Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Today's post is a proud contribution to Terence Towles Canote's Margaret Lockwood Centennial Blogathon. Click unto A Shroud of Thoughts for the tributes to this most worthy star.

A.J. Cronin (TVs Dr. Finlay's Casebook) was a Scottish physician and novelist whose popular novels did more than entertain. The author enlightened readers to important social issues in his works. Cronin took us on spiritual journeys as well. If you haven't read his novels, you may be familiar with many films adapted from his works including The Citadel, Vigil in the Night, The Green Years and The Keys of the Kingdom.

The Stars Look Down was published in 1935 and the 1940 film version was adapted by J.B. Williams (We Dive at Dawn) and directed by Carol Reed (Odd Man Out, The Third Man). The National Board of Review placed the movie on its top ten list of 1941.

Michael Redgrave as Davey Fenwick

Davey Fenwick played by Michel Redgrave (The Lady Vanishes, The Importance of Being Earnest) is a born idealist who learns the harsh lessons of life in his Welsh mining town. His miner father, Robert played by Edward Rigby (The Happiest Days of Your Life) is a quiet leader who works for the safety of his fellows. He is an inspiration to Davy who wants to use his university scholarship to go into politics and fight for public ownership of the mines, denying individual owners the right to dominate the workers.

Emlyn Williams as Joe Gowlan

Joe Gowlan played by Emlyn Williams (Night Must Fall, The Corn is Green) is a born capitalist. Like Davey, he leaves for the bright city lights of Tynecastle, but his only goal is money, and plenty of it.  A smart lad, he is soon operating a bookie operation but sets his sights on bigger and more legit enterprises.

Margaret Lockwood as Jenny Sunley

Jenny Sunley played by Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes, The Wicked Lady) is a young woman who knows what she wants and wants it now. Like Joe and his aspirations, Jenny may not want to be a lady, but she wants to be treated like one. She has accurately pegged Joe as someone who will get to the top and she assumes their long-standing relationship is going to lead to marriage. Joe is a boarder at Jenny's place and her mother is most definitely in agreement with this assessment.

What Jenny doesn't realize is that born capitalists like Joe know how to deal with grasping young women, no matter how attractive. Joe's ladder to success includes cozying up to the bored wife of a rich industrialist. The couple is played by Linden Travers and Cecil Parker, who can be seen paired in The Lady Vanishes and Quartet as well. Joe cannot very well put his plan into action with Jenny hanging around his neck and opportunely introduces her to Davey.

Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood

Born idealists like Davey are apt to look at attractive young women like Jenny and fall hopelessly in love, and that is just what happens. Jenny can't see how Joe is manipulating the situation before it is too late. Heartbroken and angry at being spurned, Jenny seduces Davey into leaving university a year short of his degree and the promise of a prominent parliamentarian to assist in his career to marry her and return to his hometown to work as a schoolmaster. If Jenny had a clue in her pretty little head she would have seen where Davey's education and success in government might have taken her. Destructively, "patience" is not part of Jenny's vocabulary. Her needs are all immediate and Davey and his family are the ones to suffer.

Away from the domestic aspects of our story, we return to the downtrodden miners whose deplorable living conditions are second only to their dangerous working conditions. The unsafe section of mine that Davey's dad has been fighting against is opened thanks to the greedy mine owner, who is in possession of plans indicating the truth of denied claims. Our friend Joe Gowan has brokered the deal that will result in the prophesied disaster. While we cannot lay the blame for the mine cave in on the selfish Jenny, her actions to lead to Joe being able to discredit Davey as an advocate for the miners to the Board of Directors.

The depiction of the fate of the miners is almost heart wrenchingly unbearable as the audience suffers through the torment of living entombment with characters we have come to know including Davey's father, football mad brother, who had been given a tryout with the Tynecastle team, played by Desmond Tester (Sabotage, Drums) and a young student Davey had mentored while teaching.

Margaret Lockwood's Jenny is an unconscious villain in this piece, unlike some of her later characters such as Hester in The Lady in Grey and Barbara Worth in The Wicked Lady, whose treachery is more well-defined and focused. Heroine or villain, Margaret Lockwood's talent for bringing the truth of her character to the screen is always admirable and always watchable.


  1. Yay! I was so impatient to read the first contribution for this blogathon, because I LOVE Margaret! That was a great review and I have to see this film again. It's been a long long time. Margaret did some great work with Carol Reed. Have you seen Night Train to Munich, A Girl Must Live and/or Bank Holiday?

  2. Thank you, Virginie. I've been enthusiastic about this blogathon as well.

    I have seen "Night Train to Munich", although not in ages, and "Bank Holiday", but certainly have some catching up to do with "A Girl Must Live."

  3. Lockwood is an interesting actress, as she could play nastiness quite well (and even seemed to enjoy it, as in The Wicked Lady). Might have been interesting to have re-teamed her with Redgrave when he did the film of The Browning Version; she would probably have been very good playing his wife.

    1. Apparently after the success of "The Lady Vanishes" there were plans afoot to reteam Redgrave and Lockwood as a British Powell and Loy, but circumstances prevented that happy occasion.

      Both so comfortable in comedy and drama, I rather like your casting idea.

  4. I entered the blogathon knowing Margaret only for The Lady Vanishes, but I'm seeing she was a very versatile actress! I'll accept your suggestion and look for this movie!
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    1. The blogathon is turning out to be a tribute and an education. Margaret Lockwood deserves both the praise and new fans.

      Thanks to you. I can't wait to check out your film.

  5. This sounds like a fascinating film, and the cave-in scene sounds like one you simultaneously can't watch but can't NOT watch.

    Please don't disown me as a classic movie pal when I say I've seen hardly any Margaret Lockwood movies. I just did a quick search on IMDB, and scrolled through title after title of films I haven't seen. *hangs head in shame* But that just means hours of wonderful viewing ahead, no? – especially when it comes to the obviously talented and versatile Margaret L.

    1. How sad would we be if there were no more "new" old actors and movies to discover?

      You are in for such a good time! (Except for the cave-in scene when you get to "The Stars Look Down".)

  6. the Star Look Down is such a great film. And Margaret does so well in it. Jenny was really the first "bad girl" she played, even though she wasn't as openly naughty as Barbara Worth or Bedelia! The film is definitely one of Carol Reed and Margaret Lockwood's best. Anyway, thank you so much for taking part in the blogathon!

    1. I'm pleased you admire the film as much as I do.

      It was a great pleasure to take part in this blogathon and thank you very much for creating the platform.

  7. "Unconscious villain"...what a great description! And what a fine cast for this film! Also, I'm glad you mentioned Cecil Parker and noted QUARTET, which features one of his finest performances.

  8. As you well know, so many great films and performances come from Britain. I am constantly discovering and rediscovering.



Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...