Survey results

Best Performance of 1937

In November (and December and most of January) you were given the chance to vote for the best performance in a 1937 film. You were given five suggestions and a list of eligible films of that year. 

So, finally, here are the results:

With one vote a piece we have Rex Harrison (Storm in a Teacup), Glynis Johns (South riding), Vivian Leigh (Dark Journey), Old Mother Riley (Old Mother Riley), Flora Robson (Fire Over England), Tod Slaughter (Ticket of Leave Man).

George Arliss (Dr Syn) and Robert Donat (Knight Without Armour) share third place with two votes each.

Runner up with three votes is Anna Neagle for Victoria the Great.

And the winner is ... with a grand total of 27 votes ... Will Hay for the classic Oh, Mr Porter!.

Well, he certainly had his fans and they were very eloquent:

The Station Master of Chaos! steams up the track on the footplate for maximum points from me.

No contest! The best comic player in British films before Alastair Sim got into his stride.

There is no competition, Hay's performance is the best and it stands the test of time. The others look dated, while Hay's contribution is still fresh.

I've chosen Will Hay because his is the performance that sustains more than the others in the running. Masterful comic timing, his performance is never overshadowed, but moved to a higher level, by the excellent support of Moore Marriott and Graham Moffat. If ever I'm unfortunate enough to need a day or two off work with ill health, I reach straight for my "comfort Blanket" of the Will Hay canon of work.

This is the only performance that stands the test of time, and the film is a classic.

There were a few waverers , but they still plumped for Hay

The best comedy performance anyway, although in my opinion Anna Neagle is a close second!

Well I'm tempted to vote for The Edge of the World (1937) but I'm not sure who'd get the vote for it. So it's got to be Will Hay for Oh Mr Porter!

And the final word goes to Ian Payn who gave the survey careful consideration.

I haven't seen Dr. Syn, so can't judge Arliss. Harrison is mannered and annoying, and I always found Anna Neagle a bit hard to take. That leaves Viv and Will Hay, and quite honestly, of the two performances it's Hay that sticks in the mind. Unforgettable in his best part (Viv still had a lot to come) My vote goes to Will.

Of the other films listed for consideration, I'd like to see The Vicar of Bray again - seriously strange film. Many I have never seen at all. Old Mother Riley you can, I'm afraid, keep. And take the wretched Kitty McShane with you!

And in this month's survey you can vote for your top three Will Hay films. 

Your top ten

It's got a page to itself - here.

Oh it's him!

This month's survey was on your favourite male bit player. And it's even more contentious than last month's.

Miles Malleson - 5 votes

Maurice Denham - 4 votes

Alfie Bass - 2 votes

Finlay Currie - 2 votes

Michael Medwin - 1 vote

Charles Victor - 1 Vote

David Lodge - 1 vote

Michael Ripper - 1 vote

Harold Lang - 1 vote

Hay Petrie - 1 vote

Other names mentioned include Richard Wattis, Eric Pohlmann, Frederick Piper, Harry Towb, Roger Delgado, Michael Gough, James Hayter, Peter Illing, John Laurie, Ferdy Mayne, Noel Purcell, Cyril Chamberlain. 

Oh it's her!

Last month you were asked to vote on your favourite bit player. British cinema has never had a shortage of them so it was hard work to cut the list down to manageable proportions. Even so, this was the most contentious list in ages with many people complaining I'd left out their favourite. 

In my list I tried to only include those who never became stars or who became stars much later (Joan Hickson, Thora Hird) but there's a fine line between bit player and star character actor and I probably got it wrong. I certainly have no idea how I left out Edie Martin "overlooked and under-rated" - sorry).

Here are the votes:

Esma Cannon - 15 votes

Marianne Stone - 4 votes

Joan Hickson - 3 votes

Megs Jenkins - 3 votes

Edie Martin - 2 votes 

Dora Bryan - 2 votes

Anne Crawford - 1 vote

Flora Robson - 1 vote

Thora Hird - 1 vote

Some people made lists. I've only counted the first name they gave as their actual vote but here are the other names that were put forward: Hermione Baddley, Katie Johnson, Mary Merrill, Jean Cadell, Gladys Henson, Vida Hope (also Desmond Llewellyn and James Robertson Justice).

As you can see it was a runaway victory for Aussie pixie Esma Cannon.

whether in TVs Rag Trade or in the Carry Ons, or popping up in older films, she was always a joy

especially in SAILOR BEWARE and being serenaded by George Formby in one of his films

...rosy cheeked maid, eccentric aunt, potty old dear, nutty and lovable as a fruit cake, infectious smiles on her appearances !

But it was the remarkable career of Marianne Stone (over 200 appearances) that inspired the biggest proportion of comments.

Always makes her mark in whatever film and especially adept at world weary secretaries/personal assistants or a worried mum.

No contest ! With her immense repertoire Marianne wins it hands down. It gets to a point where you are trying to find a Britfilm of a certain period where she DOESN'T appear! Incredibly versatile and unbelievably busy - there ought to be a statue to her in the grounds at Pinewood...

And Joan Hickson has her fans too.

Forget Miss Marple: A stalwart (and a staple) of all the fondly remembered British films of one's youth.

One of the pleasures of British cinema is watching her develop as an actress from just playing maids and shop girls to stealing A Day in the Death of Joe Egg from its nominal stars.   

Best Performance of 1935

Last month you had the choice of five great performances in 1935 films and were asked to choose your favourite. Here are the votes:

Robert Donat (The 39 Steps) - 14 votes

Madeleine Carroll (The 39 Steps) - 2 votes

Seymour Hicks (Scrooge) - 2 votes

Jack Hulbert (Bulldog Jack) - 2 votes

Jessie Matthews (First a Girl) - 1 vote

Yes, it's another walkover and this time for the smooth charms of Robert Donat, the screen's best Richard Hannay.

Best director

Last month you voted for Best Director and here are the results:

Powell and Pressburger - 20 votes

Alfred Hitchcock - 6

Launder and Gilliat - 6 votes

Anthony Asquith - 2 vote

Charles Crichton - 1 votes

Marcel Varnel - 1 vote

Gerald Thomas - 1 vote

The Boulting Brothers - 1 vote

Alexander Mackendrick - 1 vote

It's an overwhelming victory for The Archers and their "cinema magic".

Who else?

With 20 films in just 18 years, at least 15 of them world class films that could stand up to anybody and are still regularly cited as inspiration today.

Their films won 5 Oscars & had 9 nominations - it's shameful that they didn't have more.

There were other candidates:

Decisions, Decisions, they are all so very good, and all with their own styles, so I'll go with "Hitch" with his attention to detail, the suspense, the twists, the turns and absorbing plots.

Lean has the most impressive body of work: Blithe Spirit; Brief Encounter; Great Expectations; Oliver Twist; Hobson's Choice; Summer Madness; Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. He was a great director and rightly amassed the prizes that international success brought him.
However, my vote goes to Launder and Gilliat. Their films captured the essential quality of the British: their eccentricity, their determination, their resourcefulness. It is pure pleasure to sit down to watch Green for Danger; I See a Dark Stranger; The Happiest Days of Your Life (Rutherford & Sim = BLISS!); The Belles of St. Trinian's and The Green Man, a late classic that they produced and scripted only.
These films are wholeheartedly British, there isn't a Richard Curtis sucking up to the Yanks moment in them. In what was truly a golden age for British cinema, Launder and Gilliat reigned supreme!

Best contribution by a non-Brit pt. II

This month you could choose which non-British actor you think made the most significant contribution to British cinema. so here are the votes:

Anton Walbrook - 22 votes

Conrad Veidt - 8 votes

Bonar Colleano - 7 votes

Greta Gynt - 5 votes

Anton Differing - 2 votes

Valerie Hobson - 1 vote

Paul Carpenter - 1 vote

Kitty McShane - 1 vote

Well it's a walkover for Walbrook, but with many of The Archers best films on his CV plus Gaslight and Sixty Glorious Years he was always going to be a strong contender.

Conrad & Bonar came close but it's got to be Anton if only for his wonderful anti-Nazi speeches in 49th Parallel & Blimp.

Can outcharm any English gentleman.

As for Conrad Veidt:

I would nominate Conrad Veidt, who surely had the most distinguished career of all with films like ROME EXPRESS, THE WANDERING JEW, I WAS A SPY, THE PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK, DARK JOURNEY, THE SPY IN BLACK etc. etc. He was of course lost to Hollywood but died at a relatively early age.

And Bonar Colleano:

"The Definitive Yank", But 'gum' chewing aside, this 'chum', shone in the screen roles that he portrayed, projecting comedy and drama, a good foil against 'British' stuffiness.

Just because I like his style....

Finally one of Greta Gynt's fans paid this rather back-handed complement:

There was something about Greta Gynt that seemed to represent all that was typical of British films of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The economical glamour, the strangulated vowels, and the pretentious acting style that the Norwegian actress brought to her predominantly routine and undistinguished Bs, is evidence of her essential contribution to British film.

Best contribution by a non-Brit

Last month you had the chance to choose which non-British artist made the most significant contribution to British cinema. This month we're doing actors, but last month we did everyone else. 

Here are the results:

Emeric Pressburger - 15 votes

Alexander Korda - 7 votes

Marcel Varnel - 3 votes

Joseph Losey - 3 votes

Other folk mentioned included Erwin Hillier, Alfred Junge, Hein Heckroth, Allan Gray, George Périnal, Stanley Kubrick and actors Jean Simmons (a Brit surely) and Anton Walbrook.

It's a bit of a walkover for Pressburger but with half a dozen or so of the best films ever made in this country on his CV that's maybe not surprising. However it was Alexander Korda who inspired the most comment.

It has to be Korda. He attempted to put British films on the international map. He was not always successful in that aim, and "classics" such as Henry VIII, Rembrandt, Things To Come etc appear to creak more than some less ambitious British films of this era. However, he did come the nearest to playing Hollywood at its own game.

The Four Feathers will remain the finest 'outdoor epic' film made, although many others come close.

I choose Alexander Korda because it is the producer that is the person that gets the film made after all. And what a difference Korda made. It took this Hungarian to give us our cinema its national character. Without him there would have been no Lawrence of Arabia. His brother Zoltan was a great director and it is a shame that his version of The Four Feathers is languishing in the £4.99 bargain section of HMV, forever forgotten. Like Emeric Pressburger, Alexander Korda was in a way " More English than the English." Today I see Robert Altman as yet another wonderful Johnny Foreigner contributing something great to British cinema. After all is this sceptred isle not based on foreign influence?

For Losey:

I opted for Losey - purely for his incisive eye which cut through British society and the class structure in the 1960s. Excellent observations from a disaffected outsider.

And Varnel:

Full credit to this Frenchman, who directed such British 'comedy classics', with the help of the usual team around him.

Why not take part in the current survey? Results of last year's survey's here.