Archive B

The Beachcomber (1954)

Robert Newton takes on the Charles Laughton role in this re-make of Vessel of Wrath. He's the drunk in South Seas who a missionary (Glynis Johns) tries to reform. It's fun and is probably director Muriel Box' most popular film.

Still from The Beachcomber

Script adapt.: Sydney Box. (o.a. W. Somerset Maugham)

Director: Muriel Box

Players: Paul Rogers, Donald Sinden, Michael Horden, Donald Pleasence, Walter Crisham, Auric Lorand, Tony Quinn, Ah Chong Choy, Ronald Adam

Beat Girl (1959)

Teenager Gillian Hills goes wild in the coffeehouses of Soho and dad David Farrar has no idea how to handle her.

The usual hysterical nonsense given a kick by the great music.

Script: Dail Ambler

Director: Edmond T Greville

Players: Christopher Lee, Noelle Adam, Adam Faith, Shirley Ann Field, Peter McEnery, Claire Gordon, Nigel Green, Delphi Lawrence, Oliver Reed, Carol White, Christina Curry, Pasqualine Justana

Beat the Devil (1953)

A bunch of ne'er-do-wells double cross each other over some uranium mines.

Though it's all a bit too in-jokey for some, the cracking cast of Hollywood stars deliver some quirky entertainment.

Script: Truman Capote, John Huston

Director: John Houston

Players: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Edward Underdown, Ivor Barnard, Bernard Lee, Marco Tulli, Mario Parroni, Alex Pochet, Aldo Silvani, Manual Serano, Guilio Donnini, Saro Urzi, Juan de Landa, Mimo Poli 

Beau Brummell (1954)

Stewart Granger is the fop with the hots for Liz Taylor. An entertaining romp through Regency times.

Script adapt.: Karl Tunberg. (o.a. Carl Fitch)

Director: Curtis Bernhardt

Players: Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, James Donald, James Hayter, Rosemary Harris, Raul Rogers, Noel Willman

Beauty and the Barge (1937)

A young woman makes her getaway from an unwanted engagement with the help of an old barge skipper.

Bucolic comedy filmed largely on location with a lot of familiar faces developing their shtick.

Script adapt.: H. Fowler Mear, (o.a. W.W. Jacobs)

Director: Henry Edwards

Players: Judy Gunn, Gordon Harker, Jack Hawkins, Margaret Rutherford, George Carney, Ronald Shiner, Michael Shepley, Margaret Yarde, Sebastian Smith, Margaret Scudamore, Anne Wemyss, Frank Bertram, Hal Walters, Harry Terry  

Bed and Breakfast (1930)

In order to catch their partners cheating, two people follow them to a country retreat but are forced to pretend they're a couple when misunderstandings arise.

The stage farce struggles with the new talkie equipment but does provide some laughs. The highlights are a silly dance with Ian Wilson and Alf Goddard, and Jane Baxter in her underwear.

One of the films retrieved by the Missing Believed Lost hunt.

Script adapt.: H Fowler Mead. (o.a. Frederick Witney)

Director: Walter Forde

Players: Jane Baxter, Richard Cooper, Sari Maritza, David Hawthorne, Alf Goddard, Cyril McLaglen, Muriel Aked, Frederick Volpe, Ruth Maitland, Mike Johnson, Ian Wilson, Matthew Boulton, Alexander Gilletto

Bed and Breakfast (1936)

The tangled lives of those living and working in a boarding house.

The low budget, low ambition end of quota production, only notable for providing one of Mabel Poulton's last roles.

Script: Frank Miller

Director: Walter West

Players: Barry Lupino, Mabel Poulton, Frank Miller, Daphne Courtney, Florence le Roy

Bedelia (1946)

Margaret Lockwood is the perfect housewife who's already killed three husbands and is getting ready to bump off number four.

A rare instance of an American-set novel being adapted for an English setting. Dross it may be, but it's fun dross.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Vera Caspary, Herbert Victor, Isadore Goldsmith, Moie Charles, Roy Ridley

Director: Lance Comfort

Players: Anne Crawford, Ian Hunter, Barry K. Barnes, Jill Esmond, Julien Mitchell, Louise Hampton, Kynaston Reeves, Barbara Blair, John Salew, Beatrice Varley, Olga Lindo, Ellen Pollock, Vi Stevens, Al Gold & Lola Cordell

Bees in Paradise (1944)

It always seems like a great script idea - why not strand our heroes in a land dominated by women! That way you can have fun with contemporary morality, hold a distorting mirror up to society and have lots of lovely ladies wandering around in next to nothing. It's a sure-fire recipe for a cinematic hit.

Yet every time it's been tried, it's produced a stinker. Think of Zsa Zsa Gabor as Queen of Outer Space or its British equivalent Fire Maidens From Outer Space. How about It's Great to be Alive which put the major Hollywood studios off science fiction for twenty years. Add Bees in Paradise to this list of disasters.

A plane crew (Arthur Askey, Peter Graves, Max Bacon and Ronald Shiner) are forced to crash on an uncharted island. The colony is ruled by Antoinette Cellier, but there's trouble in Paradise Island. The men are refusing to do their duty because they are killed after a couple of months of marriage, and the population is dropping alarmingly. The arrival of four relatively healthy men who don't know the rules stirs up the colony.

Chunky Anne Shelton has the hots for Arthur, but he's more interested in Jean Kent. She, on the other hand, gets involved with ... oh who cares! The plot is ghastly, the jokes fall flat and the songs stink. Most of the people involved in this turkey were part of the sparkling Miss London Ltd a year earlier. So why did this fail so totally?

It must be the Curse of the Amazon Women. After congratulating themselves for coming up with such an "original" idea it seems everyone gave up trying. Arthur Askey suffered most from this stinker and didn't film again for about ten years. Anne Shelton didn't fare much better.

The only thing in favour of this film is that it's forgettable. Most of the people involved with it would rather you did forget it, or, if it's not too late, avoided it all together. So, if it comes up on telly, do yourself and them a favour and switch off.

Script: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest

Director: Val Guest

Players: Joy Shelton, Beatrice Varley, Joy Millan, Patricia Owens.

Behind the Headlines (1956)

A blackmailing blonde is murdered and rival reporters battle to break the story ahead of the police and each other.

It's an interesting enough programmer enlivened by the presence of Adrienne Corri and Hazel Court as rivals for the affections of Paul Carpenter.

Script adapt.: Allan Mackinnon. (o.a. Robert Chapman)

Director: Charles Saunders

Players: Paul Carpenter, Adrienne Corri, Hazel Court, Alfie Bass, Ewen Solon, Harry Fowler, Trevor Reid, Olive Gregg, Marianne Brauns, Gaylord Cavallaro, Marian Collins, Sandra Colville, Tom Gill, Magda Miller, Arthur Rigby, Colin Rix

Bell-Bottom George (1943)

Hapless idiot accidentally joins the navy and uncovers a nest of spies.

Below par Formby vehicle.

Script: Peter Fraser, Edward Dryhurst, John L Arthur

Director: Marcel Varnel

Players: Ann Firth, Reginald Purdell, Peter Murray Hill, Charles Farrell, Eliot Makeham, Manning Wiley, Hugh Dempster, Dennis Wyndham, Jane Welsh, Peter Gawthorne, Felix Aylmer, Ian Fleming

Bella Donna (1934)

Mary Ellis is the bored housewife out East who falls for sinister Conrad Veidt and is persuaded to bump off her husband.

This is one of the films turned up by the BFI's Missing Believed Lost search, and only exists with Czech subtitles.

Script adapt.: H. Fowler Mear. (o.a. Robert Hichens)

Director: Robert Milton

Players: Cedric Hardwicke, John Stuart, Michael Shepley, Jeanne Stuart, Rodney Millington

The Belles of St Trinian's (1954)

Alastair Sim gives British cinema's classic drag performance as headmistress of the world's worst girls' school. Ronald Searle's cartoons are brought triumphantly to life by Launder and Gilliat.

Script: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat, Val Valentine

Director: Frank Launder

Players: George Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Hermione Baddeley, Betty Ann Davies, Beryl Reid, Renee Houston, Irene Handl, Joan Sims, Guy Middleton, Sidney James, Richard Wattis, Arthur Howard, Eric Pohlmann, Andree Melly, Belinda Lee, Jerry Verno, Diana Day, Michael Ripper

The Bells Go Down (1943)

Auxiliary firemen fight the blitz. Authentic-seeming look at an iconic period of 20th century British history. Casting stars such as Tommy Trinder and James Mason slightly lessens the impact, particularly when compared with Fires Were Started.

Script adapt.: Roger Macdougall. (o.a. Stephen Black)

Director: Basil Dearden

Players: Mervyn Johns, Philip Friend, Finlay Currie, Philippa Hiatt, Billy Hartnell, Meriel Forbes, Beatrice Varley, Muriel George, Norman Pierce, Lesley Brook, Julien Vedey, Richard George, Victor Weske, Leslie Harcourt, Frederick Culley, Stanley Lathbury, Johnnie Schofield, Leslie Dwyer, Alfie Bass, Sydney Tafler, Patricia Dainton

The Big Blockade (1941)

The war years are the glory period for British cinema. Though production slumped due to war-time restrictions, the quality soared. Every inch of celluloid was a precious commodity and film-makers made every frame count. Classic after classic was made - but not every film made during the war was a classic. The Big Blockade is definitely not a classic.

The Big Blockade was made at the behest of the Ministry for Economic Warfare. It was designed to illustrate how Britain was isolating Germany and hampering their war effort. It's part lecture, part docu-drama, part jolly comedy, but as a whole it just doesn't work.

The whole film feels like an exercise in whistling in the dark. It reminds one of that old newspaper headline "Fog in Channel - Continent Isolated". There are many scenes telling the audience how much the German people were suffering from the blockade - far worse than the rationing Brits were enduring. Really. Honest. Would we lie to you?

This was a message the country needed to hear, and so loads of stars were enlisted to make this a must-see movie. There was plenty of official co-operation too, with appearances by such worthies as Hugh Dalton and David Bowes-Lyon. It's this cast list that forms the main appeal for modern audiences too, but it's poor compensation for a dull shapeless film.

Will Hay appears as a ship's captain in what is his only non-comic role. He and Bernard Miles defend their ship from an enemy plane while discussing the merits of the new system for licensing ships. It's a way of brightening up a tedious subject, but it really doesn't succeed. It does however illustrate a certain breezy British attitude to adversity.

The film's highlight is the bombing raid on a German factory. Michael Rennie, John Mills and a few other British stalwarts get the job done despite getting hit. It's not a bad sequence, but it's been done many, many times since and frequently better.

Audiences at the time lapped it up, but it doesn't really work these days. There's a certain novelty value in seeing the likes of Robert Morley and Thora Hird Hiel Hitlering. She's a stroppy railway cafe waitress and far closer to her current acting persona than the chipper lass she did in Went The Day Well.

Ultimately The Big Blockade feels like a rehearsal for all the classics to come. The cheapness of the production makes the whole thing feel paper-thin. It feels as authentic as the ersatz rubber the bombed factory was producing.

Script adapt.: Angus Macphail, Charles Frend

DirectorCharles Frend 

Players: Leslie Banks, Michael Redgrave, Frank Cellier, Alfred Drayton, Marius Goring, Austin Trevor, Morland Graham, Albert Lieven, John Stuart, Joss Ambler, Michael Wilding, David Evans, George Woodbridge, Leif Konow, Peter de Greff, Cyril Chamberlain, Percy Walsh, George Merritt, Bernard Rebel, Charles Minor, Lawrence Kingston, Quentin Reynolds, James Knight, Griffith Jones, Stewart Rome, Elliot Mason, Frank Owen

Big Fella (1937)

Paul Robeson and Elisabeth Welch are re-united in this tale of the Marseilles waterfront. Joe (Robeson) helps find a kidnapped boy but when he does the boy threatens to say Joe kidnapped him if he tells. The plot isn't up to much but it's the chemistry between the stars and the singing that counts. Robeson gets several rousing songs, but Welch gets the best one: One Kiss. 

Poster for Big Fella

Script adapt.: Fenn Sherrie, Ingram d'Abbes. (o.a. Claude McKay)

Director: James Elder Wills

Players: Eldon Grant, James Hayter, Marcelle Rogez, Roy Emerton, Joyce Kennedy, Eric Cowley, Lawrence Brown, Margaret Rutherford (uncredited)

The Big Money (1956)

A family of crooks are shamed by the incompetence of their son: Ian Carmichael.

Script: John Baines, Patrick Campbell

Director: John Paddy Carstairs

Players: Belinda Lee, Kathleen Harrison, James Hayter, Jill Ireland, Robert Helpmann, George Coulouris, Renee Houston, Michael Brennan, Leslie Phillips, Harold Berens, Digby Wolfe, Hugh Morton, Ferdy Mayne, Michael Balfour, Desmond Jeans

Birds of Prey (1930)

A death occurs in a big country mansion. Can a young couple prove it was murder and reveal the culprits?

A title in the opening credits proudly proclaims:

Stars of the British Stage and Screen photographed and recorded under American supervision and produced by Basil Dean in England in the second Associated Radio Picture.

If you take the Basil Dean out of that, that's pretty much a definition of the quota quickie, and this may well be the very first of that dread quota genre: the country house mystery.

Everything is pretty much as expected: crusty old military man, mysterious strangers, a pair of spectacularly uninteresting lovers, perfunctory attempt to open out the action to make it seem less stagey. The only thing really missing is the borderline-offensive portrayal of the working class servants. The other difference is that this is less a whodunit than a willtheygetawaywithit - and of course, this being a 30s British film, they won't.

Basil Dean does his best to open out the action, but he was always a theatre man at heart and he can't resist the lure of stagey dialogue. There are a couple of sequences with a scrap of paper the villain needs to be destroyed and later when the heroine needs to delay him and get him to confess, that could have worked with a Hitchcock or a Forde directing, but Dean relies on theatrical reveals rather than editing to get his effects and they could have been so much better.  

For modern audiences though the film is at its best showing lovely country vistas, vintage motorcars (which weren't vintage at the time) and a quaint village fair. The outdoor scenes are very nice and there are no issues with the sound which is impressive for 1930. It's just when it goes indoors it all drags. And it drags for an hour and a half which is way too long for this sort of thing.

Dorothy Boyd and Frank Lawton as the young lovers have nothing to do but investigate haphazardly. The actors are game enough but the script gives them nothing. They're already a couple so there's no development in the relationship and they get along in that sexless way couples do in these films, which makes you wonder if they'll have the slightest clue what to do on their wedding night. Maybe a nice game of cribbage to while away the hours.

The other function of the quickie was to act as a showreel for the participants. Hollywood soon snapped up Lawton to play bright young idiots and C Aubrey Smith and Nigel Bruce to play old duffers. They didn't spot the one person in the cast who would become a major star: Jack Hawkins. This was his first film and he only gets a couple of undistinguished lines which he delivers adequately enough. It's easy to see how he was overlooked.

Basil Dean thought big and grand, so he would probably have hated the idea that any of his films would get lumped in with the despised quota quickies, never mind act as a template for them. But he should have made a better film.

Birds of Prey picture

Script adapt.: Basil Dean, (o.a.) A.A. Milne 

Director: Basil Dean

Players: Dorothy Boyd, Frank Lawton, Warwick Ward, Robert Lorraine, C Aubrey Smith, Ellis Jeffries, Nigel Bruce, Jack Hawkins, Tom Reynolds, Audrey Carten

The Birthday Present (1957)

Tony Britton tries to get a watch through customs but gets caught. Oh, the disgrace! What was once a gripping examination of contemporary morality now seems hopelessly quaint.

Script: Jack Whittingham

Director: Pat Jackson

Players: Sylvia Syms, Geoffrey Keen, Jack Watling, Walter Fitzgerald, Howard Marion Crawford, Lockwood West, Harry Fowler, John Welsh, Ian Bannen, Thorley Walters, Malcolm Keen, Frederick Piper, Cyril Luckham, Ernest Clark