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This week, the mix has quite a nice balance, I feel: a couple of premières, some classics, a couple of oldies and one or two surprises – for which I take full responsibility! If you would like to catch them, I have calculated that the Scotland Yard featurettes directed by Peter Duffell, at the start of his career, are due to be shown over three nights from Tuesday 9 February at 6pm. The titles to look out for are The Secret Weapon, The Grand Junction Case and The Never Never Murder.
THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947) Saturday 30 January 2.10-4.10pm TP (Channel 81)
Rex Harrison was always good value as a light comedian and he is excellent here, as the ghost of a sea captain who romances Gene Tierney (equally good) after she buys his cottage. The film is quite delightful. You might also remember the TV series, which ran for 50 episodes and was on British television in the early 1970s.
BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018) Saturday 30 January 10.00-11.55pm BBC 2 P
The subject matter – a father helps his son in a years-long battle against drug addiction – might be something we would look to shy away from. However, it is a genuine, sincere drama with poignant performances from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet and deserves an audience.
LOOK BACK IN ANGER (1959) Sunday 31 January 1.45-3.20am BBC 2
John Osborne’s superb, ground-breaking play was transferred quickly to the screen – and, directed by Tony Richardson, created a vivid, realistic style of film-making that, for just a few years, produced some of our very best films. Richard Burton is Jimmy Porter and Mary Ure his long-suffering wife; interestingly, Nigel Kneale (creator of Quatermass) co-wrote the screenplay with Mr Osborne.
THE TRAIN (1964) Sunday 31 January 2.45-4.55pm BBC 2
The Train is a gripping war film that manages to be a little different. (Yes, it is possible!) A railway worker tries to prevent a German officer from looting some of France’s national treasures. It is quite an exceptional drama and this is due mostly to the director, John Frankenheimer, and the sparring of Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield.
LAW AND ORDER (1936) Monday 1 February 10.30-11.55am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Oh, joy – we have a bona fide B-western (from Reliable) this morning! The question is which one? Tom Tyler’s filmography doesn’t include one with this title. I expect it to be Fast Bullets, which wasn’t released in the UK until 1945 and so this would be a retitled print. Whatever, we can expect the usual Texas Ranger shenanigans with the occasional off-the-wall surprise – western expert Phil Hardy described it once as “a surprisingly elegant piece of trash”. Tom Tyler (a former weightlifter) made an athletic hero before being reduced to bit parts that included Luke Plummer in the 1939 Stagecoach. He averaged about six B-westerns a year in the 1930s; in 1932, two of them were Two Fisted Justice and Single-Handed Sanders – confusing in the extreme, if they ever played on the same double bill!
ROBOCOP (1987) Monday 1 February 9.00-11.05pm Channel 25
Still delirious after the above entry, I shall recommend Robocop – but, pandering to stereotypes, probably not if you prefer Jane Austen/Judi Dench. Peter Weller is the cop who is shot to pieces (literally, it is cert. 18) and returns as a half-man/half-machine to find those responsible. Outrageous (usually) director Paul Verhoeven does take satirical swipes at corporate America and consumerism but, mostly, it’s just a blast (literally, he says again). On release, I think I saw it at the ABC in Taunton (not long before LRFS was born and saved my film soul). I don’t remember shouting “5-star classic” as I left and I am still not convinced it deserves that rating. Presumably, a watching Donald Trump would implode – how would he ‘support’ law enforcement whilst it took down big business?
MY MAN GODFREY (1936) Tuesday 2 February 3.00-4.50pm Film Four
Unlike yesterday’s very modest offering from 1936, Godfrey is a peach of a film – a proper screwball comedy classic. William Powell is a tramp hired by an eccentric family (chiefly, the young daughter, a wonderful Carole Lombard) as their new butler. The whole cast is faultless, but a special mention for Alice Brady and Eugene Pallette (soon to be Friar Tuck) as the parents.
FOREVER FEMALE (1953) Tuesday 2 February 11.10pm-1.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Whilst not quite in the same league as Godfrey, it is still a witty comedy that bears a resemblance to All About Eve (1950). In her last role of any note, Ginger Rogers is an ageing Broadway star still hoping to compete with those on the way up; William Holden is the writer of a new play.
BREATHE (2017) Wednesday 3 February 9.00-10.50pm BBC 2 P
Following his success in the visceral war film Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Andrew Garfield made this gentle romantic drama. He plays a young (and actual) father-to-be that, in 1958, contracted a severe case of polio. Supported by his wife (played by Claire Foy), he remained determined to pursue his ambitions.
THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963) Wednesday 3 February 11.25pm-2.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The last film of the British New Wave is, arguably, the best and possibly the best purely British film of the 1960s. (Lawrence of Arabia had an international cast, international locations and so on.) Richard Harris is the ex-miner who now plays professional rugby for a living and Rachel Roberts the widowed landlady who becomes his lover. Harris turned in other fine performances, including in The Field (1991-92 season, audience reaction 87%), but he never matched this. Incredibly, not all the reviews were positive, but it is a tremendous film. Grab the Network DVD if you find it – it has a PDF script and a commemorative booklet.
HANGMAN’S KNOT (1952) Thursday 4 February 12.35-2.15pm Channel 32
It is a quiet afternoon, so our matinée will have to be a decent Randolph Scott western. He’s a Confederate officer who hijacks a Union gold shipment, but his men get other ideas when they learn that the War of the Secession has ended. Donna Reed and Lee Marvin offer good support. It is the only cinema film directed by Roy Huggins, who later created Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files for American television.
QUARTET (2012) Thursday 4 February 9.00-10.30pm BBC 4
Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut was a popular booking at the Regent, as the cast includes Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly. All is relatively calm at the Beecham House home for retired opera singers – until a particularly awkward grande dame makes up the numbers . . .
OLD MOTHER RILEY JOINS UP (1939) Friday 5 February 9.25-10.55am TP (Channel 81)
If you are a fan of the comic creation Mrs Brown, you might like to reacquaint yourself with her music hall predecessor. There were about 15 films, crudely made but popular with the masses, and TP have acquired at least some of the rights to show. When I remember where I have put it, it would be a good time to read Robert V. Kenny’s book on Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane!
JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015) Friday 5 February 10.00pm-12 midnight Sky Arts (Ch 11)
The legendary blues and soul singer might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it makes for a fascinating documentary. She had an extraordinary presence, but drink and drugs took their toll (was it really 50 years ago?) and her only no. 1, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, was a posthumous one.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
RANDOM DORSET (AND BEYOND)
In my introduction a week ago, I wrote that a film (or TV episode) always attracts more interest if there is a local aspect to it. We live in a lovely part of the world, here in the south-west, and so we have been a popular location with film makers from all around the world for over a hundred years. Steven Spielberg filmed some of War Horse (2011) in Devon and some scenes for Restoration (1995) were filmed just across the border at Forde Abbey. Cornwall’s rugged landscape has also been used. Parts of Robert Taylor’s Knights of the Round Table (1953) were shot at Tintagel (showcasing MGM’s first use of CinemaScope) and there has been a dramatic Cornish resurgence in recent years, with all of Summer in February (2013), Bait and Fisherman’s Friends (both 2019) filmed there.
As for Dorset, it has been estimated that over 300 films and TV episodes have been enhanced by location shooting in the county. As early as 1913, film pioneer Cecil Hepworth came here to make Hamlet and a mock-up of Elsinore castle was built on the cliffs above Lulworth Cove. Both The Heroes of Telemark (1965) and The Ship that Died of Shame (1955) had scenes filmed in Poole Harbour. The production companies of The Key (1958) and The Damned (1961) came to Weymouth; movies that are likely to turn up again on Talking Pictures, or other channels, if you are patient. A much rarer film – not televised for years and not on Region 2 DVD, to my knowledge – is Rough Shoot (1952), a thriller with a script by Eric Ambler and starring Joel McCrea (hence its American title Shoot First). We have shots of the Dorset countryside, a mention of Dorchester prison, a signpost saying Wood Lane and other examples of local colour. Also quite rare is the 1957 CFF serial Five on a Treasure Island, filmed at Corfe castle and in Wareham; this is available from the BFI in a nice HD transfer. The most prestigious film made in the county, would be Tom Jones (1963) which won the Oscar for Best Picture; its other claim to fame (I have been told many times!) is that the Regent’s long-serving manager, Alec Orme, worked on it as an extra. Then, in August 1966, MGM’s expensive Far from the Madding Crowd began shooting here, with occasional forays over the border into Wiltshire. Once again, local citizens were employed as extras.
Coming closer to home, The Boat that Rocked (2009) had scenes shot in Lyme Bay and was a popular booking at the Regent; as was Tamara Drewe (2010) with nearby locations that included Yetminster and Salwayash. This brings us, finally, to Lyme Regis itself. In storage at the Regent, we used to have two Universal newsreels from the early 1930s that showed the town criers of the day and Langmoor Gardens. My memory is that they were shown last at the cinema’s 60th birthday celebrations. Their current whereabouts are unknown and it is likely they were destroyed in the 2016 fire. When I gave a talk to the U3A a few years ago, I ended it by focussing on ‘The Big Three’. Two of these are, of course, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and All Over the Town; the third, at the time, was the CFF film Wreck Raisers, released 23 October 1972. There are clear shots of the Cobb and harbour, the RNLI and Langmore Gardens. I still hope to bring it, one day, to a newly-built Regent; in the meantime, we will replace it with Ammonite (2020), the new film about Mary Anning, whose release has been scheduled for March 2021 – but don’t be surprised if that date is subject to further revision.
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