Archive L

Lease of Life (1954)

Late role for Robert Donat about a vicar given only a year to live. Without his presence, it wouldn't be up to much.

Pressbook cover for Lease of Life

Script: Eric Ambler

Director: Charles Frend

Players: Kay Walsh, Adrienne Corri, Denholm Elliott, Walter Fitzgerald, Vida Hope, Reginald Beckwith, Cyril Raymond, Jean Anderson, Frederick Piper, John Salew

Left, Right and Centre (1959)

Ian Carmichael and Patricia Bredin are the opposing candidates in a by-election who fall in love, much to the consternation of their supporters.

Still from Left, Right and CentreStill from Left, Right and Centre

Script: Sidney Gilliat

Director: Sidney Gilliat

Players: Alastair Sim, Richard Wattis, Eric Barker, Moyra Fraser, Jack Hedley, Gordon Harker, William Kendall, Leslie Dwyer, George Benson, Frederick Leister, John Salew, Irene Handl, Jeremy Hawk, Eamonn Andrews, Gilbert Harding, Carole Carr, Josephine Douglas, Hattie Jacques, Erik Chitty, Olaf Pooley

Let George Do It (1940)

Neutral Norway - and the ukulele player in a big band is shot dead during a performance. British Intelligence arrange for replacement to be sent to investigate a ring of spies passing information about British shipping to the Nazis. However, in the blackout an innocent concert party member is mistaken for the new player and, before he knows what's happened, he's shipped off to Bergen.

Of course, the innocent abroad is George Formby; and armed with only a toothy grin, his ukulele and his invincibly gormless charm, he'll round up the spy ring, help capture a U-boat, get the girl and still have time to sing a few songs.

Let George Do It was designed to be an up-to-the-minute patriotic morale booster. The up-to-the-minute bit didn't quite work out since between the trade showing and general release Norway was invaded, so a title card was hastily inserted saying "The greater part of this story takes place in Norway . . . before the war spread". The audience didn't care since they made this one of the biggest hits of the year.

The main reason for the film's success was, of course, its star. Formby was at the height of his career and this film is a beautifully crafted vehicle which shows him off perfectly. As the ukulele player in a band his songs can be integrated into the narrative without seeming forced, the accidental-spy plot gives a lot of scope for his brand of naive blundering, and the anti-Nazi struggle provides the patriotic kick the times required.

This latter element is shown most clearly in the dream sequence where George balloons over to Germany. He hops off at a Nuremberg rally and bops Hitler in the eye. It's one of the most iconic moments in British cinema and even sixty years later it's still outrageously cheeky and strangely satisfying. 

The critics, as well as audiences, loved this film and they were right. It's entertainment all the way and deserves a place among all those realistic films such as Way to the Stars and Millions Like Us as one of the finest pictures of the war.

Script: John Dighton, Austin Melford, Angus Macphail, Basil Dearden

Director: Marcel Varnel

Players: Phyllis Calvert, Garry Marsh, Romney Brent, Bernard Lee, Coral Browne, Helena Pickard, Diana Beaumont, Torin Thatcher, Hal Gordon, Donald Calthrop, Ronald Shiner, Albert Lieven, Percy Walsh

Let Me Explain, Dear (1932)

After an accident in a river taxi, a man with a roving eye ends up with a pretty girl's necklace. When his wife discovers it, his attempts to explain escalate into impersonation and insurance fraud.

Like most farces, this is slow to get going and again like most farces would probably play better in a packed auditorium, but there are laughs to be had. Most come from hapless Claude Hulbert, dragged into the business by star Gene Gerrard.

Script adapt.: Gene Gerrard, Frank Miller. (o.a. Walter Ellis)

Director: Gene Gerrard, Frank Miller

Players: Gene Gerrard, Viola Lyel, Claude Hulbert, Jane Carr, Amy Veness, Henry Longhurst, Hal Gordon, Rebinald Back, C. Dennier Warren

Let the People Sing (1942)

Director John Baxter had two passions: Music Hall entertainers and the Working Class. J.B. Priestley's tale of locals trying to take control of their town's entertainment hall gave him the perfect opportunity to combine the two. Alastair Sim takes the lead as a Czech professor who gets involved in the struggle but it's not one of his better performances. Fred Emney steals every scene he appears in.

Script adapt.: John Baxter, Barbara K. Emery, Geoffrey Orme. (o.a. J.B. Priestley)

Director: John Baxter

Players: Edward Rigby, Patricia Roc, Oliver Wakefield, Annie Esmond, Marian Spencer, Olive Sloane, Charles Hawtrey, Aubrey Mallalieu, Wally Patch, Eliot Makeham, Ian Fleming

Let's Be Happy (1957)

An American woman blows a legacy on a trip to Europe, and is mistaken for an heiress by a Scottish lord.

Chronically dull musical only notable for being Vera-Ellen's last film. There's nothing that doesn't work, but nothing that raises any interest either. 

Script adapt.: Diana Morgan. (o.a. Aimee Stuart)

Director: Henry Levin

Players: Vera-Ellen, Tony Martin, Robert Flemyng, Zena Marshall, Guy Middleton, Katherine Kuth, Helen Horton, Jean Cadell, Gordon Jackson, Molly Weir, Peter Sinclair, Beckett Bould, Alfred Burke, Vernon Greeves, Richard Molinas, Eugene Deckers, Russell Waters, Paul Young

Libel (1959)

Dirk Bogarde is the man with the memory loss suing Paul Massie for libellously accusing him of being an impostor. The star has a good role but the drama is wildly improbable.

Still from Libel

Script:  Anatole de Grunwald

Director: Anthony Asquith

Players: Olivia de Havilland, Robert Morley, Wilfrid Hyde White, Anthony Dawson, Richard Wattis, Martin Millar, Millicent Martin, Toke Townley, Richard Dimbleby, Richard Pearson, Sam Kydd, Robert Shaw, Joyce Carey

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Only The Archers could make a war film with a sympathetic German and an incompetent British officer. And only they could make a film with such verve. 

Written, produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Players: Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr, Roland Culver, James McKechnie, Albert Lieven, Arthur Wontner, Ursula Jeans, John Laurie, Reginald Tate, A.E. Matthews, Carl Jaffe, Valentine Dyall, Muriel Aked, Felix Aylmer, Patrick Macnee

Life in Danger (1959)

Whatever happened to Derren Nesbitt? There was a time when you couldn't turn on the telly without seeing him as guest villain in The Sweeny or The Saint. Here he is at the start of his career, this time playing an innocent man who a lynch mob think is a serial killer. Maybe they had a premonition of his future performances.

Still from Life in Danger

Script: Malcolm Hulke, Eric Paice

Director: Terry Bishop

Players: Julie Hopkins, Howard Marion Crawford, Carmel McSharry

The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1919)

A Welsh lawyer works his way up from poverty to leading his country in World War One.

With the war drawing to a close, what better way to cash in on all the patriotic fervour than with a biopic of one of the triumphant leaders? That's what Harry and Simon Rowson of Ideal pictures must have thought when they began production on their epic. They spared no expense and had the blessing of their subject, so it seemed like plain sailing. But it all went hideously wrong.

Filming started late thanks to director Maurice Elvey having to reshoot some scenes of his previous film, Nelson. However, after that glitch the actual production carried on at a steady pace. The real problems were to lie away from the set.

The Rowson brothers were actually the Rosenbaum brothers. The magazine John Bull with its anti-Semitic owner Horatio Bottomley launched a campaign against the film and its makers' "pro-Hun" sympathies. The brothers sued and won, but the damage was done. Lloyd George quietly withdrew his support and the brothers were offered 20,000 to shelve the film before its release. They took the money and the film disappeared.

In 1994, the negative turned up in Lloyd George's grandson's possession. It was restored, edited and finally received a public showing in 1996. And since the film hadn't been run through too many projectors, unlike many of its contemporaries, it looks smashing.

The Rowson brothers wanted an epic and an epic is what they got. There are crowd scenes that wouldn't shame a modern big budget production. Many of the reconstructions look more like actual newsreel footage and actor Norman Page manages to pull off a good likeness of the great man.

As an "official" biopic, there's a lot that's left out. No hint of the Marconi scandal that nearly destroyed his career, for example. And certainly none of the womanising that got him the nickname of the Welsh Goat. Even so, there's a lot to fit into the film's two and a half hours.

Though the film is episodic - it was meant to be shown as a series of ten shorts - it manages to sustain its length well. It even supplies an emotional climax as the troops come home to a heroes' welcome. Not bad for a film that's over 90 years old.      

Script adapt.: Sir Sydney Low

Director: Maurice Elvey

Players: Ernest Thesiger, Alma Reville, Douglas Munro, Helen Haye, Teddy Arundell, Thomas Canning, S. Leonard Tugwell, Miriam Stuart, Eric Stuart, Beatie Belmont. As themselves: Sir William Bull, Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke.

Life with the Lyons (1954)

Film version of the radio sitcom in which Ben Lyons, Bebe Daniels and their children Barbara and Richard play Ben Lyons, Bebe Daniels and their children Barbara and Richard. Sweet, fifties fun.

Script: Val Guest, Robert Dunbar

Director: Val Guest

Players: Hugh Moreton, Horace Percival, Doris Rogers, Molly Weir, Gwen Lewis, Arthur Hill, Belinda Lee

Lilacs in the Spring (1954)

It's wartime, and a woman is injured by a bomb. Cue lots of fantasy sequences for Anna Neagle.

Script adapt.: Miles Malleson. (o.a. Harold Purcell)

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Errol Flynn, David Farrar, Kathleen Harrison, Peter Graves, Helen Haye, Scott Sanders, Jennifer Mitchell, Alan Gifford, Gillian Harrison, George Margo, Alan Taylor, Hetty King, Sean Connery

Limelight (1936)

Standard backstage musical with "Street Singer" Arthur Tracy falling for chorus girl Anna Neagle. Tracy and Neagle get loads of songs but the highlight for nostalgia buffs is Jack Buchanan doing Goodnight Vienna.

Script: Laura Whetter

Director: Herbert Wilcox

Players: Tilly Losch, Jane Winton, Ellis Jeffreys, Muriel George, Antony Holles, Ralph Reader, Alexander Field, William Freshman, Helena Pickard, Queenie Leonard, Ronald Shiner

Lisbon Story (1946)

English intelligence officer tries to keep a nuclear scientist out of the clutches of a bunch of Nazis.

Curious basis for a musical - but then they did dump the original book. They had sense enough to keep the songs, highlight of which is the kitsch classic Pedro the Fishermen. This film is believed missing.  

Script adapt.: Jack Whittingham (o.a. Harold Purcell, Harry Parr-Davies)

Director: Paul L. Stein

Players: David Farrar, Patricia Burke, Richard Tauber, Walter Rilla, Lawrence O'Madden, Austin Trevor, Paul Bonifas, Harry Welchman, Esme Percy, Noele Gordon, John Ruddock, Joan Seton, Allan Jeayes, Ralph Truman, Martin Walker, Michelle de Lys, Jan van Loewen, Uriel Porter, Hannah Watt, F. Wendhausen, Morgan Davies, Leo de Pokorny, Stephane Grappelly, Lorely Dyer, Halamar and Konarski

Little Big Shot (1952)

Following the death of his gangster father, a group of criminals tries to include a hopelessly soft-hearted idiot into their schemes. 

Ronald Shiner is one of the Nearly Men of British cinema, almost a star but somehow not quite. He started as a supporting player and ended as one, but there was a brief period where it looked like he was going to break through to the big time. He never quite made it. Little Big Shot is a good example of why. He's too knowing to be a naive innocent, too competent to be a chaotic clown and too laid back to be an energetic driver of the plot. Things happen to him, but they don't feel as though things happen because of him or because the Universe has it in for him.

He's not helped much by his supporting cast. Marie Lohr does her usual lady-of-the-manor act with more brisk efficiency than comic inspiration. She's playing stooge to a comic who doesn't really need a stooge.  The only other notable cast member is Derek Farr as the Inspector out to get our hero. He is utterly miscast in the sort of role Lionel Jeffries would be doing with ease a few years later. He's far too young for the role, hiding behind a raincoat and droopy moustache to cover his unsuitability.

There are a few laughs to be had with Little Big Shot, but it's mostly faint smile territory.

Script adapt.: John Paddy Carstairs (o.a. Janet Allen) 

Director: Jack Raymond

Players: Ronald Shiner, Marie Lohr, Derek Farr, Manning Whiley, Danny Green, Yvette Wyatt, Digby Wolfe, Marjorie Stewart, Victor Baring, Cyril Conway, Gabrielle Daye, Daphne Barker, Lawrence Douglas, Steve Knight, Arthur Dibbs, Tony Bradley

Little Red Monkey (1954)

After several scientists are killed, the only clue is the sight of a monkey at the scene of the crimes. US State Department agent Richard Conte's quest to discover the killer becomes even more urgent when a scientist defects from the East and appears to be the next target.

After a promising start the action gets bogged down, not helped by the organ music which accompanies the film which is more appropriate for an end-of-the-pier magic act than a tense thriller. 

Script adapt.: Ken Hughes, James Eastwood. (o.a. Eric Maschwitz)

 Director: Ken Hughes

Players: Richard Conte, Rona Anderson, Russell Napier, Colin Gordon, Arnold Marle, Sylva Langova, Bernard Rebel, Donald Bisset, Noel Johnson, Colin Tapley, John Horsley, Geoffrey Denys, John King-Kelly, Jane Welch, Joan Plant, Weyman Mackay, Elizabeth Wallace, Richard Marner

Living Dangerously (1936)

A US doctor's attempt to pass off the shooting of his ex-partner as self-defense is quickly seen through by his friend the DA. Then he tells his story...

Obvious, hackneyed tale which its cast can't rescue.

Script: Marjorie Deans, Geoffrey Kerr, Dudley Leslie

Director: Herbert Brenon

Players: Otto Kruger, Leonora Corbett, Francis Lister, Aileen Marson, Hartley Power, Lawrence Anderson, James Carew, Iris Hoey, Jimmy Godden, Charles Mortimer, Eric Stanley, Hubert Harben