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, 23 July 2014

British trio 1 ....

Some British '50s moves I had not seen before and now appreciate a lot …

THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH, 1957.  I can’t believe I had not seen this before. What a marvellous entertainment it turns out to be, as nice young marrieds Virigina McKenna and Bill Travers interit a cinema at Sloughborough (a nice play on English town names!) 
and when they travel there imagine it is the Grand, a very grand edifice, but no, it is the Bijou – a rundown fleapit next to the railway line (and yes its that amusing joke again, as in A LETTER TO 3 WIVES, when the the trains rattle by…). Every town then had a fleapit, though probably not as decrepit as the Bijou (mine when new in London in 1964 was the Coliseum, Harlesden, where one happily saw re-runs of EL CID or FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE as well as new double bills including SHE or 10 LITTLE INDIANS).

This is a perfect 1950s British comedy, produced by that regular team of producer Michael Relph and director Basil Dearden, screenplay by William Rose. It now seems to be called BIG TIME OPERATORS on IMDB! It would make a terrific double bill with  HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE.

The casting is the thing here, apart from the married leads, there’s the trio of the Bijou’s staff: Margaret Rutherford as cashier Mrs Fazakerley, Peter Sellers as Percy the projectionist and Bernard Miles as Old Tom the janitor. Percy is the only one who understands how the old equipment works. Leslie Philips is the suave solicitor who advises the new owners they have to get the cinema up and running again to maximise its worth, as they intend to sell the site to rival Grand owner, hissable Francis de Wolff, who is keeping an eye on their progress and tries to sabotage proceedings with a bottle of whiskey …. Our new owners  do not want a cinema but to travel to places like Samerkand …  How this is resolved is deliciously worked out, Sellers is a revelation here, he really becomes that old man. Sidney James of course is also present and correct. A delicious treat for anyone who remembers the fleapit cinemas of their youth, and another great Basil Dearden film from his very prolific period.

VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, 1958.  Also by Basil Dearden, and scripted by James Kennaway, and is a tough thriller/topical drama of the time about juvenile delinquency, with Stanley Baker as the cop/Juvenile Liaison officer in Liverpool. David McCallum (before his MAN FROM UNCLE era) is the dangerous pyromaniac on the loose and he seems to be apeing Marlon Brando’s WILD ONE as a rock’n’roll hoodlum. Anne Heywood is his older sister (who might get romantically involved with Baker) and the family also includes those two naughty twins Baker is looking after - the school kids all look so typically Fifites. There’s also Peter Cushing as the local well-meaning priest, John Slater, Tsai Chin and other regulars like Melvyn Hayes, as we see how these huge inner-city estates are breeding grounds for juvenile delinquency, as in NO TREES IN THE STREET, below. It builds to a shattering climax where school-children are held hostage by the now demented McCallum, which has echoes of real-life tragedies. I don’t imagine this will be shown on television ever again due to this protracted school siege …  

NO TREES IN THE STREET, 1959. A solid drama from the pen of Ted Willis (WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN), and directed at full tilt y J. Lee Thompson, another drama of poverty breeding delinquents, this is a roller-coaster ride, starting in the 1950s present as teenager David Hemmings is caught and warned by Ronald Howard about the dangers of getting into trouble with the police. What follows is a long flashback about Tommy (Melvyn Hayes again) who wants the good life he sees local racketeer Herbert Lom enjoys with his flashy suits and flashy dames like Carole Lesley (right, with Lom)
Tommy though is stuck in a tenement block with heavy drinkers like parents Stanley Holloway, Joan Miller, Liam Redmond, and his good sister Sylvia Syms who tries to steer him in the right direction. Lom though wants Sylvia and finally wears down her resistance until she comes to her senses. 
But Tommy goes to work for Lom, and ends up with a gun and killing a shop-keeper. The snivelling killer returns to the family as the police (Ronald Howard again) close in.  
We are back in the present for the coda, when young Hemmings (left, and right, with Syms)  promises to be good, as Howard and wife Sylvia see him go. 

Next British trio by Anthony Asquith & Anatole de Grunwald: Dirk in THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA, 1958and LIBEL,1959, and Sophia as THE MILLIONAIRESS, 1960. Book your tickets now ... 

No comments:

Post a Comment