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, 22 April 2015

Dearden and that league of gentlemen ...

THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, 1960. A witty crime caper of the old school, that one can happily enjoy again, Basil Dearden's film has a perfect lead in Jack Hawkins as a former army officer who repays his shoddy treatment by the military by recruiting a team of similarly irked ex-servicemen down on their luck, to pull off a daring bank robbery. They pull it off ok, but then ....
Forcibly-retired Colonel Hyde recruits seven other dissatisfied ex-servicemen for a special project. Each of the men has a skeleton in the cupboard, is short of money, and is a service-trained expert in his field. The job is a bank robbery, and military discipline and planning are imposed by Hyde and second-in-command Race on the team, although civilian irritations do start getting in the way. These men have "done their bit" for their country in wartime, and now are not needed any more, as they cope with failure and post-war London, faithless wives, and being the "odd man out".
A fascinating collection of Britsh actors of the period here, who were gainfully employed in the '50s in all those war movies, stiff upper lips and all - but are now slightly redundant in the new '60s era. Hawkins and Nigel Patrick, both "People We Like" here (as per labels) are great leads, with lots of witty banter. Richard Attenborough scores too as does pal Bryan Forbes - and yes, Nanette Newman gets a look in too. Theres also Roger Livesey, Terence Alexander, Norman Bird, and Kieron Moore is the coded gay one, the butt of nasty comments by Attenborough's character, which the audience of the time may not have picked up on. The witty script is by Forbes, and also featured are Melissa Stribling (Mrs Dearden),  
The long scene where the Major gathers his motley crew for lunch at the Cafe Royal, is an enjoyable sequence - watch out for Oliver Reed's swishy chorus boy who enters another meeting of theirs thinking it is his ballet class! - a contrast to seeing him in THE SCARLET BLADE the other day (and his THE PARTY'S OVER from 1964 is on its way to me). A nice addition to those British movies of the time like THE ANGRY SILENCE and those other Attenborough-Forbes projects, like SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, THE L-SHAPED ROOM and WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND

Basil Dearden (with regular producer Michael Relph) scores too, with another witty movie of his, to follow that thriller SAPPHIRE in 1959, and VICTIM in 1961. 
I read somewhere recently that if Dearden had been a European director he would be feted by retrospectives at the BFI and elsewhere. Its been interesting catching up with his other perfect British films of their era, lately like: POOL OF LONDON, THE BLUE LAMP, THE CAPTIVE HEART, FRIEDA, SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS, THE GENTLE GUNMAN, OUT OF THE CLOUDS, VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, ALL NIGHT LONG, THE MINDBENDERS, A PLACE TO GO, WOMAN OF STRAW, KHARTOUM. - reviews of these at British/London labels.
He was killed in a car accident in 1971, aged 60, he and his wife lived at Beel House, in Buckinghamshire, one of Dirk Bogarde's residences, which he had bought from Bogarde, whom he directed in 4 features.  
Two early Deardens I have not seen have now turned up on tv: the 1950 CAGE OF GOLD and the 1953 boxing drama THE SQUARE RING which features Kay Kendall and Joan Collins as the dames in its all star cast, yes Sid James is here too ...

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