Archive R


Rhodes of Africa (1936)

Walter Huston plays the title role in this impressively-staged biopic of the imperialist. Attitudes to Rhodes have changed so much since this film was made that it is difficult to enjoy without thinking of the misery his actions lead to in Southern Africa.

Still from Rhodes of Africa

Script adapt.: Michael Barringer, Miles Malleson, Leslie Arliss. (o.a.) Sarah Millin

Director: Berthold Viertel

Players: Oscar Homolka, Basil Sydney, Peggy Ashcroft, Frank Cellier, Renee de Vaux, Bernard Lee, Lewis Casson, Glennis Lorimer, Ndaniso Kumala

Rhythm in the Air (1936)

A riveter, working on a high building, takes a shine to a pretty young thing from the dance studio opposite. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm leads to a fall and a couple of broken ankles. The pretty young thing encourages him to take up tap to help his recovery and, when he finds he's developed a fear of heights, wangles him a job in the show she's starring in. Now he's only a few tippy-tap steps from stardom and romance. Will he get the lead and the girl? Of course, it's a musical!

This unlikely tale is loosely based on star Jack Donohue's real-life story. Once he was a skyscraper builder before injury forced him into a tap-dancing rehabilitation regime and leads in such musicals as Sunny, Rosalie and one of the Ziegfeld Follies. He was billed as the World's Fastest Tap Dancer, but his chief claim to fame is as the man who taught Eleanor Powell to tap.

In this film he is partnered by his real-life wife Tutta Rolf. Between his inability to carry a tune and her Nordic accent the songs are murdered, but they weren't worth saving anyway. What counts is the dancing and they generally deliver the goods. In the romantic numbers they come across like a cut-price Fred and Ginger, but in the livelier numbers they do well. He's like a big, friendly lumberjack and it's impossible not to warm to him as he taps like a wild thing.

Also along for the ride are Vic Oliver as an impresario, Leslie Perrins as the nasty choreographer, and best of all a brief turn by an uncredited Terry-Thomas as the drunken lead who needs to be replaced. He may be about twenty years away from stardom, but already his screen persona is fully formed.

Rhythm in the Air, despite its American star, was never going to compete with the best of the Hollywood musicals but it is an amusing way to spend an hour or so.

Script: Jack Donohue, Vina de Vesci

Director: Arthur Woods

Players: Kitty Kelly, Tony Sympson, Peter Popp, Charles Carson

Rich and Strange (1931)

A uptight young couple come into some cash and spend the money on a round the world trip that turns out more adventurous than they hoped.

This is possibly Hitchcock's weirdest film but it has bags of charm and a lot of the playfulness that would become his trademark.

Photo on the set of Rich and Strange

Script adapt.: Val Valentine, Alma Reville, Alfred Hitchcock. (o.a. Dale Collins)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: Henry Kendall, Joan Barry, Percy Marmont, Betty Amann, Elsie Randolph, Hannah Jones, Aubrey Dexter

Richard III (1911)

Utterly uncinematic front-of-stalls filming of F.R. Benson's Stratford Memorial Production. It does however provide a fascinating glimpse of pre-war stage practise. 

Script: William Shakespeare

Players: Frank Benson, Constance Benson, Eric Maxon, Violet Fairbrother, Murray Carrington, Alfred Brydone, Harry Caine, Moffat Johnston, Marion Rathbone

Richard III (1955)

A duke schemes his way to the throne, but can't hold on to it.

Olivier's performance is one of the most parodied in cinema history, but that's because it's so memorable.

Poster for Richard III

Script adapt.: Alan Dent (o.a. William Shakespeare)

Director: Laurence Olivier, Anthony Bushell

Players: John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Alec Clunes, Claire Bloom, Cedric Hardwicke, Norman Wooland, Stanley Baker, Laurence Naismith, Pamela Brown, Mary Kerridge, Helen Haye, John Laurie, Esmond Knight, Michael Gough, Andrew Cruickshank, Clive Moreton, Nicholas Hannen, Russell Thorndike, Paul Huson, Stewart Allen, Wally Bascoe, Norman Fisher, Terence Greenidge, Dan Cunningham, Douglas Wilmer, Michael Ripper, Andy Shine, Roy Russell, George Woodbridge

The Ring (1927)

Fairground boxer "One Round" Jack Sanders (Carl Brisson) gets beaten to a bloody pulp by a challenger who turns out to be the famous boxer Bob Corby (Ian Hunter). Despite this whipping, Jack is asked to join the same boxing stable as Bob. Jack's girlfriend (Lillian Hall Davis) gets the hots for Bob and carries on fancying him even after she marries Jack. Jack becomes aware of this and as he battles his way up the billing the stage is set for a final showdown with Bob.

That's the plot of what Hitchcock described as his second "Hitchcock" film and as you can tell, there are few of the elements we would recognise as essentially Hitchcock. There are no murders, no innocent young men on the run, the girl's even a brunette. Indeed, apart from setting the climax in a recognisable place (the Albert Hall) there's nothing here to suggest it's directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Nothing - except for the fact that it is excellent.  

The film is full of the little touches and details that turn an ordinary story into memorable cinema: best man Gordon Harker picking his nose in church, the champagne going flat, the way the bracelet given to the girl snakes through the narrative. Best of all are the authentic-seeming details of life in the twenties particularly the fairground sequences and the very ordinary wedding feast.

The film's sexual politics are so antediluvian as to be refreshing. The girl (she's not given a name in the credits though some sources call her Nelly) changes her affections from one man to the other depending on which is on top, with no conscience. Few films have endorsed the Alpha-male theory with such enthusiasm.

Script: Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Players: Forrester Harvey, Harry Terry, Gordon Harker, Billy Wells

River Beat (1954)

A police operation to foil diamond smugglers nets a young America radio operator used to unknowingly move the goods from a ship into London. Since she can recognise the next link in the chain, the gang gets nervous.

Not massively exciting, but it does feature a lot of location shooting in Docklands London which at least adds colour to the background.

Script: Rex Rienits

Director: Guy Green

Players: Phyllis Kirk, John Bentley, Robert Ayres, Ewan Roberts, Leonard White, Harold Ayer, Glyn Houston, Charles Lloyd Pack, David Hurst, Patrick Jordan, Margaret Anderson, Isabel George, Michael Balfour 

The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)

D.H. Lawrence's weird short story is brought to the screen by Anthony Pelissier. John Howard Davies is the lad who predicts races by putting himself in a trance while riding the rocking horse. Valerie Hobson and John Mills are among the actors desperately trying to ignore Lawrence's sexual symbolism. A minor classic.

Still from The Rocking Horse Winner

Script adapt.: Anthony Pelissier. (o.a. D.H. Lawrence)

Director: Anthony Pelissier

Players: Ronald Squire, Hugh Sinclair, Charles Goldner, Susan Richards, Cyril Smith, Michael Ripper 

The Rocks of Valpré (1919)

On holiday in France, a young English girl is helped by a French soldier conducting some secret research. Trapped by the tide with him overnight, her reputation is ruined and her guardian sends her back to England. The soldier's research is stolen and used by a rival, and when he protests he is himself accused of the theft. Disgraced, he ends up in England where he is given a helping hand by a man who has married the young girl. Can he and the girl ignore their passion in gratitude to their protector?

 Romantic tosh enlivened by the fabulous Torbay locations and some decent performances.

Script adapt: R Byron-Webber (o.a. Ehel M Dell)

Director: Maurice Elvey

Players: Basil Gill, Peggy Carlisle, Cowley Wright, Humberston Wright, Barry Bernard, Hugh Dabernon-Stoke, William Saville, Winifred Sadler 

Rogue's Yarn (1956)

A man murders his rich invalid wife taking care to establish a perfect alibi. A Scotland Yard detective carefully unpicks the alibi to get his man.

Basically an episode of Columbo which is rather undermined by Elwyn Brook-Jones as one of the dullest detectives ever to appear on screen.

Script: Ernie Bradford, Vernon Sewell

Director: Vernon Sewell

Players: Derek Bond, Nicole Maurey, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Hugh Latimer, John Serret, John Salew, Joan Carol, Nigel Fitzgerald, Madoline Thomas, Agatha Carroll, Barbara Christie, Hugh Morton, John Helier, Eric Corrie, Vernon Sewell 

Rome Express (1932)

The classic train thriller looks a little faded now but still entertains. It set the pattern for all the ones that followed: set up a death and a McGuffin (stolen painting), add a detective (Frank Vosper), pack the train with suspects (Conrad Veidt, Joan Barry, Esther Ralston, Cedric Hardwicke) and let it roll.

Still from Rome Express 

Script: Sidney Gilliat, Clifford Grey, Frank Vosper, Ralph Stock

Director: Walter Forde

Players: Gordon Harker, Harold Huth, Donald Calthrop, Hugh Williams, Muriel Aked, Finlay Currie, Eliot Makeham

Rookery Nook (1930)

A married man tries to hide a fugitive girl from both her family and his.

The first of the Aldwych farces to be filmed with much of its original cast intact. It was a big hit in its day which still raises laughs, and also acts as a useful record for students of theatre history.

Script adapt.: W. P. Lipscomb, (o.a.) Ben Travers

Director: Tom Walls

Players: Ralph Lynn, Tom Walls, Winifred Shotter, Mary Brough, J. Robertson Hare, Ethel Coleridge, Griffith Humphreys, Margot Graham, Doreen Bendix

The Roof (1933)

On the eve of WWI, a German businessman entrusts some jewels to his English friend in case his long lost son returns. 20 years later, a lot of people are after them.

Complicated whodunit which rattles along briskly to little effect.

Script adapt.: H Fowler Mear (o.a. David Whitelaw)

Director: George A Cooper

Players: Leslie Perrins, George Zucco, Judy Gunn, Russell Thorndike, Michael Hogan, Ivor Barnard, Eliot Makeham, Barbara Everest, Leo Britt, DJ Williams, Hector Abbas, Cyril Smith

Room at the Top (1958)

A young man in a Northern town aims to better himself by using the women around him.

The angry young man theatre revolution of the 50s hit the screen for the first time with this gritty drama. Its success launched a string of sexed-up kitchen sink dramas and converted Laurence Harvey from an average leading man into star. It also brought Simone Signoret a richly-deserved Best Actress Oscar.

Script adapt.: Neil Paterson. (o.a. John Braine)

Director: Jack Clayton

Players: Donald Wolfit, Heather Sears, Donald Houston, Allan Cuthbertson, Hermione Baddeley, John Westbrook, Raymond Huntley, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Richard Pasco, Beatrice Varley, Delana Kidd, Mary Peach, Miriam Karlin, Wilfrid Lawson, Ian Hendry, Prunella Scales, Katherine Page, Thelma Ruby, Anne Leon, Wendy Craig, Anthony Elgar, Kenneth Waller, Anthony Newlands, Andrew Irving, Stephen Jack, April Olrich, John Welsh, Everley Gregg, Basil Dignam, Derren Nesbitt

The Root of All Evil (1947)

Poor Jeckie Farnish! She's madly in love with Albert and he's in love with her. But he has to go away for a while, and the bailiffs are sniffing around her father's farm. She goes to her future father-in-law for help, but he wants nothing to do with a penniless nobody. Before she knows what's hit her, the farm's sold and Albert has married another. What's a girl to do? Simple: sue for breach of promise, use the money to set up a rival business, and bankrupt the git.

But Jeckie soon finds that money can't guarantee happiness...

This Gainsborough melodrama was loathed by the critics when it first came out - and it's still loathed. Put the blame on first time director Brock Williams. As a writer he had a steady, if unspectacular career, but it was as script editor he really made his mark with several of the best Gainsborough melodramas. However he couldn't transfer his skills to directing.

The film has no sense of period. I'm assuming it's a period piece since the cars look vaguely 20s to my unpractised eye and no one mentions the war. The action must take place over several years so it can't be immediately post-WWII, but the female fashions are 40s. Anyway, it's a mess.

The production design is also a mess, with all the outdoor scenes shot in the studio with little attempt to hide the ludicrous painted backdrops. Few films of the period have looked so shoddy.

None of this would matter if the acting and story gripped. But they don't. As Jeckie, star Phyllis Calvert is mis-cast and her interpretation seems to vary from line to line. This is as much a criticism of the inept editing as it is of her. She's too laid-back an actress to portray someone so driven, but at least she looks like she could run a business effectively.

As the main rivals for her hand reliable John McCallum (in his British debut) and caddish Michael Rennie are adequate. One of the few highlights is a fist fight between the two. Herbert Gregg as Albert is so far down the cast list that you know he was never going to be a contender.

Hazel Court as Jeckie's sister wins the prize for the worst performance, but that could also be due to editing. She also looks surprisingly plain, with the lighting favouring star Calvert in every scene. Her main competition is Diana Decker, as a flighty hotel maid, who looks so like Court in many scenes as to render the plot incomprehensible. Only Moore Marriott impresses as a disgruntled farmer cheated by Calvert.

This film would never have won over the critics, who were wedded to realism at the time, but it also failed with the audience. They recognised a turkey when they saw one. It hasn't improved with age.

Script adapt.: Brock Williams. (o.a. J.S. Fletcher)

Director: Brock Williams

Players: Brefni O'Rourke, Arthur Young, Reginald Purdell, George Carney, George Merritt, Pat Hicks, Bryan Herbert, Rory McDermott, Michael Medwin.

Rough Shoot (1952)

Yank import Joel McCrea is the innocent caught up in a spy ring in the sort of film Hitchcock use to make in the 30s.

Script adapt.: Eric Ambler. (o.a. Geoffrey Household)

Director: Robert Parrish

Players: Herbert Lom, Evelyn Keyes, Marius Goring, Roland Culver, Karel Stepanek, Frank Lawton, Patricia Laffan, Megs Jenkins, David Hurst, Laurence Naismith, Cyril Raymond, Joan Hickson

A Run for Your Money (1949)

Minor Ealing comedy about a couple of Welsh miners who win a competition to go up to London for the England v Wales match. Not bad but not an Ealing classic.  

Script adapt.: Charles Frend, Leslie Norman, Richard Hughes, Diana Morgan. (o.a. Clifford Evans)

Director: Charles Frend

Players: Donald Houston, Meredith Edwards, Moira Lister, Alec Guinness, Hugh Griffith, Clive Moreton, Leslie Perrins, Joyce Grenfell, Edward Rigby, Julie Milton

Rynox (1931)

Rynox is a company in trouble and its chairman is being threatened by a mysterious man. When the chairman is killed, his son has to solve the mystery of his father's death and save the company.

This is the first of Michael Powell's quota-quickie films to survive. On its first release it was liked by the critics, who were particularly taken by the surprise ending. Now it looks like a load of old tat, with a bunch of actors behaving illogically and the twist is almost ludicrously obvious.

Script: Jerome Jackson, Michael Powell, Philip MacDonald, J. Jefferson Farjeon

Director: Michael Powell

Players: Stewart Rome, John Longden, Dorothy Boyd, Charles Paton, Leslie Mitchell, Sybil Grove, Cecil Clayton, Edmund Willard