a bit spoiled by over-sentimentality"). Those who don't like him are more forthright ("second only to George Formby as an over-rated comic actor", "a real turn off", "begs for love more than a puppy in a dogs' home").  

Those who are in favour tend to have happy memories ("he makes you feel happy when you feel sad", "found my 3 year old daughter in hysterics watching a re-run", "He was, I remember, the best comic when he was on television shows. Hope there is someone out there able to get these shows on video or DVD").

The best, and lengthiest, summing up of Norman's career was this:

A real curate's egg of a performer. I can recall falling off my chair at the Odeon watching Norman's antics in A STITCH IN TIME which I still run on video. ON THE BEAT was quite a chuckle too, even nearly 40 years on - ah - but then what about PRESS FOR TIME and THE EARLY BIRD in which the formula failed and of course WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, his sexy one, which required cinemas to be fumigated after each showing to remove the stink. The pre 1959 films were for the most part well made, aimed at a specific market, good humoured affairs which were ideal for their time although some of them don't stand up so well today. I look back on Norman's films with a great deal of affection, but when he came to our town a couple of years ago to do a live show, I passed on attending, feeling that his antics would be irritating rather than amusing. That's the trouble with staying alive so long - people begin to feel they have to say nice things about you anyway!
In summary - I didn't always laugh at him because he was a fool - but some people did.

Please Release Me

It seems there's quite a demand for videos out there because we had a good response to this survey.

There's good news if you were looking for Night Mail, Listen to Britain or The Happiest Days of Your Life.They're available now.

The big revelation of the survey is how much demand there is out there for 30s Musical Comedies. Take My Tip and The Girl From Maxims were the films mentioned more than once. Other 30s musicals mentioned were A Girl Must Live, Waltz Time and Yes, Madam.

The Jessie Matthews' films to get a mention were The Good Companions ("It's the one major Jessie Matthews picture unavailable on video in either the U.S. or U.K.") The Midshipmaid, and Waltzes from Vienna; while Jack Buchanan scored with Goodnight Vienna, That's A Good Girl, Brewster's Millions, This'll Make You Whistle and Come Out of The Pantry.

The only individual drama to get a mention was Hyde Park Corner.

Other requests were for the Dick Barton films, Sid Field's films, and British silent film (esp. Ivor Novello and Chili Bouchier films) and Old Mother Riley films. The person requesting the complete version of London Town complained that only the chopped down version was released in the US which missed out the Daffodil Ballet. This illustrates the difference between the two countries. We have no version of London Town on release and you can bet that if we did we'd have the American print (as in the current releases of Dracula and Trent's Last Case).

Another respondent complained that the BFI have released more American silent films than British. If you don't count their compilation films then they have released only two (The Ring and The Lodger). Their record of sound films isn't much better. They're improving (witness their recent release of The Ghost Camera and The Last Journey) but they're still miles away from being an organisation that supports National Cinema. 

Hooray for the Huggetts

With 23 votes cast, there is a clear majority in favour of the films. 13 people thought they were "good clean family fun", while there were 5 votes each for "patronising drivel" and "too close to call".

The views of the Pro camp were best summed up by this voter's remarks:

I first listened to The Huggetts on radio as a child. I think Meet the Huggetts was the name of the programme. It was most enjoyable.

I now live in Australia and have revisited The Huggetts in the aforementioned movies on ABC TV and compared with some of today's movies, it really is 'Good Clean Family Fun.'

Worst British Film

Only ten replies to this survey. Seems that most of you think British films are all great! With such a small response it's difficult to draw any conclusions. No film was mentioned twice though some film makers appear more than once.

Many of the obvious contenders were mentioned: Carry On Columbus, Carry On England, Parting Shots, Absolute Beginners, the Cannon & Ball turkey The Boys in Blue, and those camp sci-fi "classics" Fire Maidens from Outer Space and Devil Girl from Mars.

Less obvious contenders were Shallow Grave, Peter's Friends, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Sliding Doors ("Another Brit film pandering to Hollywood's cultural imperialism"), Buster and Plenty.

Apart from Fire Maidens, the only pre-1960 films mentioned were Conspirator ("proves even the best talents can produce absolute stinkers"), The Love Lottery ("The only Ealing film that got remotely near to being a real dud") and Libel ("highly improbable and just plain confusing").

The only real conclusion is that you don't like Art. Derek Jarman only has one film mentioned (Jubilee), but the other Film Artists get a slating. "Anything directed by Peter Greenaway" came from one respondent, plus mentions of Z and Two Noughts and The Pillow Book by others. Another respondent gave Gothic, The Music Lovers, and "Anything else by Ken Russell". 

The only other film careers to be slated were "All that Merchant Ivory Junk and anything based on Barbara Cartland"

The Best British Film

Our version of the BFI's list of Best British Films may not have the numbers the BFI's has but it certainly has the diversity. Here's the top 10.

1. The Third Man

2. I Know Where I'm Going

3. Goldfinger

4. Zulu

5. Brief Encounter

6. Carry On Up the Khyber

7. Dracula

8. Hamlet (Branagh)

9. Kind Hearts and Coronets

10. The 39 Steps   

Some of the other films mentioned by only one voter were Jason and the Argonauts, The Red Shoes, Much Ado About Nothing, London Town, Trouble in Store, Hell Drivers.

The list is not very different from the BFI's list with only Hamlet and Dracula from our top 10 missing from their list. Many people rate the war years as the peak of British film making but to judge from both these surveys, it's the 60s that has really made a lasting impact on audiences.

Apologies again to those who voted in November if your vote has not been included. 

The Great British Sex Symbol (Male)

With 30 votes cast here are the ones on the list (* denotes a photo link):

1. Robert Donat * - 7

2. Bill Travers * - 6

3. (joint) Rex Harrison * and James Mason * - 5

5. Dirk Bogarde * - 2

6. (joint) Stanley Baker * and David Farrar * - 1

There were no votes for Michael Craig * , Stewart Granger * or Richard Todd.

A couple of people mentioned Roger Livesey * and there was a vote a piece for Sid Field * and Frank Randle!

Stewart Granger's lack of votes comes as a surprise and I'm not going to think about the Sid Field/Frank Randle thing.  

The Great British Sex Symbol (Female)

With the technical problems the site has over the last month, I apologise if a few votes have gone astray. 

With 43 votes cast the result is as follows (* denotes a photo link):

1. Joan Greenwood * - 10 votes

2.(joint) Margaret Lockwood* and Patricia Roc* - 7 votes

4. Kay Kendall * - 6 votes

5. Jean Simmons * - 5 votes

6. (joint) Glynis Johns * and Jean Kent* - 3 votes

8. Diana Dors * - 2 votes 

Neither Deborah Kerr nor Jessie Matthews* scored any votes. 

Shirley Eaton * was mentioned by two voters as being missing from the list and I'm surprised with myself for leaving her out. The other two mentioned with a single vote each were the two Kathleens: Ryan* and Byron.

The main factor in Joan Greenwood's decisive win was her voice which several voters mentioned as being a turn-on. Margaret Lockwood's lusty villainy was her chief strength while for others it was the imagined virginity of Patricia Roc that attracted.

It all goes to show that variety is the spice of life. Next, we'll find the sexiest man. 

The best film of the War Years

With 50 votes cast the result is as follows:

1. Went the Day Well? - 12 votes

2. In Which We Serve - 11 votes

3. Gasbags - 8 votes

4. Henry V - 6 votes

4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - 6 votes

6. Millions Like Us - 4 votes

7. Two Thousand Women - 3 votes

A narrow win for Went the Day Well? which, like its nearest rival, benefited from a recent television screening. It's not a film that forms part of any cinematic canon, and it made no impact on its first release, but its reputation has grown over the years largely because people have discovered it on TV and been astounded by its uncompromising attitude.

"Uncomfortable viewing" and "a marvellous view of England from an outsider who dared to show that when push came to shove, we all had this in us - even genteel old ladies".

Gasbags makes a surprisingly strong showing at number 3. The Crazy Gang are not to everyone's taste and at least one of you thought it didn't belong in the same list as the other films but clearly there are fans out there.

From the 10 choices only The Man in Grey, My Learned Friend and Night Train to Munich failed to score. Night Train has an excuse since I failed to mention it in the introduction though it was on the drop-down menu; The Man in Grey is a load of old tosh; but Will Hay's last film is one of the greatest comedy/thrillers and should have been placed.

The other films all have their supporters:

Henry V - ". . . a celebration of England's Elizabethan past and also her ability, backs to the wall and all that, to find the resources to make this film", "the most imaginative Shakespeare film ever"

Colonel Blimp - "Excellent camera work and a powerful script; especially considering when it was made", "how did they get away with it?"

Millions Like Us - "any film with Patricia Roc in it has to be a classic"

Two Thousand Women - "one of the best cat fights in British cinema"

Why not take part in the current survey