Thursday, August 30, 2018

THE FRED MACMURRAY BLOGATHON: There's Always Tomorrow (1956)


Phyllis Loves Classic Movies is hosting the Fred MacMurray Blogathon running from August 30 to September 1.


HERE is where you will find the tributes to this outstanding actor.

Fred MacMurray is a favourite actor of mine. Comedy or drama, he rarely puts a foot wrong. I attribute this to his early training and career as a musician. He knows how to play those notes on the page, and how to improvise when needed. There are spoilers in this look at There's Always Tomorrow.


There's Always Tomorrow is MacMurray's only collaboration with director Douglas Sirk. Leading lady Barbara Stanwyck had previously starred for Sirk in 1953s All I Desire. There's Always Tomorrow is the final of four films co-starring the team of Stanwyck and MacMurray following Remember the Night, Double Indemnity and The Moonlighter.

The screenplay for There's Always Tomorrow is by Bernard C. Schoenfeld (The Dark Corner, Phantom Lady) based on a novel by Ursula Parrott (The Divorcee). I find echoes of Noel Coward's Still Life, filmed as Brief Encounter, in this treatment of loneliness in a marriage. 


Fred MacMurray

This is Cliff Groves (Fred MacMurray), by any level a successful man. His toy manufacturing business is lucrative and satisfying. His wife Marion (Joan Bennett) is attractive, bright, good-natured, and runs a comfortable home. His children are all healthy and apparently happy. Son Vinnie (William Reynolds) is in college and in the throes of his first great romance with a smart young woman called Ann (Pat Crowley). Melodramatic teen Ellen (Gigi Perreau) is an overly-dramatic teen, but not a troublemaker. Youngest daughter Frankie (Judy Nugent) is living through "the dancer" phase.

Why does Cliff look unhappy in this picture above? It could be the rainy day, but it is more likely related to the feeling of neglect. He went out of his way to plan a lovely evening for Marion's birthday, but she is tied up with Frankie's dance rehearsal. His son, daughter, and the housekeeper (Jane Darwell) all pass on his offer of the theatre tickets he had obtained. So, there he sits, alone in the kitchen with a dinner that doesn't feed his stomach or his soul. It is becoming a more common situation as his family devotes themselves to their own lives, taking Cliff for granted.


Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), a successful fashion designer from NYC visiting California for a convention and on behalf of her home store. Twenty years ago she was an employee of Cliff's. She was a friend, and she was in love with him. Lately, the divorcee has been feeling lonely and perhaps wondering what she missed by running away from her emotions and toward her career. This impromptu visit will open up a world of feelings between Norma and Cliff.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Cliff and Norma at a desert resort where circumstances have brought them together. Norma had given her convention speech and was relaxing. Cliff had planned to take Marion away for the weekend but little dancer Frankie had sprained her ankle. Cliff also made plans to meet a business contact who cancelled at the last moment.

Cliff and Norma rode horses, and swam, and danced the night away. They laughed and reminisced, and connected. On the surface, it was nothing but a fun and innocent time. Under the surface, there was something less innocent simmering, but at this point, if Cliff or Norma are aware, they suppress it.

Pat Crowley, William Reynolds

Vinnie and Ann, with some friends, had driven to the resort hoping for a swim and to sponge off dear old dad. Vinnie observed his dad and Norma laughing in the sunlight and immediately jumped to the worst conclusion. Vinnie's indignation and condemnation upset Ann. As an outsider, she has been in the unique position of being able to observe the family dynamics. "It's funny. I'm positive your father hasn't done a thing to be ashamed of, but, you know something, I wouldn't blame him if he had."


Joan Bennett

Cliff invited Norma to dinner in order to show off his family. It was a disaster thanks to the open hostility from Vinnie and his sister Ellen. Marion and Ann did their best to make Norma comfortable. Afterward, Cliff was livid. Marion, on the other hand, picked up on Nora's loneliness and expressed gratitude for her own contented life. Cliff can only see that Norma is independent and successful. How could that not make one happy?

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

Cliff tried to share his unsettled feelings with Marion, but he felt she wasn't truly listening. It isn't that Marion isn't caring or attentive, but perhaps it is more that she isn't saying what Cliff wants or needs to hear at this moment. Alternately afraid of his feelings for Norma and rushing toward them, Cliff is at a crossroads.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Time is nearing for Norma's return to New York and it forces Cliff's resolve. He achingly professes his love for her. Now it is Norma's turn to be torn between rushing forward into something she desperately wants or running away for a second time.

Gigi Perreau, William Reynolds, Barbara Stanwyck

The cold light of day brings a visit from Cliff's elder children. They confront Norma and she sets them straight about the time in the desert. They are embarrassed but are proud that they are protecting their mother. Norma gives them something to think about when she reminds them that their father is an individual as well. That their father does everything for them and may be due a little more consideration than they have given him in the past.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Vinnie and Ellen gave Norma much to think about as well. Reuniting with Cliff has been fun and emotional, but looking into the future with clear eyes Norma sees only a man who will regret that he is not the father and husband he is today. Norma must break Cliff's heart and her own.

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

The final scene reminds me of Brief Encounter where Fred Jesson seems to understand that his wife Laura has been through something life-changing. Cliff watches a plane flying overhead, possibly the plane that is taking Norma out of his life for the second time.

Marion: "Hello, dear. Feeling better tonight?"
Cliff: "What?"
Marion: "You've worried me these past few days. It's not like you to be irritable and depressed."
Cliff: "I know, but I'm all right now. You know me better than I know myself."
Marion: "I should after a lifetime you know."

There's Always Tomorrow is a gentle drama, but a deeply emotional one. The 1950s was an interesting period in the career of our leading man Fred MacMurray with a number of westerns (Face of a Fugitive, Good Day for a Hanging), film-noir (Pushover), drama (The Caine Mutiny, Woman's World) and comedy (The Shaggy Dog). The 1960s and The Absent-Minded Professor would cement Fred MacMurray as a Disney Legend and My Three Sons as a historically favourite classic TV dad.










Friday, August 24, 2018

THE SECOND VAN JOHNSON BLOGATHON: Zane Grey Theatre, Deadfall (1959)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a Van Johnson Blogathon, her second in as many years. Click HERE to read what all the fans have to say.

A busy musical performer on Broadway, Van Johnson became box office gold for MGM in the 1940s. Popular with young fans, as he matured so did his acting ability with an interesting array of dramas and comedies in the 1950s including Three Guys Named Mike, Miracle in the Rain, The End of the Affair, Remains to be Seen, The Caine Mutiny, Brigadoon and 23 Paces to Baker Street.

In 1955 Van made his television debut playing himself on a charming episode of I Love Lucy titled The Dancing Star. By 1990 Van would rack up 43 credits on Classic TV performing in musicals, mysteries, comedies, mini-series, and westerns.


Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre was broadcast on CBS from 1956 to 1961. The 1950s was the heyday of anthology series and of westerns, and here we had the best of both worlds. Dick Powell, one of the founders of the television empire known as Four Star Television was the host of these half-hour character studies and adventure tales. Powell acted in some of the episodes as well.


Deadfall first aired on Thursday, February 19, 1959. The twists and turns are many in this episode written by Frederick Louis Fox (Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo, Branded) and Sloan Nibley (Death Valley Days, Wagon Train, The Addams Family) and directed by Jerry Hopper (Wagon Train, Burke's Law, The Fugitive).

Charles Fredericks, Van Johnson, Bing Russell

The all-male ensemble is headlined by Van Johnson as Frank Gillette. Gillette has moved to this town after a three-year prison stretch, hoping to start life with a clean slate. Fate has other plans as he is framed for a bank robbery by Sheriff's Deputy Stover played by Bing Russell (Bonanza). The town prosecutor, Hugh Perry played by Harry Townes (The Twilight Zone), speaks most eloquently of protecting their fair city. A recent silver strike will be attracting the wrong sort of person, of which Frank Gillette is a prime example.

Chuck Roberson, Hampton Fancher, Val Dufour

Sentenced to twenty years in prison, Gillette is being escorted by Sheriff Roy Lamont played by Grant Withers (Other Men's Women) and our old friend Deputy Stover when they are ambushed. Three desperadoes free Frank, but only after Harper played by Val Dufour (Search for Tomorrow) shoots the sheriff in the back.

Harper, young Linc played by Hampton Fancher (Black Saddle) and Brenner played by Chuck Roberson (McLintock!) are none too friendly to Gillette. They are closed-mouthed about the yet unseen boss of this little operation, but Gillette plays it cool, constant needling the hot-headed Harper.

Van Johnson, Harry Townes

Frank is not surprised when the Perry, the man who prosecuted him, turns out to be the leader of this gang. Perry's ultimate goal is to return to town a hero with the recaptured Frank. The town is about to boom, and Perry wants his share of the graft and power that will come with the position of sheriff.

Frank suggests a little twist to this plan. Instead of returning him as an escaped criminal, why not also prove the framing by Deputy Stover. This won't go over well with Stover, but the townspeople will see Perry as a fair-minded and honest man. Perry likes this idea.

Paul Langton, Harry Townes

Tom Lamont played by Paul Langton (Peyton Place) is the brother of the murdered sheriff and currently acting sheriff. He shoots it out with Stover when the Gillette framing comes to light. The impressed townspeople vote to make Lamont sheriff, spoiling Perry's plans.

The angered Perry and his gang again take Frank hostage and attempt to coerce him into murdering Lamont. The cagey Frank Gillette turns the tables on the outlaws by teaming with Sheriff Lamont. While his gang flees, the greedy Perry is caught by trying to grab the stolen loot. Gotcha!

Van Johnson

The villains tried to use Frank Gillette's past against him, but they didn't reckon on his present and his plans for the future.












Monday, August 20, 2018

THE LOVELY LEE GRANT BLOGATHON: Ironside - Eat, Drink and Be Buried (1967)


Reel Widgie Midget Reviews and Angelman's Place aka Gill and Chris are co-hosting a blogathon tribute to Lee Grant. Now, that's an idea whose time has come! Click HERE for the contributions to the blogathon running from August 20th to 23rd.


The pilot for Ironside was aired as an NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies film on March 28, 1967, and received the lion's share of the ratings for the night at 27.5 with a 48 share. Fans were excited to see Raymond Burr in a new role after his nine-year run as Perry Mason. The response was so positive the series was put into production that fall.

San Francisco Chief of Detectives, Robert T. Ironside was left paralyzed by a would-be assassin. He has become a consultant to the police department with his own staff and living/office space in a loft in HQ. The staff consists of his former assistant Sgt. Ed Brown played by Don Galloway, rookie policewoman Eve Whitfield played by Barbara Anderson, and Mark Sanger played by Don Mitchell. Mark is a street kid who met the Chief on the opposite side of the law. Mark needed a job and the Chief needed a driver and personal assistant. They will both get more than they bargained for.

Eat, Drink and Be Buried aired on October 5, 1967, and was the fourth episode of that first season. The episode was written by Tony Barrett (Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, Impact, Peter Gunn) and directed by William A. Graham (Naked City, The Fugitive, Checkmate). The guest stars were Lee Grant, Farley Granger, Richard Anderson and a special appearance by the composer of the Ironside theme, Quincy Jones.

Lee Grant

Meet Francesca Kirby, a woman with everything that makes life worth living. This former police reporter writes an advice column that is straight-forward with a generous helping of sarcastic humour. The public loves it and her, in print and on the air. Francesca is big money.

Francesca has a sprawling country estate with a pool and stables. She has a dishy husband at her beck and call. She has powerbrokers begging for her favour. She has fans, and she has detractors. Currently, she has more than her share of threatening letters and has been the victim of an attempted kidnapping. What next? Poison?

Farley Granger

This is Mitch Kirby, a wannabe musician, but a drummer should be able to keep time. He only keeps time with other women now that his wife Francesca has paid to have him dried out at a ritzy sanitarium. Nonetheless, she appears to be crazy about him and he is good at playing the devoted spouse.

Richard Anderson

Darren Sanford is a newspaper publisher who gave Francesca her big break with the column. Of course, this was after Francesca threatened to go to his wife about their affair. Francesca kept her mouth shut, but the wife left him anyway. He's not happy with Francesca, but he's happy with the money she makes.

Maria Lennard

Doris Keller is Francesca's sister. She's a little down-on-her-luck right now. She and Francesca were both fledgeling journalists when Doris told her sister her idea for a new kind of advice column. Francesca ran with it creating permanent rancour between the two sisters. Nonetheless, Francesca is always good for a buck or two if Doris begs sufficiently.

John Lodge

Vic Durrant is Francesca's business manager. He laughingly refers to himself as her slave, but actually, the two are partners in every sense.

Quincy Jones, Don Mitchell

Les Appleton is a musician who runs his own jazz club called The Key of C. Les is the club's artist at night and its labour during the day. He is willing to part with information about Mitch Kirby to Mark although he makes a comment about Mark living with the Fuzz. Mark is still sensitive about the arrangement at this point in the series. Les does remind him that it is a lot better than what Mark had been doing with his life.

Lee Grant, Raymond Burr

This is another one of Francesca's acquisitions, a boat perfect for cruises to Mexico. Isn't it nice? The Chief knew Fran back in her police reporting days and he is flummoxed about her refusal to get more involved in her own safety. Especially as a sniper takes a shot at her from the dock. Ed and Mark are unable to run him down and the Chief is slightly wounded.

Raymond Burr, Don Mitchell, Don Galloway

In the early seasons, the Chief and staff relied on a board to help them make sense of their cases. Mark settles this one: "With the exception of Durant everybody has a reason to kill her but nobody can afford to."


Lee Grant, Barbara Anderson

Officer Whitfield is embedded as a secretary at Francesca's office. Her sleuthing and intuition uncover a deeper connection between Fran and her business manager than previously thought. Eve is also privy to information that Fran has also moved up the date for a fishing trip to Mexico for her and Mitch. What can it all mean? Perhaps it will match up with information the Chief uncovered on Durant's background. The business manager is a demolitions expert.

Lee Grant

Fran and Vic have set a bomb aboard the boat that is intended to kill Mitch. The pair were behind all of the attempts on her life. Everyone was to believe the bomb was meant for Fran.

Unaware that Mitch was alerted, her co-conspirator Vic in custody and the bomb removed. Fran's genuine fear for the Chief's life led her to betray the byzantine plot. Two years ago she was involved in a non-lethal hit and run. Mitch was the passenger in the car and has been blackmailing her ever since. The marriage was only the first instalment she had to pay.


Raymond Burr, Don Galloway

The Chief instinctively takes the look on Ed's face to mean that his chilli needs more spice.

Don Galloway, Barbara Anderson, Don Mitchell, Raymond Burr

Episodes always end with a plot wrap-up, a quip, and a good time with our regular gang.


Lee Grant

Ironside was a top-rater for its entire 8 seasons. Audiences became attached to the special police consultant and his staff, the variety of interesting stories, and fascinating guest stars. Certainly, the bravura role of the duplicitous Francesca Kirby played to the attractiveness, strength, and abilities of the lovely Lee Grant.












Monday, August 13, 2018

THE FOURTH ANNUAL BARRYMORE TRILOGY BLOGATHON: Counsellor-At-Law (1933)


Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting her Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon for the fourth time. It runs from August 13 to 15. Please click HERE for the contributions.


Written and staged by Elmer Rice, Counsellor-at-Law is the character study of a driven lawyer whose ambition is at odds with the comforts of peace he seeks in his life. Paul Muni played the role in the original production and revived it shortly after the initial closing date. Muni would revive the play again in 1942 and again play George Simon in a TV production in 1948. Obviously, this was a role close to his heart. Muni's Hollywood career was in full swing at this time, with films such as I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, but he was not chosen to take the role to the screen. Universal cast the charismatic and talented John Barrymore.

John Barrymore began his young adulthood as a freelance artist, but fate drew him into the family business which just happened to be the theatre, and for which his gifts made him eminently suitable. Renowned for his stage interpretations of Shakespeare's tragic characters Hamlet and Richard III, John made his film debut in 1914 and during the silent film era played such diverse characters as Raffles, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, and Don Juan.

Sound coming to the movies was no impediment for the theatre trained Barrymore clan and early in the decade, John played in Svengali, The Mad Genius, A Bill of Divorcement, Rasputin and the Empress with his siblings Ethel and Lionel, and Dinner at Eight.

John Barrymore as George Simon

George Simon, the title character of Counsellor-at-Law is never shown inside a courtroom. We know he and his partner are successful by the size of the office, the number of employees, the revolving door of clients waiting to be seen, the busy switchboard and the headlines in the newspapers. The office building and the area owned by Simon and Tedesco is large and impressively decorated in a streamlined art deco manner. Applause to Art Director Charles D. Hall and Set Decorator Ray Moyer.

Through the comings and goings of satisfied clients, amorous clients, potential clients - those with money and those with none - we can see the demands on the time and the energy of George Simon. We learn of his humble beginnings in a tenement and the ambition that led him to work since childhood to achieve wealth and fame. We learn of his sweet mother and his wastrel brother.

Doris Kenyon as Cora Simon and Melvyn Douglas as Roy Darwin

We meet George's wife Cora played by Doris Kenyon. She is a socialite who divorced her husband to marry George. He dotes on her and her two spoiled children. We can see that her regard is nowhere near his level and that her eye is already straying toward a playboy of her own class, Roy Darwin played by Melvyn Douglas.

Bebe Daniels as Regina Gordon aka "Rexy"

The audience can also see the deep affection of George's confidential secretary Rexy played by Bebe Daniels. She is as admirable a professional as she is a thoughtful person. George is so besotted by Cora that he can't see the treasure he has in his life in Rexy. Rexy, we will discover, is a lifesaver.

George's days are about to become even more chaotic. He is dealing with the arrest of a would-be anarchist from his old neighbourhood; a case he takes on for the sake of an old friendship. A tawdry affair of breach of promise will net a big profit. An early courtroom triumph proves to have been not as straight-forward a thing as George thought at the time. Political rivals plan to use it in disbarment proceedings.

The impending disaster cuts George deeply and he is in desperate need of the support of his family. Cora refuses to postpone a trip to Europe. She doesn't see how she could be of any help to George, and why should she be involved in the scandal? Is it any surprise that on board will be Roy Darwin? It came as a surprise to George, and a heartbreaking one. George Simon faces the loss of everything he holds dear, his career and his wife. We do not wonder that he considers suicide.

Directed by William Wyler and written for the screen by Elmer Rice, Counsellor-at-Law is a fast-paced and engrossing piece of theatre transferred seamlessly to the screen. There is a sense of energy and constant movement throughout the scenes. In the large reception area and library of the offices, the constant movement of characters and the rat-a-tat-tat of Jewel's delivery at the switchboard keeps that impression alive. Barrymore is enthralling as George Simon who is a ball of energy even when sitting still. Wyler's camera moves around the actor, closes in on his face so that his thoughts fairly jump at you through the screen.

Isabel Jewell as Bessie Green

Barrymore's centrepiece performance is surrounded by an outstanding ensemble. Bebe Daniels is sympathetic and strong as Rexy. Doris Kenyon coolly unlikeable as Cora Simon. Isabel Jewell a riot as the loquacious switchboard operator. Onslow Stevens as Simon's partner John Tedesco an understanding friend. Clara Langsner plays George's sweet and smart mother. Mayo Methot as a murderess freed by Simon, and Thelma Todd as a client who thinks big are examples of the kind of women in George's orbit beyond his beloved wife and wonderful secretary.

Angela Jacobs as Goldie Rindskopf 

Some members of the original Broadway production repeated their roles on the screen. Angela Jacobs is quite fun as Tedesco's secretary Goldie Rindskopf known to her co-workers as "The Duchess". T.H. Manning plays Peter Malone, a political operative from the old neighbourhood with a deep loyalty to George Simon. John Qualen is Johann Breitstein a man who was desperate for Simon's help, received it, and may now be instrumental in the lawyer's downfall. J. Hammond Dailey plays Charlie McFadden, a reformed crook who would do anything for his boss, George Simon. Note: Qualen and Manning also appeared in Elmer Rice's Street Scene, stage and screen.

John Barrymore as George Simon

Counsellor-at-Law is sensationally entertaining and a fine example of a film adaptation of a play, a pre-code drama, exemplary ensemble work, of William Wyler's skill, and John Barrymore's talent and star power. If you have yet to enjoy this film, please do give yourself that treat.

Trivia:

Two future directors are among the outstanding cast of Counsellor at Law.

Vincent Sherman as Harry Becker

Vincent Sherman made his film acting debut as the hot-headed Harry Becker. Sherman would act on the screen sporadically during the next few years and make his directorial debut with 1939s The Return of Dr. X. Other features: All Through the Night, Mr. Skeffington, The Hard Way, Nora Prentiss, Adventures of Don Juan, Harriet Craig, etc.

Richard Quine as Richard Dwight Jr.
Barbara Perry as Dorothy Dwight

Counsellor-at-Law was also the debut film year for teenage actor Richard Quine. He would act into his 20s and later take uncredited bits in some of his own movies. His first solo directing credit on a feature is for Sunny Side of the Street, a Frankie Laine vehicle for Columbia in 1951. Other features: the musical My Sister Eileen, Pushover, The Solid Gold Cadillac, Full of Life, It Happened to Jane, Bell Book and Candle, Strangers When We Meet, etc.





















Friday, August 3, 2018

THE RULE, BRITANNIA FILM BLOGATHON: The Mudlark (1950)


Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting his 5th annual salute to Britain and the movies. Click HERE for this year's contributions to the rebranded Rule, Britannia Film Blogathon.

There is a legend that in the thirty-ninth year of Her Majesty's reign a small boy added a footnote to English History.

British history and Hollywood filmmaking combine to create this winning movie based on a novel by Theodore Bonnet and adapted by producer/writer Nunnally Johnson. The incident of a youngster referred to in the press as "the boy Jones" found to have made himself at home in the grounds of Windsor Castle in 1838 was the basis for this historical fiction. 

20th Century Fox filmed this movie at London Studios, Denham in England. Jean Negulesco directed the mainly British cast with the exception being Irene Dunne in the key role of Queen Victoria. The movie received one Oscar nomination for Edward Stevenson and Margaret Furse in the category of Best Costume Design, Black and White.

Andrew Ray as Wheeler

His name was simply Wheeler and he was a mudlark who scavaged the banks of the Thames for a living. Not yet ten years old, although he couldn't tell you his age. Motherless, fatherless, ignorant, malnourished and dirty, this cast off from society had a yearning soul. This yearning soul made itself known when Wheeler took a brooch off of the body of a dead sailor. The brooch featured a cameo profile of Queen Victoria and the sight of the woman touched something in Wheeler. He would not sell or part with it for love nor money. He battled thieves and drowning to keep it. He imbued in that face all the lovely things he could never name. Learning that the lady was Queen Victoria, the Mother of England, Wheeler set out to see her in person at Windsor Castle.

Making his way through an unlocked gate and falling down a coal chute, Wheeler observed life in the castle from far below stairs to the very dining room of Her Majesty. There he fell asleep, was captured and taken to the Tower of London. Questioning by police and rumours in the press of his being involved in an assassination plot plagued the waif until he burst into tears while Christmas Carols rang in the air outside his prison.

Andrew Ray made his film debut as Wheeler at age 11. Physically he suits the image of a mudlark perfectly. Emotionally, Ray played the role with a proper balance of sensitivity and thoughtlessness.

Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria

She had been grieving for her husband, the late Prince Albert for the past fifteen years, and refused to leave the comfort to be found in the memories associated with Windsor Castle. Diplomatic urgings from Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli could not persuade Queen Victoria to do otherwise, and mild rebukes from her friend John Brown only hardened her heart.

Queen Victoria had steeped herself in her self-pity and convinced herself that her perfunctory actions toward her duty were enough for her people, for the parliament, and for her own well-being. She supported reforms for the welfare of the common and poorest in England, but she wanted nothing to do with the common and poorest of England when they came right into her home.

Irene Dunne does a lovely job of creating a Victoria true to the real character; myopic in her despondency, steadfast in her position, yet human enough to suppress a smile at the foibles in others. The actress is not buried beneath her make-up and costumes, as she plays a wholly recognizable human being.

Alec Guinness as Benjamin Disraeli

Benjamin Disraeli was the most patient and diplomatic of men; well suited to the job of Prime Minister. A master diplomat, his conversations with his monarch in The Mudlark are built with the precision of a match between fencing masters.  

The role of Disraeli falls between Last Holiday and The Lavender Hill Mob in Alec Guinness' filmography. The make-up does a remarkable job of turning the actor into the politician and Guinness does the rest. His determination, idealism, pragmatism, and humour create a worthy and interesting character.

Finlay Currie as John Brown

Finlay Currie plays Queen Victoria's beloved gillie and companion from Balmoral, John Brown. How a man can be so irreverent while adhering to all the niceties of the propriety of the court is a wonder. It would appear that he is helped by his open tippling. Nonetheless, he is a person from whom Her Majesty knows she will hear the truth whether it is pleasant or not. 

The Mudlark is also the story of others in the castle. We are privy to the romantic problems of a guardsman and a lady-in-waiting, in whose elopement the Queen will eventually get involved. The squabbles of those below stairs take centre stage with the self-important head butler, the would-be anarchist, and the saucy maid. The character of the staff is revealed as they interact with and react to the little mudlark.

Mr. Disraeli is able to use the incident of the urchin in the citadel in an impassioned speech in Parliament to rally support for reform. Mr. Brown is able to use Wheeler to bring his friend "the wee lady" out of herself and into the present. Wheeler himself will find his life changed through knowing these high-placed people.

Andrew Ray meets Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
(Queen consort of the United Kingdom and the Dominions)

The Mudlark had its premiere on October 30th, 1950 as a Royal Film Performance raising money for the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund.

I find The Mudlark a charming and emotional experience with remarkable performances and unexpected depth in its examination of class conflict which should be historical but is merely timely.

















THE WORLD WAR ONE ON FILM BLOGATHON: Broken Lullaby (1932)

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The World War One On Film Blogathon on November 10th and 11th to commemorate the 100th annive...