Archive M

Mad About Men (1954)

Glynis Johns is back as the glamorous mermaid in this jolly sequel to Miranda

Script: Peter Blackmore

Director: Ralph Thomas

Players: Margaret Rutherford, Donald Sinden, Anne Crawford, Dora Bryan, Nicholas Phipps, Peter Martyn, Noel Purcell, Irene Handl, Joan Hickson, Judith Furse, David Hurst, Martin Miller, Derrick Guyler, Anthony Oliver, Harry Welshman, Meredith Edwards, Marianne Stone, Douglas Ives, George Woodbridge, Lawrence Ward, Dandy Nichols, Stringer Davis

Madeleine (1949)

True story of Madeleine Smith, who was tried for murdering her lover in Victorian Glasgow. The famous aspect of this case is that the verdict was "Not Proven". The film takes no stand as to her guilt or innocence, and Ann Todd as Smith conveys the ambiguity by being completely expressionless. A rare flop from director David Lean.

Script: Stanley Haynes

Director: David Lean

Players: Andre Morell, Norman Wooland, Ivan Desny, Leslie Banks, Edward Chapman, Barbara Everest, Barry Jones, Elizabeth Sellars, Jean Cadell, Ivor Bernard, Patricia Raine, Eugene Deckers, Amy Veness, John Laurie, Susan Stranks, Kynaston Reeves

Madness of the Heart (1949)

The Madness of the Heart is nothing to the madness of the scriptwriter in this overheated bit of tosh.

The film opens in a nunnery and the nuns are just finishing off a service. As they troop out of the chapel we notice the organ player is Margaret Lockwood. Instantly, we realise she's blind because she's holding her head in that stiff-necked, straight-ahead sort of way that is the unmistakable sign of blindness (at least it is in the movies - real life is slightly different). Another nun tells her the Mother Superior wants to talk to her and, while she waits, she thinks back to how she got to the nunnery.

She's at an airport when her vision goes blurry and when it comes back the first thing she sees is concerned Frenchman Paul Dupuis. They bump into each other a few moments later and again when she realises that her boss Maurice Denham whom she's followed on urgent business is there to meet Dupuis. Back at the office she has another headachy-blurry attack in front of Denham (who's a doctor). He instantly knows it's serious and gives her a week off while he arranges an appointment with a specialist for her. 

During that week, she and Dupuis fall in love. About time too judging by her diary which seems to have been completely empty before she started filling it with such entries as "Danced all night with Paul" and "Paul all day!". Still, all good things must come to an end and Paul returns to France for a bit. Lockwood promptly goes blind.

The specialist is not hopeful. Indeed he's downright miserable. There's an operation which has a 100 to 1 chance of restoring her sight, but she might be a vegetable after it, and anyway, he's not going to do it. So, it's off to the nunnery and end of flashback.

She has her chat with the Mother Superior. The bottom line is she's rubbish as a nun and should get out. Luckily, her old boss arranges for Dupuis to meet her again and the romance is back on. So, they get married and it's off to France for a happy-ever-after ending. At least it would be if we weren't only twenty minutes into the film. 

Lockwood has to cope with Dupuis's murderous ex-girlfriend, a disloyal servant and a father-in-law with an unenlightened attitude to disability. Through it all she's assisted by loyal old retainer Thora Hird. As the sole representative of the British working class Hird is patronised mercilessly by Lockwood and ignored by everyone else. Lockwood introduces her with "This is Rosa . . . She knows I can't afford her, but she just won't go". It's a good job Thora Hird refuses to swear on screen. 

The ex-girlfriend is played by Kathleen Byron. After her big hit with Black Narcissus she should have expected a decent film career, but she kept being given vengeful loony roles like this.  

The film's main claim to fame is that it was the first attempt at directing by writer Charles Bennett. He also adapted the novel by Flora Sandstrom on which the film is based. Bennett is best known for his collaboration with Hitchcock on many of his best early films such as Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The 39 Steps. Clearly doing both writing and directing was too much for Bennett.

There's fun to be had watching this film if you're in the right mood, but it doesn't have quite the right sort of madness to make it a classic bad film, or the right sort of heart to make it a classic good film.

Script adapt.: Charles Bennett. (o.a. Flora Sandstrom)

Director: Charles Bennett

Players: Maxwell Reed, Raymond Lovell, David Hutcheson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Peter Illing, Jack McNaughton, Pamela Stirling, Marie Ault, Marie Burke

Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944)

Gainsborough melodramas never got more barking than this. It's Italy and Phyllis Calvert is the respectable wine merchant's wife who, thanks to a childhood assault, has developed a split personality where she is a gypsy dancer who steals, and shags Stewart Granger. Her daughter Patricia Roc gets involved in the deception and it all ends as badly as a Jacobean tragedy. Fab!

Still from Madonna of the Seven MoonsStill from Madonna of the Seven Moons

Script adapt.: Roland Pertwee, Brock Williams. (o.a. Margery Lawrence) 

Director: Arthur Crabtree

Players: Jean Kent, John Stuart, Peter Glenville, Nancy Price, Peter Murray Hill, Dulcie Gray, Eliot Makeham

The Maggie (1953)

This Ealing comedy is now half-forgotten thanks to a lack of the "usual suspects" in the cast. American Paul Douglas has the lead and is surrounded by a bunch of Scots character actors busily outwitting him as he tries to get some valuable cargo transported in the Western Isles. Well worth watching.

Still from The Maggie

Script: William Rose

Director: Alexander Mackendrick

Players: Alex Mackenzie, James Copeland, Tommy Kearins, Abe Barker, Hubert Gregg, Geoffrey Keen

The Magic Bow (1946)

The willing suspension of disbelief was never more needed than when Stewart Granger took on the role of Paganini in this Gainsborough biopic. Bless him, he does his best, and doesn't fall quite as hard as Dennis Price in The Bad Lord Byron. Phyllis Calvert has the thankless role of the woman who redeems him by arranging for him to play for the Pope.   

Script adapt.: Roland Pertwee, Norman Ginsbury. (o.a. Manuel Komroff)

Director: Bernard Knowles

Players: Dennis Price, Jean Kent, Cecil Parker, Felix Aylmer, Frank Cellier, Marie Lohr, Henry Edwards, Mary Jerrold, Betty Warren, Eliot Makeham

The Magic Box (1951)

How William Friese-Greene pioneered the moving picture.

This all-star bio-pic was made by the film industry as part of its contribution to the Festival of Britain. It features just about every well-known actor of the period.

Script adapt.: Eric Ambler. (o.a. Ray Allister)

Director: John Boulting

Players: Robert Donat, Margaret Johnson, Maria Schell, John Howard Davies, David Oake, James Kenney, Renee Asherson, Richard Attenborough, Robert Beatty, Edward Chapman, John Charlesworth, Maurice Colbourne, Ronald Culver, Michael Denison, Joan Dowling, Henry Edwards, Mary Ellis, Marjorie Fielding, Robert Flemyng, Leo Genn, Marius Goring, Everley Gregg, Joyce Grenfell, Robertson Hare, Kathleen Harrison, William Hartnell, Joan Hickson, Thora Hird, Stanley Holloway, Patrick Holt, Michael Horden, Jack Hulbert, Sidney James, Glynis Johns, Mervyn Johns, Barry Jones, Peter Jones, James Kenney, Ann Lancaster, Herbert Lomas, John Longden, Bessie Love, Miles Malleson, Gary Marsh, Muir Mathieson, A.E. Matthews, John McCallum, Bernard Miles, Richard Murdoch, Laurence Olivier, Cecil Parker, Frank Pettingell, Norman Pierce, Eric Portman, Dennis Price, Michael Redgrave, Peter Reynolds, Margaret Rutherford, Jeanette Scott, Ronald Shiner, Sheila Sim, Madam Slobodskaya, Marianne Stone, John Stuart, Basil Sydney, Ernest Thesiger, Sybil Thorndike, David Tomlinson, Cecil Trouncer, Michael Trubshaw, Peter Ustinov, Frederick Valk, Amy Veness, Charles Victor, Kay Walsh, Norma Watson, Emlyn Williams, Harcourt Williams, Googie Withers, Joan Young   

The Magnet (1950)

A young James Fox cheats a friend out of a magnet but gives it to charity in a fit of conscience. Technically, this is an Ealing comedy but it's the one everyone prefers to ignore. It's not a patch on Hue and Cry.

Script: T.E.B. Clarke

Director: Charles Frend

Players: Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh, Meredith Edwards, Gladys Henson, Wylie Watson, Thora Hird, Harold Goodwin, Joan Hickson, Sam Kydd

Major Barbara (1941)

Rex Harrison and Wendy Hiller are the nominal stars of this talky version of the Shaw play, however it was Robert Newton who made the biggest impression as the wife-beating drunk. The plot concerns Salvation Army lass Barbara's dilemma as to whether to accept a large donation from her armament-manufacturer father. When it was first performed in 1905 the moral was clear but the film was made during WWII when things were a lot more muddy.

Script adapt.: Anatole de Grunwald, George Bernard Shaw. (o.a. George Bernard Shaw)

Director: Gabriel Pascal

Players: Robert Morley, Emlyn Williams, Sybil Thorndike, Deborah Kerr, Marie Lohr, Donald Calthrop, Felix Aylmer, Stanley Holloway, Torin Thatcher, Kathleen Harrison, Mary Morris, Miles Malleson, Edward Rigby

Malta Story (1953)

Starry cast (Alec Guinness, Flora Robson, Jack Hawkins and many others) tell how the island of Malta came to be awarded the George Cross in W.W.I.I.

Still from Malta StoryStill from Malta Story

Script: William Fairchild

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: Muriel Pavlow, Anthony Steel, Renee Asherson, Hugh Burden, Nigel Stock, Reginald Tate, Ralph Truman, Rosalie Crutchley, Michael Medwin, Ronald Adam, Jerry Desmonde, Noel Willman, Michael Craig