Archive W


The Wicked Lady (1945)

The most popular film of its year. This archetypal Gainsborough melodrama was loathed by critics - who may have had a point. It's silly and badly made but it has an energy rarely found in British costume dramas. Margaret Lockwood has the title role as the woman who steals her best friend's fiancée in order to get rich and then, when she gets bored with country life, becomes a highwayman. Along the way she gets to shag fellow highwayman James Mason.

Still from The Wicked Lady

Script adapt.: Leslie Arliss, Aimee Stuart, Gordon Glennon. (o.a. Magdalen King-Hall)

Director: Leslie Arliss

Players: Griffith Jones, Patricia Roc, Michael Rennie, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Felix Aylmer, David Horne, Martita Hunt, Emrys Jones, Jean Kent 

A Will and a Way (1922)

A life-long bachelor discovers he's due an inheritance only on condition he agrees to accept the first woman to propose to him.

Hugely enjoyable rural comedy. 

Script adapt.: Lydia Hayward. (o.a. W.W. Jacobs)

Director: H. Manning Haynes

Players: Ernest Hendrie, Polly Emery, Johnny Butt, Cynthia Murtagh, Charles Ashton

Windbag the Sailor (1936)

A pub bore, who's navigated nothing more challenging than the local canal, is tricked into taking charge of a rusty old ship so that its owner can scuttle it for the insurance.

Windbag the Sailor is a pleasant comedy which passes the time easily enough, but its real significance is that this is the first film featuring British comedy's dream team: Will Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. Like many of the best cinema teams, they came together purely because they were under contract to the same studio at the same time. Though they're not at the top of their game here, it's clear that they work well together.

Will Hay has the title role as man whose boasts and blather get him into a position of authority for which is is entirely unsuited. It's a part that plays to his strengths - hardly surprising given his above-the-title status. The film opens with one of his tall stories, so blatantly ridiculous that no one in their right minds would believe it, and the whole audience knows he's just riding for a fall. Even at this early stage of the film Marriott and Moffatt, a.k.a. Harbottle and Albert, are there undermining his authority and puncturing his pomposity.

Soon he's off on a voyage to Norway - via the South Seas - ready to face mutineers, cannibals and stowaways (no prizes for guessing which pair of ne'er-do-wells stow away!). Much of the action is filmed on location, which might surprise those who insist that British films of this period were studio-bound, though admittedly the south sea island coastline looks strangely British. This certainly helps the shipboard sequences, though it does show up the island sequences when the production finally abandons the effort to dress Britain to look exotic and moves back into the studio.

Windbag the Sailor is too leisurely to really hit the comic heights, but it points the way to future glories. 

Script adapt.: Leslie Arliss, Robert Edmunds, Marriott Edgar, Val Guest

Director: William Beaudine

Players: Norma Varden, Dennis Wyndham, Amy Veness, Kenneth Warrington, Napoleon Florent, George Merritt, Arthur Marshall

Windom's Way (1957)

End-of-empire tale with Peter Finch as the dedicated doctor trying to persuade Malay villagers to oppose a communist take-over. Not bad if you like that sort of thing.

Script adapt.: Jill Craigie. (o.a. James Ramsey Ullman)

Director: Ronald Neame

Players: Mary Ure, Natasha Parry, Robert Flemyng, Michael Horden, John Cairney, Gregoire Aslan, George Margo, Kurt Siegenberg, Olaf Pooley

Wings of the Morning (1937)

A gypsy girl has ambitions to train a Derby winner.

The plot comes across as a cross between National Velvet and a Gainsborough melodrama, but if you're in an indulgent mood it can pass the time. Its chief claims to fame are as Britain's first Technicolor feature, and for featuring an impossibly young Henry Fonda.

Script: Tom Geraghty, John Meehan, Brinsley Macnamara, Donn Byrne

Director: Harold Schuster

Players: Annabella, Leslie Banks, Edward Underdown, Stewart Rome, Harry Tate, Irene Vanbrugh, Helen Haye, Mark Daly, Sam Livesey, John McCormack, Steve Donohue, Hermione Darnborough, E.V.H. Emmett, D.J. Williams, Pat Noonan, Philip Frost, Emmanuelo, Nicholas Nadejine, Evelyn Ankers

The Winslow Boy (1948)

Anthony Asquith's film of Terence Rattigan's play about a stolen postal order is one of cinema's great courtroom dramas. It also gives Robert Donat one of his best ever roles as the battling QC defending young naval cadet Neil North.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Terence Rattigan, Anatole de Grunwald, Anthony Asquith

Director: Anthony Asquith

Players: Margaret Leighton, Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Radford, Francis L. Sullivan, Marie Lohr, Jack Watling, Frank Lawton, Walter Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Hyde White, Kynaston Reeves, Ernest Thesiger, Lewis Casson, Stanley Holloway, Cyril Ritchard, Mona Washbourne, Dandy Nichols, Noel Howlett, Aubrey Mallalieu

The Woman for Joe (1955)

Look for it in film histories and you won't find it mentioned. It made little impact on its first release and hasn't been championed by trendy academics since. Even Halliwell didn't bother to list it (though his successor has added it the current issue). This is a pity because The Woman for Joe is one of those rarities: a truly, irredeemably, awful film.

Joe (George Baker) runs a carnival side-show, but business is bad. He gets his acts together and persuades them to stump up enough money to buy a new attraction: a midget. The midget, George (Jimmy Karoubi), soon becomes a big hit and he and Joe become firm friends. George discovers barmaid Mary (Diane Cilento) and persuades Joe to hire her. This is because George has the hots for her, but naturally she goes all gooey-eyed over Joe. When Joe realises that he, too, loves Mary he has to decide whether to betray his friend or deny his love.

The film opens with footage of a real fair (Nottingham Goose Fair) but soon cuts to the studio set. This cruelly shows up the sort of painted backdrops that even Alfred Hitchcock would have been embarrassed by. Even without this unfortunate juxtaposition, Technicolor and Vistavision would have exposed the poverty of the production design.

Casting in these sort of films is always difficult. You can either get non-acting circus folk or you dress up actors to look the part. Thus veteran actress Violet Farebrother has to don a fat-suit to play the fat lady while the strong man is played by Man Mountain Dean, who couldn't even act "Man who stands still and says nothing" let alone the dialogue the script gives him.

Among the well-known actors in this mess are David Kossoff, doing his familiar kindly, old buffer act; and an unintentionally hilarious Sydney Tafler as a punch-drunk boxer. Actors Miriam Karlin, Joan Hickson and Terence Longden get lucky - they're uncredited.

Mention should go to one of those middle-class stage-school brats playing a cockney urchin who breaks in at one point to deliver some bad news. He only has two lines but they're both delivered in such a dreadful "Gor Blimey, Strike a light" accent that you know he grew up to be Dick Van Dyke's dialogue coach.

Of the three principals, Diane Cilento comes off worst. She's saddled with a middle-European accent and more make-up than Lily Savage. She also has to do an act singing to a bunch of performing lions that gives kitsch a bad name. Dietrich might have pulled it off, Cilento looks like she's praying to be eaten.

Even the best performers need a decent script. Shame they got this one. Here's the moment when Joe and Mary declare their love for each other:

JOE: Ma says you're in love with me.

MARY: Yes Joe. And Ma says you're in love with me too.

JOE: That's right.

MARY: Oh, Joe.

The guilty person is Neil Paterson on whose short story the script is based. Let's hope the actors beat him up at the wrap party.

In a love triangle where the principals are all such decent people there is only one way out: the midget has to die. He does this not by heroically saving Mary's life as you might expect, but by falling during his trapeze act. This is the shoddiest piece of business in the film. The film cuts from Karoubi falling (towards a net out of shot) to a reverse angle shot of him doing a handstand from which he quickly collapses onto the ground. Even without the benefit of video playback it's laughably obvious.

It's possible that his fall was suicide rather than an accident, since he probably got the message that Mary didn't love him when she hired the same midget whore he'd previously rejected as his 21st birthday present from Joe (Don't ask - you don't want to go there!). At least it means we only have a quick deathbed scene to get through and the film is over.

Poetic realism in the movies is a tough trick to pull off. Few films have tried and failed so totally as The Woman for Joe.

Pressbook for The Woman for Joe

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

Director: George More O'Ferrall

Players: Earl Cameron, Patrick Westwood, Derek Sydney, Verna Gilmore, Martin Miller, Meier Tzelnicker, Frank Paulo, Amy Veness, Jill Ireland, Arthur Lowe

Woman Hater (1948)

A young lord has a habit of persuading his friends to avoid matrimony because he believes women are not to be trusted. When a French actress arrives in town declaring she's though with men, he decides to prove she's a liar by allowing her the opportunity to seduce him.

It must have seen like a winner on paper. Who better to play the arrogant chap who thinks he's God's gift than Stewart Granger then at the peak of his British career? And who better to play the enchanting French actress than Edwige Feuillere in her first English language role? Yet Granger would look back on the film as a total disaster and Feuillere would never make another English language film. So what went wrong? Well, nothing. 

Woman Hater is a perfectly competent comedy. It's no classic, but it's a fair way of passing an afternoon in front of the telly. Its faults are minor – the pace could be a bit snapper, and someone should have told Granger that since we already had a Cary Grant there was no need to try quite so hard to be another – but there's certainly nothing here that would explain its failure.

The supporting cast is adequate enough, with Jeanne de Casalis and Ronald Squire shining as Feuillere's worldly maid and Granger's unflappable butler respectively. Georgina Cookson makes such an impact in the opening of the film as a gloriously stroppy bride that it seems a pity the plot has no room for more of her.

Maybe the failure of the film could just be put down to its being wrong project at the wrong time. Granger had just come to the end of a run of costume pics and would go on to excel in several others. Feuillere was best known, if she was known at all by the Brits, for her Camille rather than comedy. Woman Hater just wasn't quite good enough to generate enough word of mouth to overcome audience indifference.

Pressbook for Woman Hater

Script: Robert Westerby, Nicholas Phipps, Alec Coppel

Director: Terence Young

Players: Mary Jerrold, David Hutcheson, W.A. Kelly, Henry Edwards, Stewart Rome, Valentine Dyall, Richard Hearne, Cyril Ritchard, Graham Moffatt, Miles Malleson, Dino Galvani, Vernon Greeves, Rosemary Treston, Diana Chandler, Margaret Thorburn, Barbara Gurnhill, Diana Hope, Doreen Lawrence, Jeremy Annett, Peter Cotten, Vida Hope, H.G. Stoker, Michael Medwin, John Stevens, Anne Holland, Irene Handl, Dandy Nichols

Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)

The demands of being a stay-at-home wife prove too much for a woman, and her slatternly ways drive her husband into the arms of another woman.

Fabulous domestic melodrama with Yvonne Mitchell in top form as the woman who can't get a grip on her life.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Ted Willis

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Players: Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Syms, Andrew Ray, Carole Lesley, Olga Lindo, Harry Locke, Marianne Stone, Michael Ripper, Norah Gordon, Max Butterfield, Roberta Woolley

The Woman in Question (1950)

. . . is murder victim Jean Kent. The five suspects tell police about her life, and show us five different versions of her character.

Jean Kent gets a great chance to show her acting range in this interesting precursor to Rashomon.

Still from The Woman in QuestionPressbook for The Woman in Question

Script: John Cresswell

Director: Anthony Asquith

Players: Dirk Bogarde, Susan Shaw, John McCallum, Hermione Baddeley, Charles Victor, Duncan Macrae, Lana Morris, Joe Linnane, Vida Hope, Bobbie Scroggins, Duncan Lamont, Anthony Dawson, John Boxer, Julian D'Albie, Richard Pearson, Richard Dunn, John Martin, Ian Fleming, Josephine Middleton, Everley Gregg, Helen Goss, Nora Gordon, Merle Tottenham, Tom Macauley, Albert Chevalier,

The Wooden Horse (1950)

True-life POW tale about an attempt to dig an escape tunnel in plain sight of the German guards. Stirring stuff.

Still from The Wooden Horse

Script: (o.a.) Eric Williams

Director: Jack Lee

Players: Leo Genn, Anthony Steele, David Tomlinson, David Greene, Peter Burton, Patrick Waddington, Michael Goodliffe, Anthony Dawson, Bryan Forbes, Franz Schaftheitlin, Hans Meyer, Peter Finch, Bill Travers