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.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

More British treats from the 1950s ...

Away from art-house movies and cult and trash items, and some interesting new releases, we also like those old-fashioned, genteel British movies of the 1950s - as reviewed at British, London labels. We grew up on these back in Ireland in the Fifties and feel an affection for them. The 1940s and the 1960s may have been the great decades for British films (with Lean, Powell, Losey, Schlesinger, Lester, Dearden etc) but the 1950s were a lot of fun too with those Rank Organisation and Ealing items. Here is another round-up:

OUT OF THE CLOUDS, 1955. A busy day at London Airport – follow the lives and loves of the crew and passengers.
This 1955 concoction from Ealing Studios is a delight for anyone wanting to see what flying and airports were like back in the ‘50s. Basil Dearden directs and keeps several storylines in the air (get it?) – as we follow dependable Robert Beatty, James Robertson Justice and Bernard Lee as airport types, young pilot Anthony Steel tempted to smuggle stuff past customs, and stewardesses like Eunice Gayson, Melissa Stribling and Isabel Dean as they give individual attention to the passengers, who include Esma Cannon, Marie Lohr, Abraham Sofaer and gambler Sid James. This is one airport one would happily spend all day lounging in. David Knight and Margo Lorenz are two passengers on different planes who meet and suddenly fall in love, but the airport staff play fairy godmother so they finally get to be on the same flight …. Can’t see it happening at Heathrow ! A great airport movie of that era like JET STORM, SOS PACIFIC or THE CROWDED SKY (see Airlines label).

MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER, 1956. Magazine editor Valerie Carr lives in London (a perfectly 50s home in posh Highgate Village) with her two daughters –Jan, aged 17, and Poppet, 13. When Jan is invited to a party at The Savoy she meets dashing young Tony Ward Black (“the Debs’ Delight”) who is mad about jive, owner of a Bentley, and supposedly running through a legacy. Attracted to the daring young man, she rejects Mark, a young farmer who is in love with her. But it soon beomes apparent to everyone but Jan that neither Tony’s fortune, nor even his name, may be his own and her association with him will lead her into delinquency and danger.
America may have had REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK and THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE on those problem teenagers and their new music, but it was MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER here in the UK – they have now called it TEENAGE BAD GIRL perhaps to make its sound more alluring, but this kitsch delight delivers in spades. Dear Dame Anna Neagle, a war widow, frowns as teenage Jan starts going to basement dives and learns to jive – this sinful dance drives teenagers wild! as they dance to the same number (“Get With It”) over and over. 
Jan’s young man is not all he seems and she is soon in prison and before the judge, as the rich old aunt Tony goes to borrow money from drops dead and he is accused of murder. Will Jan get off and be reconciled with her mother? And her young sister Poppet and her adorable dog? This is all perfectly enjoyable, another Herbert Wilcox production starring his wife. There is something likeable about Dame Anna and she excels here, with Wilfred Hyde-White as her magazine boss, Norman Woodland and Kenneth Haigh. (This opus was also fondly called MY STONE AGE MOTHER by those witty Sunday Times critics.) 

NO TIME FOR TEARS, 1957. Doctors and nurses at a children’s hospital confront the challenges of their profession.
A pleasant tear-jerker directed by Cyril Frankel (no, not Herbert Wilcox this time) this features Anna Neagle as the understanding matron and this time Sylvia Syms is the young nurse. Flora Robson is the older wiser nurse, and Anthony Quayle is the surgeon and George Baker, Michael Hordern, Joan Hickson, Rosalie Crutchley, Angela Baddeley and Joan Sims as another young nurse also feature. It is in widescreen and colour and shows us the hospital staff getting involved with a pair of unruly children whom they save from an abusive mother who cannot cope with them. Various dramas ensue but all ends happily for Christmas. Maybe the success of this led to the television series (and subsequent film) LIFE IN EMERGENCY WARD 10 ?  

Sylvia Syms - a great British dependable, like Muriel Pavlow or Yvonne Mitchell, is 80 this year (like Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins, and still keeps working (as in the recent series REV). She was also terrific as Bogarde's puzled wife in VICTIM in 1961 and FLAME IN THE STREETS, ICE COLD IN ALEX, WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN etc. We barely recognised her as the Queen Mother to Helen Mirren as THE QUEEN in 2006).  

WONDERFUL THINGS, 1958 – Another of those ‘The British Film’ reissues (in slim case dvd boxes) re-issuing long unseen rarities from the British ‘50s and ‘60s. This is another of those Anna Neagle-Herbert Wilcox productions, featuring their singing star Frankie Vaughan, who was popular at the time (he made 4 films for the Wilcox’s before heading to Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe in LET’S MAKE LOVE, as per Frankie Vaughan label). This 1958 piece of nonsense finds him and Jeremy Spenser as fishermen brothers in Gibraltar, who are not too successful at making money from the fishing or the tourists. Pretty Jackie (later Jocelyn) Lane (who went on to star with Elvis in TICKLE ME) pouts as Pepita, the local beauty who loves Carmello (Vaughan) but while he tries to be successful in London, she and his brother Mario (Spenser) get entangled … Spencer, that forgotten actor (he was the young prince in THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, as well as in SUMMERTIME, ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE, FERRY TO HONG KONG and others) comes across like a British Sal Mineo here. 
Frankie finds it tough in London as he tries being a waiter, and busks to cinema queues before working in a fairground. Enter rich girl Jean Dawney with her society friends and wealthy father, Wilfrid Hyde Whyte …. Jean promptly falls for Carmello but will he choose her or go back to Pepita and where does Mario fit in? This is amusing tosh, like a  woman’s magazine story of the time, but the ending is surprisingly nice. It’s a lot of fun, like Wilcox’s previous with Vaughan: THESE DANGEROUS YEARS. Frankie went on to star with Dame Anna in the 1959 THE LADY IS A SQUARE.

ALIVE AND KICKING, 1958. Why does IMDB persist in listing this as a 1964 title? –  it was released in 1958, I knew I saw it then when a kid, and now the new dvd cover confirms it was released in December 1958 (when Richard Harris was doing small parts in Irish-based movies like this – by 1964 he was A Star working with Antonioni in Italy and Peckinpah in USA, and being difficult with both). Well, whatever, this remains a blissful British comedy full of great players.
Dora, Rosie and Mabel, room mates at a home for elderly ladies, discover they are to be split up and placed in other homes. Dismayed by the prospect of separation, they decide to run away together. Heading for a remote island off the Irish coast where it seems they can live without the fear of being parted, the three fugitives quickly turn the situation to their advantage.
Dame Sybil Thorndike is in her element here, ably assisted by Kathleen Harrison and Estelle Winwood. It is hilarious how they make their escape and end up running things at that Irish island, where they create a cottage industry of knitting Aran sweaters which are sold in London. They also have three ideal little cottages side by side, which are actally owned by visiting American Stanley Holloway, who conveniently vanishes, and the locals include Marjorie Rhodes and Liam Redmond as well as Harris. Good to see it on a proper dvd at last – a treat for anyone who loves British comedies of the ‘50s with all those eccentric players. Also directed by Cyril Frankel.

I now see Tommy Steele’s 1958 THE DUKE WORE JEANS and TOMMY THE TOREADOR are on dvd, along with Max Bygraves' CHARLIE MOON, BOBBIKINS and SPARE THE ROD, but maybe that’s a step too far, despite my affection of 50s British movies

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