Archive I


Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

Small group of Brits get separated from the army during the desert campaign and have to make their way through the desert to Alexandria. In their midst is Anthony Quayle who claims to be South African but might be working for the Germans. Leading the group is John Mills, fighting to keep off the bottle and giving one of his best performances. Classic war film that ages well.

Poster for Ice Cold in Alex

Script adapt.: T.J. Morrison, (o.a.) Christopher Landon, J. Lee Thompson

Director: J. Lee Thompson          

Players: Harry Andrews, Sylvia Syms, Diane Clare, Richard Leech, Liam Redmond, Allan Cuthbertson, David Lodge, Frederick Jaeger, Peter Arne, Vivian Pickles

An Ideal Husband (1947)

Paulette Goddard came to Britain to play Mrs Chevely in Korda's version of the Oscar Wilde play. She gets fine support from the cream of British film industry: Hugh Williams, Diana Wynyard, C. Aubrey Smith. Not as light as it might have been, but this was always Wilde's darkest play.

Script adapt.: Lajos Biro. (o.a. Oscar Wilde)

Director: Alexander Korda

Players: Michael Wilding, Glynis Johns, Constance Collier, Christine Norden, Harriette Johns, Michael Medwin 

Ill Met By Moonlight (1956)

Dirk Bogarde leads the Cretan resistance. Not bad as these things go, but a definite sign of Powell and Pressburger's decline as inventive film makers.

Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Players: Marius Goring, David Oxley, Cyril Cusack, Laurence Payne, Michael Gough, John Cairney, Brian Worth, Demitri Andreas 

The Impassive Footman (1932)

When a rich hypochondriac actually gets ill, he finds the one doctor who can save him is the man his wife's been carrying on with. Meanwhile his servant watches everything.

This minor quota-quickie is a standard High Society tale made interesting by the undercurrents of class tension that run through it. Allan Jeayes's portrayal of the vindictive millionaire is matched with George Curzon's footman, who views his master's machinations with horror but can't risk doing anything to lose his job in the middle of the Depression.

Betty Stockfeld works heroically to make her character a real person. She battles against a script littered with clichés but her biggest handicap is having to play opposite Owen Nares as her lover. He still retains the remnants of his silent film days when he was one of the biggest matinee idols of his day. He wanders about this film with an air of depression as though he's more interested in mourning his lost looks than engaging with the script.

Script adapt.: John Farrow, John Paddy Carstairs, Harold Dearden. (o.a Sapper)

Director: Basil Dean, Graham Cutts

Players: Aubrey Mather, Frances Ross-Campbell, Florence Harwood

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Wonderfully theatrical version of Wilde's play. Most of the performances have become definitive, particularly those of the women (Joan Greenwood, Dorothy Tutin, Margaret Rutherford, and especially Edith Evans)

Script adapt.: Anthony Asquith. (o.a. Oscar Wilde)

Director: Anthony Asquith

Players: Michael Redgrave, Michael Denison, Miles Malleson, Richard Wattis, Aubrey Mather, Walter Hudd, Ivor Bernard 

In Which We Serve (1942)

Written by, Starring, and Co-directed by Noel Coward. He even wrote the music. But this is by no means a one man show. The Torrin has been torpedoed and some of the survivors clinging to a life raft remember the people they left at home. It was perfect propaganda at the time, now it gives us one of the best pictures we have of Britain at war.

Script: Noel Coward

Director: Noel Coward, David Lean

Players: John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Joyce Carey, Kay Walsh, Michael Wilding, Robert Sansom, Ballard Berkley, Kathleen Harrison, Wally Patch, Richard Attenborough, Leslie Dwyer, Daniel Massey, Everley Gregg, Juliet Miles

Indiscreet (1958)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman circle each other in this graceful romantic comedy.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Norman Krasna

Director: Stanley Donen

Players: Cecil Parker, Phyllis Calvert, David Kossoff, Megs Jenkins, Oliver Johnston, Michael Anthony, Frank Hawkins, Richard Vernon, Eric Francis, Diane Clare

The Informer (1929)

An IRA man turns informer and hands over a hated colleague to the British army.

Excellent adaptation of the play.

Script adapt.: Benn W. Levy, Rolfe E. Vanlo. (o.a. Liam O'Flaherty)

Director: Arthur Robinson

Players: Lars Hanson, Lya de Putti, Carl Harbord, Warwick Ward, Janice Adair, Dennis Wyndham, Mickey Brantford, Daisy Campbell, Craighall Sherry, Ellen Pollock, Johnny Butt

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

Missionary Gladys Aylward heads for China and finds herself having to smuggle a group of children over the border to safety.

Great afternoon movie with an impressive performance from Ingrid Bergman and a final farewell from Robert Donat.

Still from Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Script adapt.: Isobel Lennart. (o.a. Alan Burgess)

Director: Mark Robson

Players: Curt Jurgens, Ronald Squire, Athene Seyler, Noel Hood, Richard Wattis, Joan Young, Moultrie Kelsall, Peter Chong, Michael David, Edith Sharpe, Burt Kwouk, Tsai Chin

Innocents in Paris (1953)

British tourists go to Paris.

There are too many stories for comfort in this ensemble piece, but with a cast like this there's always going to be a memorable gem or two. There's also a lot of location shooting so you can always look at the quaintness of 50s Paris if the action gets a little dull.

Script: Anatole de Grunwald

Director: Gordon Parry

Players: Alastair Sim, Ronald Shiner, Margaret Rutherford, Claire Bloom, Claude Dauphin, Laurence Harvey, Jimmy Edwards, James Copeland, Mara Lane, Gaby Bruyère, Monique Gérard, Gregoire Aslan, Peter Illing, Colin Gordon, Kenneth Kove, Philip Stainton, Peter Jones, Richard Wattis, Reginald Beckwith, Alf Goddard, Frank Muir, Stringer Davis, Georgette Anys, Albert Dinan, Louise de Funès, Miles Joyce, Christopher Lee, Peter Randall, John Brooking, Joan Winmill, Kenneth Williams 

An Inspector Calls (1954)

J.B. Priestley's spooky drama is brought to the screen in a workmanlike fashion by director Guy Hamilton. It's 1912 and a policeman calls at the family home of Arthur Birling to investigate the suicide of one of his former workers. His investigations reveal that each member of the family had contributed to the girl's death. Or did they?

The play stands or falls on the performance of the actor playing the Inspector. The film gives Alastair Sim one of his best-remembered roles. The rest of the cast give nice performances but there's only one star.

Set photo of An Inspector Calls

Script adapt.: Desmond Davies (o.a. J.B. Priestley)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Players: Arthur Young, Olga Lindo, Eileen Moors, Bryan Forbes, Norman Bird, George Woodbridge

Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941)

A police inspector is given a routine case instead of the spy case he wanted, but he ends up uncovering a spy ring anyway.

Third, last and probably the best of the Inspector Hornleigh series with Gordon Harker as the Inspector and Alastair Sim as his dour assistant Sergeant Bingham. They should have made more. 

Script: Frank Launder, Val Guest, J.O.C. Orton

Director: Walter Forde

Players: Phyllis Calvert, Edward Chapman, Raymond Huntley, Charles Oliver, Percy Walsh, David Horne, Peter Gawthorne, Wally Patch, Betty Jardine, O.B. Clarence, John Salew, Cyril Cusack, Bill Shine, Sylvia Cecil, Edward Underdown, E. Turner, Marie Makine, Richard Cooper

The Iron Duke (1935)

Two years in the life of the Duke of Wellington from the build-up to Waterloo to its political and personal aftermath.

The success of The Private Life of Henry VIII resurrected the moribund genre of the historical biopic. Within a couple of years there were films on Nell Gwyn, Catherine the Great, Francis Drake, Cecil Rhodes and many others. The Iron Duke was part of this trend.

With Wellington one of the most famous characters in British history and Waterloo one of the most important battles in history this should have been a winner, but the script muffs it. Waterloo occupies the centre of the film leaving the rest to deal with intrigue in the French court over the execution of Marshall Ney and disquiet at home over the lack of war reparations. That's no way to build to a thrilling climax.

In essence, The Iron Duke is a star vehicle for George Arliss and as such is fatally misconceived. Arliss was twenty years older than Wellington was at this period and it shows. There is a scene where he has to walk through a ballroom to the general admiration of the crowd. Hunched with age and taking delicate little steps he looks like someone heading to the Post Office to pick up his pension rather than the head of an army on the eve of war. He's also about a foot shorter than anyone else in the cast. The best that can be said of his performance is that it's sprightly, and that's not a quality one immediately associates with the Duke of Wellington.

Arliss' presence must account for the second half of the film. He gets to reunite a pair of star-crossed lovers (bit of an Arliss cliché, that one) and has several big speeches. The most interesting one is given in the House of Commons in which he explains why sticking the French with a big reparations bill would be ill-advised in the long run. This must have had resonance with 30s audiences who could see the rise of Hitler.

The Iron Duke is probably historically accurate - it's too dull to be anything else. Sets and costumes are lovely and the re-enactment of Waterloo quite exciting, but there's little else to recommend it. It's telling that a film about Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington has no room for Napoleon. Presumably there was room for only one star role in this production - or maybe there was no one available short enough to make Napoleon seem shorter than the Duke.

Poster for The Iron Duke

Script adapt.: Bess Meredyth

Director: Victor Saville

Players: Gladys Cooper, Emlyn Williams, Ellaline Terriss, A.E. Matthews, Allan Aynesworth, Lesley Wareing, Edmund Willard, Franklin Dyall, Felix Aylmer, Gibb McLaughlin, Peter Gawthorne, Norma Varden, Walter Sondes, Campbell Gullan, Gyles Isham, Frederick Leister, Gerald Lawrence

The Iron Petticoat (1956)

A female Russian pilot lands in the West and an American tries to convince her of the merits of Capitalism.

The fatal teaming of Katherine Hepburn and Bob Hope scuppered this attempt at a Cold War Ninotchka, though it does seem to be in the middle of a critical reassessment at the moment. Goodness knows why!

Script: Ben Hecht

Director: Ralph Thomas

Players: James Robertson Justice, Noelle Middleton, Robert Helpmann, David Kossoff, Paul Carpenter, Sidney James, Alexander Gauge, Sandra Dorne, Alan Gifford, Richard Wattis, Tutte Lemkow, Martin Boddley, Nicholas Phipps, Doris Goddard, Maria Antippas

Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? (1953)

An American pilot's honeymoon in London is interrupted by the appearance of his first wife - who insists they're still married.

In the early 50s, British cinema faced the problem of what to do with Diana Dors. Clearly the public were interested in her - at least if the acres of newspaper headlines were any guide - but the industry at the time preferred its female stars to be nicely spoken, well behaved and, above all, sexless. Diana Dors certainly couldn't manage the last two of those so finding a vehicle for her talents was a struggle. Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary was part of that struggle.

It began life as a stage farce and was adapted for cinema by Talbot Rothwell. He would, of course, go on to write some of the best of the Carry Ons but here he seems to do just a simple opening-out exercise. There's an opening scene set at an airport (with lots of shots of a shiny new US Military aircraft), a quick jaunt out into the fog-bound street and a few scenes relocated to other rooms in the hotel, but it's clear that this farce was staged on one sitting-room set.

Director Maurice Elvey does his best to keep things going, but he's defeated by the low-budget restrictions of the material. He gets competent performances out of his cast but none of them raise their game sufficiently to make the script fly. Dors can't make much of her character's lack of consistency, which wouldn't be a problem if the action moved faster, but there's far too much space allowed for the audience to wonder "why did they do that?" at vital moments in the proceedings. Even her physical charms remain covered for most of the film in a plain suit that could have done with another fitting.

British cinema never really solved the Dors Problem.

Script: Talbot Rothwell (o.a. E V Tidmarsh)

Director: Maurice Elvey

Players: Bonar Colleano, David Tomlinson, Diana Decker, Sidney James, Macdonald Parke, Audrey Freeman, Hubert Woodward, Lou Jacobi, Eileen Sands, Warren Stanhope, Peter Butterworth, C Denier Warren, Michael Nightingale, Charles Stanley

Isn't Life Wonderful (1952)

Pleasant comedy set in 1902 in which the black sheep of the family (Donald Wolfit) is set up in a bicycling business.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Brock Williams

Director: Harold French

Players: Cecil Parker, Eileen Herlie, Robert Urquhart, Dianne Foster, Eleanor Summerfield, Peter Asher, Fabia Drake, George Woodbridge