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.

Friday, 25 July 2014

British trio 2: Dirk, Sophia, Asquith ....

A trio from director Anthony Asquith, and producer Anatole de Grunwald, showcasing Dirk Bogarde and Sophia Loren .... 

THE DOCTOR’S DILEMMA, 1958. A plush production of a Shaw play by Anthony Asquith and produced by Anatole de Grunwald. I remember seeing this as a kid but found it too talky. It is still too talky now but has other redeeming features. The play is about a Harley Street specialist who can cure tuberculosis, so artist’s wife Leslie Caron calls to see him to see if he can help her husband who is wasting away. The stuffy medical man  Sir Colenso (John Robinson) is resistant but the wife has her charms, particularly as kitted out in fetching Cecil Beaton creations. 
Caron by Beaton, 
click image to enlarge
Dirk Bogarde as Louis Dubedat initially charms the doctor and his colleagues who include Robert Morley and Alistair Sim, so at least witty conversation is the order of the day, but the artist is revealed to be an immoral wastrel and it turns out he and Caron are even bigamously married. The surgeons debate the ethics of saving such a man or one of their own, an exceedingly good modest fellow. Bogarde gets a hilariously overlong deathbed scene, and there follows a nice scene at the gallery showing his work, as Sir Colenso and the supposed Mrs Dubedat meet a final time …

LIBEL, 1959. Much more entertaining is this 1959 courtroom drama, also by Asquith and de Grunwald. Dirk Bogarde again is the lead, playing a double – even a triple – role as the baronet accused of being an imposter by visiting Canadian Paul Massie, who shared a wartime prison camp with Mark Lodden and another soldier Frank who was able to impersonate him, as they looked rather alike. Massie now thinks Lodden is an imposter, played by Frank, and is determined to expose him. A sleazy newspaper with a grudge against Lodden pubishes the libel, and we are off to court. Lodden though has memory problems since their wartime escape and even his devoted wife Olivia De Havilland has her doubts as to his real identity as the case proceeds, as she often feels he is not the same man as he was before the war …. Opposing barristers are Robert Morley and Wilfrid Hyde White with Richard Wattis as judge, so a satisfying case is unveiled. ‘Number 15’ is also brought in, a brain-damaged solider who may be either Frank or Lodden. Olivia sees the look of horror on her husband’s face and believes he is guilty. 
It turns out that Frank tried to kill Lodden during their escape to take over his identity, but Lodden left Frank brain-dead as he fought back. Lodden now remembers a medal Olivia gave him and which is hidden in the jacket Nr 15 was found in, which is Lodden’s jacket. It is now revealed that Lodden is the real baronet, and Mr 15 the vegetable-like Frank. Apologies all round and Lodden forgives his wife who could not confirm his identity in the witness box …. An agreeable time-waster for a wet afternoon then

THE MILLIONAIRESS, 1960. Anthony Asquith’s film of Shaw’s play is given the full 20th Century Fox treatment but seems forgotten these days, but I recall it being quite popular at the time  - in fact when it played for 2 nights at my small town cinema I was back the second night too, 
as to the 13 year old me Sophia Loren here seemed the most stunning creature I had ever seen, even more so than in her earlier films. Epifania of course was played on stage by Edith Evans and Katharine Hepburn (when touring Australia) but Fox were going for glamour here and Sophia certainly provides it. 
She dazzles, in a riot of Balmain outfits and hats, whether jumping into the Thames (that London skyline is so different now...) or having temper fits as she sets her hat at Indian doctor Peter Sellers.
 Sellers and Loren did a record album too with several amusing sketches, and even had a popular top ten hit with “Goodness Gracious Me”. “Banger and Mash” and “I Married A Englishman” are still brilliantly funny …. The film though is an odd concoction but has several amusing moments with sterling support from Alistair Sim, Vittorio De Sica (in his umpteenth film with Sophia), Dennis Price, Gary Raymond and Miram Karlin.

Anthony Asquith (1902-1968) son of Prime Minister Asquith, was nicknamed Puffin, and became one of the sterling British directors, up there with David Lean and Michael Powell or Carol Reed. 
His 1938 PYGMALION is still a classic, and I love his 1945 war classic THE WAY TO THE STARS (reviewed here, War label), and his perfect THE BROWNING VERSION in '51, and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST in 1952. 
The perfect director for Rattigan or Shaw or Wilde then. He continued into the '60s with those 2 hit all-star confections THE VIPs (with The Burtons and scene-stealers Maggie Smith, Margaret Rutherford, Orson Welles and more, and its quaint fog-bound 'London Airport'!) and THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE which I remember seeing at its first run at the huge, plush Empire in Leicester Square, in 1965 when I was 19. It was a treat to see a big movie like that then at its first run plush cinema. Such fun to see Moreau pouting as Rex discovers her infidelity; Ingrid Bergman enjoying herself with Omar and Joyce Grenfell; and Delon scoring in one of his first English roles. 

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