Archive F

Follow a Star (1959)

Norman Wisdom is the prat with a great voice who can't sing in front of an audience. Jerry Desmonde is the cad who passes off recordings of Norman in the bath as his own. Silly plot gives Norman lots of chances to sing but not many to make us laugh.

Script: Jack Davies, Henry Blyth, Norman Wisdom

Director: Robert Asher

Players: Hattie Jacques, June Laverick, Richard Wattis, Eddie Leslie, John le Mesurier, Sydney Tafler, Fenella Fielding, Ron Moody, Joe Melia, Dick Emery, Jess Conrad

Folly to be Wise (1952)

The arrival of a Brains Trust-style panel show causes havoc at an army barracks. 

Star Alastair Sim frequently championed playwright James Bridie's work in the theatre. This is an adaptation of one of his plays, and isn't too bad.

Script adapt.: Frank Launder, John Dighton (o.a. James Bridie)

Director: Frank Launder

Players: Elizabeth Allan, Ronald Culver, Colin Gordon, Martita Hunt, Janet Brown, Miles Malleson, Robin Bailey, Clement McCallin, Michael Ripper, Leslie Watson, Michael Kelly, George Hurst, Cyril Chamberlain, Jo Powell, Catherine Finn, Enid McCall, Ann Varley, Myrette Morven, Harold Lang, George Cole, Martin Boddey

Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

Victorian maid blackmails her employer when she discovers he poisoned his wife.

Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger returned to England for this. It's not bad, but they've both got better films on their CVs.

Script adapt.: Dorothy Reid, Lenore Coffee, Arthur Pierson. (o.a. W.W. Jacobs)

Director: Arthur Lubin

Players: Bill Travers, Ronald Squire, Finlay Currie, Belinda Lee, Marjorie Rhodes, William Hartnell, Peter Bull, Barry Keegan, Sheila Manahan, Frederick Leister, Victor Maddern, Percy Marmont, Peter Williams

For Better, for Worse (1954)

Dirk Bogarde and Susan Stephen set up home together despite her parents' opposition. Pleasing, gentle comedy.

Script adapt.: J. Lee-Thompson, Peter Myers, Alec Grahame. (o.a. Arthur Watkyn)

Director: J. Lee-Thompson

Players: Cecil Parker, Dennis Price, Eileen Herlie, Athene Seyler, Thora Hird, James Hayter, Charles Victor, Sidney James, Pia Terry, George Woodbridge, Robin Bailey, Peter Jones, Digby Wolfe, Jackie Lane, Edwin Styles, Mary Law, Ronnie Stevens

For Ever England (1935) aka Brown on Resolution

It's 1898 and a naval officer and a young woman have a brief romantic interlude before parting forever. A few years later the woman's son joins the navy as a cadet. The first World War breaks out and his ship is sunk by a German battleship. He's rescued from the water by the Germans but he escapes to a nearby island where he delays the battleship's repair long enough for it to be discovered by a British ship captained by the naval officer. The German ship is sunk, but the young man dies. The naval officer realises the young man is the son of the woman he loved.

The star of this film is John Mills giving the first of his heroic Everyman performances. He's fresh-faced and blank-eyed, like a British version of Audie Murphy, doggedly doing his duty even when it means shooting an unarmed German in the back. 

The other actors in the drama get less chance to shine. Betty Balfour, as the mother, shows why talkies killed her career. As the young woman, she's truly dreadful, though she's better as the middle-aged mother. In fairness, her appeal in silents was similar to Mary Pickford's – a chirpy, common, can-do kind-of-a-gal. Middle-class suffering just wasn't her thing. 

In the print I've seen there's about 12 minutes missing and this might explain some of the problems of the film. The war is suddenly on, with no explanation or transition between joking around with a bunch of German sailors and killing them. Despite the mother-love V sacrifice-for-country theme there's no scene for top-billed Balfour after the war has been declared. Most annoying, there's no mention of where John Mills has come from. We have to assume that the dalliance between his mother and officer Barry Mackay produced him, but it's not stated. And it's not stated why she doesn't marry her officer. All very baffling.

What is intact is the climactic standoff between Mills and the German ship. This is truly gripping. Alone on a craggy island, he holds his enemies off long enough to triumph. Though again, we never actually see him die. And we never find out what happens to Jimmy Hanley who's in the German ship's hospital when it is sunk.

The general grind of life on board ship is shown properly, with plenty of tedious work to do to keep the ship in decent order. This sort of detail, and the battle sequences (despite some obvious model work) give For Ever England an interest that raises it about the average war film.    

Script adapt.: J.O.C Orton, Michael Hogan, Gerard Fairlie. (o.a. C.S. Forester)

Director: Walter Forde

Players: Howard Marion-Crawford, H.G. Stoker, Percy Walsh, George Merritt, Cyril Smith

Forbidden (1948)

A patent medicine seller plots the murder of his wife so he can be free to pursue a pretty young thing.

George King's last film as a director is one of his best.

Script: Katherine Strueby

Director: George King

Players: Douglas Montgomery, Hazel Court, Patricia Burke, Garry Marsh, Kenneth Griffith, Ronald Shiner, Eliot Makeham, Frederick Leister, Richard Bird, Michael Medwin, Andrew Cruickshank, William Douglas, Dora Stevening, Erik Chitty, Peggy Ann Clifford, Dennis Hawkins, Peter Jones

Forbidden Cargo (1954)

Customs man Nigel Patrick investigate smugglers Elizabeth Sellars and Terence Morgan. Nice cast, but dreary story.

Script: Sydney Box

Director: Harold French

Players: Joyce Grenfell, Greta Gynt, Jack Warner, Theodore Bikel, Eric Pohlmann, Michael Horden, Martin Boddey, Jacques Brunius, James Gilbert, Hal Osmond

Forbidden Territory (1934)

Ronald Squire is the toff whose son is imprisoned by the Russian Secret Police. He goes into Russia to bring him out.

Dennis Wheatley's first novel gets a decent production.

Still from Forbidden Territory

Script adapt.: Dorothy Farnum, Alma Reville. (o.a. Dennis Wheatley)

Director: Phil Rosen

Players: Barry Mackay, Binnie Barnes, Tamara Desni, Gregory Ratoff

The Foreman went to France (1942)

1940: the fall of France. A group of people try to stop a vital piece of machinery falling into German hands. This is a cracking comedy-drama which gave Tommy Trinder his best role in pictures.

Script adapt.: John Dighton, Angus Macphail, Leslie Arliss, Roger Macdougall, Diana Morgan (o.a. J.B. Priestley)

Director: Charles Frend

Players: Clifford Evans, Constance Cummings, Gordon Jackson, Robert Morley, Paul Bonifas, Francis L. Sullivan, Ronald Adam, Mervyn Johns, Thora Hird

Forget-Me-Not (1936)

Star tenor Beniamino Gigli has the lead in this love-triangle tale. Alexander Korda tried to use Gigli's world-wide reputation to consolidate his toe-hold in the US market but the film is just so-so and only of interest to opera buffs anxious to see Gigli.

Script: Hugh Gray, Arthur Wimperis

Director: Zoltan Korda

Players: Joan Gardner, Ivan Brandt, Jeanne Stuart, Hugh Wakefield, Allan Jeyes, Hay Petrie

49th Parallel (1941)

Powell and Pressburger's most propagandist film centres on a stranded group of Germans trying to cross Canada and get into neutral USA. The aim was to show America what a bunch of bastards the Germans were, though as usual, Powell and Pressburger couldn't resist making some of them sympathetic.

One of the main problems in production was leading lady Elisabeth Bergner's refusal to return to Britain after the Canadian exteriors were shot. She was replaced by Glynis Johns but can still be seen in some of the long shots. One of the other problems is Laurence Olivier's laughable attempt at a French Canadian accent. Despite these little upsets, this is another winner from Powell and Pressburger.

Script: Emeric Pressburger, Rodney Ackland

Director: Michael Powell

Players: Eric Portman, Leslie Howard, Anton Walbrook, Raymond Massey, Niall MacGinnis, Finlay Currie