As we engage with everyone’s favourite month – November – the BBC begins its 60th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. There were two cinema films, both starring Peter Cushing: Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966). They made an entertaining double bill (and, yes, I did see them!) and, a year or so ago, they were spruced up and given a re-release. However, our fondness for the character – and the series’ success worldwide – comes from the TV incarnations: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and their successors. Anyway, Wednesday 1 November is the launch date for the celebrations, beginning with Talking Doctor Who and Doctor Who @ 60: a Musical Celebration on BBC 4. Plus (sharp intake of breath) over 800 episodes will be on iPlayer from the same day. What a splendid tick list they will make!
THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1955) Sunday 29 October 12.30-2.10pm BBC 2
If you enjoyed Operation Mincemeat (what a great Silver Screen that would have made, in Lyme), then you might like to give the original a try. It concerns the famously outrageous Allied deception during World War Two: plant false papers on a corpse to convince the Germans that the next theatre of operations will be Greece, not Sicily.
THE TRAIN (1964) Sunday 29 October 2.10-4.20pm BBC 2
I referenced The Train a couple of weeks ago when highlighting the French Resistance drama Bataille du Rail (there is a TP repeat at 12.20pm on Wednesday). Paul Scofield is trying to steal French art treasures; Burt Lancaster is determined to stop him. Mr Lancaster really was one of the great star-actors and filmed particularly well in black and white.
ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947) Wednesday 1 November 2.30-4.25pm Legend (Ch 41)
By 1946, John Wayne enjoyed enough clout at home-studio Republic to become a producer as well; this was his first project – and a very creditable one it turned out to be. Gail Russell’s fragile beauty makes a splendid counterpoint to the Duke’s bullishness and the story’s post-war Quakerism was most timely. Wayne asked his regular scriptwriter, James Edward Grant, to direct; he does well, but was overly fond of the bottle and returned – mostly – to writer and indispensible buddy duties.
MACBETH (1948) Thursday 22 November 11.20pm-1.05am BBC 4
The Bard taking up residence at Republic studios forsooth! The production is studio bound and the sound quality variable, but Orson Welles was a genius and made the most of what he had to work with. He directs and plays the title role, and Jeanette Nolan makes her film debut as Lady Macbeth.
THE NEST (2019) Friday 3 November 11.05pm-12.45am BBC 2 P
Where would a psychological drama be without a large isolated house in the country? Jude Law and his family relocate to this one from the States, and it isn’t long before their apparently cosy lifestyle starts to unravel . . .
The media has recently reported the passing of two industry personnel, the names of whom should be familiar to members. British director Terence Davies - by all accounts a gentle, if tortured, soul - gave a lyricism to working-class life, particularly in Distant Voices Still Lives (1988), which few of his colleagues have matched. It is a great shame that his films didn’t enjoy a wider acceptance by the public. And, alas, this is reflected by the voting on the films we have shown: The Deep Blue Sea (65%) and A Quiet Passion (57%). In the case of actor Piper Laurie, she is best known for her roles in Carrie (1976), Children of a Lesser God (1986) and her Emmy-nominated performance in the TV series Twin Peaks. She began her career as a ‘contract starlet’ at Universal-International at the same time as Lori Nelson, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson. In fact she co-starred with Tony Curtis in at least four movies, starting with The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951). According to Mr Curtis, their teaming in this was so popular the studio offered him $30,000 to marry her. However, his dislike of Ms Laurie proved too strong – and he was soon to marry Janet Leigh.
DREAM HORSE (2020) Saturday 21 October 9.25-11.40pm Channel 4 P
Based on actual events, Dream Horse stars Toni Collette and Owen Teale as a wife and husband with little money, who put together a syndicate to raise and own a race horse. You don’t even have to like the ‘sport of kings’ to be thoroughly entertained!
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S WIFE (2021) Sunday 22 October 1.45-3.10am Channel 4 P
We wanted to programme this drama, for members, in February 2024, but the computer-file format was a risk for us. Set in Somalia (and a boost for film-making there), the gravedigger of the title returns to his home village to raise money for his wife’s operation. It is a worthy addition to Channel 4’s Black and Proud season. You will need to set your recorder Saturday evening, though – or watch it later on their streaming platform!
JULIUS CAESAR (1953) Sunday 22 October 12noon-2pm BBC 2
Julius Caesar is regarded widely as one of the best screen adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. The key factor is that it was made at MGM and their resources were second to none. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was a top director (he also adapted the screenplay), the set design won an Oscar and the cast includes Marlon Brando, James Mason (as Brutus), Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and John Gielgud. There is a repeat 9pm Thursday evening.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE (1939) Thursday 26 October 3.10-4.50pm TP (Channel 82)
This is not the 1943 Busby Berkeley musical starring Alice Faye, but a rarer UK offering starring Jack Buchanan, a Scottish actor/singer/dancer who was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. He co-produced this private-eye drama (a follow-up to 1937’s Smash and Grab) that was re-titled The Amazing Mr Forrest for the American market. He and Googie Withers make a good team.
Last week I referred to the actress Glynis Johns who, although born in Pretoria, was very much a star of British stage and screen (her father, actor Mervyn Johns, was born in Pembroke). Whilst British actors have always been popular on American television particularly as guest stars (Jean Simmons in Star Trek – the Next Generation, for example), having their own show was a much rarer phenomenon. Ms Johns did (Glynis, in which she played a mystery writer, ran for 13 episodes in 1963) and David Niven had also had his own short-lived show in 1959. (The opening episode starred Cameron Mitchell as a compulsive gambler and was excellent.) The doyenne of fictional mystery writers was, of course, Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote (1984-1996, 264 episodes). Much less well known, although it was televised in Britain in the early 1970s, is the 1970-71 series Nanny and the Professor; this starred Juliet Mills (and Richard Long) and lasted for 54 episodes. The great Boris Karloff also had his own anthology show from 1960 to 1962 – it was described as the scariest TV show ever for its DVD release, so I will seek it out, at some point! You didn’t have to be an actor of course - Alfred Hitchcock Presents was on air from 1955 to 1962 (268 episodes) and then The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ran from 1962 to 1965.
RICHARD III (1955) Sunday 15 October 12noon-2.35pm BBC 2
This is Laurence Olivier’s celebrated portrayal of the hunchback king. The superb cast includes John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Claire Booth and Stanley Baker. There is a repeat showing on BBC 4, Thursday evening.
US (2019) Sunday 15 October 9.00-10.50pm BBC 2 P
Director Jordan Peele received rave reviews for his debut horror feature Get Out; if this ambitious follow-up doesn’t quite match it, it isn’t for want of trying. A middle-class family on holiday is menaced by their doppelgangers; the actors double up in their roles with considerable aplomb. The splendid 1976 horror film The Omen follows at 10.50 and there are several more classics of the genre (including The Shining) on during the week.
SUMMER OF SOUL (2021) Monday 16 October 10.00PM-12.20am Channel 4 P
I love it when a lost film (or footage) is recovered and then given a re-release. Here we have a music documentary that showcases performances at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. It was a ground-breaking event and the film really does it justice.
TRADE WINDS (1939) Thursday 19 October 3.10-5.00pm TP (Channel 82)
Trade Winds is a relatively rare oddity that members might like to compare to such films as Knives Out. A detective (Frederic March) pursues a murder suspect (Joan Bennett) around the world. It is clear from the stock footage that the director (or cinematographer) had indeed travelled far although the cast remained firmly in the studio. A typical review of the time called it “a breezy little comedy” (Dorothy Parker was one of the writers) and it opened at the venerable Radio City Music Hall in January 1939. The independent producer was Walter Wanger and he backed this venture about the same time as Stagecoach . . .
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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