Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Some other British '60s dramas ...

Having done that post on HOLLYWOOD UK below, on those important British '60s movies and their makers and that BBC series on them in 1993, how about some of the more mundane British dramas from that fascinating early '60s period: the kind of movie that played at the local Odeon or ABC for a week and then vanished for ever, until a tv screening or a rare dvd turned up decades later .... here's a few choice ones, delirious Trash Classics now, with that peculiarly British morality:

BITTER HARVEST, 1963 - my new favourite trash classic, thanks again to Colin. This actually anticipates DARLING by 2 years but whereas Schlesinger's film as wittily scripted by Frederic Raphael scooped all the awards and acclaim, this is a plodding movie-making by numbers version of a similar tawdry tale and in tawdry colour, as penned by solid Ted Willis (FLAME IN THE STREETS, WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN etc) and helmed by Peter Graham Scott. It is the sad moralising tale of Jennie Jones (Janet Munro) from a boring Welsh village who dreams of the high life in London. Influenced by the models she sees in magazine ads, she dreams of a life full of glamour, excitement, beautiful clothes etc - she does not yet realise that being a 'model' then had a seedy meaning....

A familiar parade of British regulars turn up here: May Hallatt (the Ayah in BLACK NARCISSUS) as the old aunt poor Jennie has to go and live with, Norman Bird and Vanda Godsell running that pub 'The King and Queen' - I think I know it from a few years ago, in Cleveland Street?, it still looks the same) where nice decent barman John Stride works - he takes Jennie in and falls for her when she wakes up in London - after that first fatal glass of champagne - looking out at the back of Paddington Station, after being seduced by cad Terence Alexander; Thora Hird (unbilled for some reason) is the grasping landlady, and Alan Badel (right) - (so good in ARABESQUE where he gets to play with Sophia Loren), third billed here but with very little to do - is the urbane fashion overlord who takes one look at Jennie and sets her up with all those furs and dresses and that mews cottage (away from that world of grubby bedsits by the railway tracks) which we see her wrecking at the start, before her drug overdose ..... all this would be understandable if Jennie looked like Anita Ekberg, rather than the more homely Munro - perhaps there was a shortage of party girls in London ? Munro was a brilliant actress but looks in her late 20s here while Jennie was surely an impressiouable teenager ...

 This was 1963 after all, when the Profumo Affair was headline news and call-girls were seen to be doing very well for themselves.  I have consulted my "Films & Filming" review from December '63: "There used to be a species of old-time melodrama in which heroes were ruined by strong drink, and boozed themselves into a pauper's grave. BITTER HARVEST brings this formula alarmingly up to date with dire warnings of what happens to girls who watch the television commercials ... The surprising thing is that anyone, in this day and age, could have hoped to make something like this work in terms other than the comic ... Janet Munro is wildly, and sometimes hilariously, miscast ..." - my sentiments exactly. A chunk of the story seems missing though, we see her flashback to how it all began but not what caused her to overdose ...
Jennie wrecks her luxury Mayfair apartment
We finish ironically as Stride with the devoted girl who loved him all along (while poor selfish Jennie used him), dodging the ambulance carrying her lifeless body away ...  as they walk along that London river, and Acker Bilk's mournful theme plays - a moralising tale indeed. The young John Stride (below) impresses here, he had a good career on stage and television in the '60s and '70s (I saw him in DESIGN FOR LIVING with Vanessa Regrave in 1973, theatre label).

Janet was another British show-business tragedy, dead at 38 by either alcohol or a heart problem. She had been signed to Walt Disney before Hayley Mills, for movies like DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE with young Sean Connery, THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN, and the popular SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON; as well as fluff like TOMMY THE TOREADOR with Tommy Steele (thankfully thats never revived these days...), and then she had more adult roles in THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE and LIFE FOR RUTH in '62 but by then the new girls like Susannah York and Samantha Eggar were on the rise; she also a small part in SEBASTIAN (with Dirk and Susannah) in 1968, before dying in 1972. 

THE BEAUTY JUNGLE - one of the first films I saw here in 1964 and its never cropped up since, but I remember it well. Janette Scott (actress daughter of Thora Hird, she was Cassandra in HELEN OF TROY, 1955) is another small town girl who gets a make-over, turns blonde and enters the beauty parade business. This was billed as an expose of the beauty competitions of the time so lots more sleazy tawdry revelations as Janette sees the reality behind the phoney glamour. Ian Hendry (Janet Munro's husband) is lead here and Edmund Purdom more or less plays himself as an ageing movie star judging the beauties. Another British actress of the time Anne Heywood was actually a beauty queen - wonder why she didn't get or want the role .... its all efficiently directed by Val Guest, and the regulars crop up: Norman Bird, Sid James, the great Kay Walsh, David Weston, Jerry Desmonde. Let's have a look at the synopsis:
Purdom still works his charm

On a seaside holiday, pretty Bristol typist Shirley meets Dan Mackenzie from her local paper. He persuades her that she has what it takes in the world of beauty contests, and so it proves. Ditching her predictable fiance and having to leave home, Shirley moves to London to continuing success. Increasingly smitten by her, Dan reckons he should be more than just her manager, but this is not at all the way Shirley sees things.

THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, 1963, must be very obscure now, there is only one review on it at IMDB. It is about two 'nightclub hostesses'  working in Soho, London. Billa (Sylvia Syms) has to deal with her father who is coming down from the North to visit her  (Norman Hartnell, just before DR WHO) who does not want to face up to what she does for a living, and the other Ginnie - A KIND OF LOVING's June Ritchie - is seeing a married businessman (Edward Judd); Billa may be more than fond of Ginnie ... stalwart Sylvia impresses again here.

The poster has Ritchie in bra, panties and stockings and suspenders and Syms hanging around street corners in her leather coat and boots, but there's not a great deal of titillation here. This though was X-certificate stuff back then. This rather downbeat drama, as directed by Wolf Rilla, is lifted by extensive location shooting. For those who want to see 1963 London it's a treat. Particularly good is the scene where Hartnell walks through Soho amid the flashing neon lights advertising the sexy delights on show. Another early '60s London time capsule then.

Others of the era include Diane Cilento as another nightclub hostess (they were popular then...) with Steptoe Harry J Corbett in RATTLE OF A SIMPLE MAN in '64, Kenneth More with Billie Whitelaw as THE COMEDY MAN, another downbeat drama in '64; and Ian Hendry again in LIVE NOW, PAY LATER.

I have been unable to track down Michael Winner's  WEST 11 or TWO LEFT FEET both '63 though - that's an early Michael Crawford one also with David Hemmings. Winner's THE SYSTEM is one I like, not a London film though but set in seaside Weymouth, it captures that period perfectly with Oliver Reed, Jane Merrow, Barbara Ferris and pre-BLOW-UP David Hemmings ....  I have already covered A PLACE TO GO and THE LEATHER BOYS and UP THE JUNCTION at London label.  

Next: some late '50s-early '60s British comedies, cue up: PLEASE TURN OVER, MAKE MINE MINK, ALIVE AND KICKING, THE NAKED TRUTH, TOO MANY CROOKS ... all those Peter Sellers, Terry Thomas comedies, and then those '40s British classics - and then on to Pedro Almodovar - I promise.

1 comment:

  1. I have since found and reviewed WEST 11 and TWO LEFT FEET, as per reviews - British label.