The Contact Man—They Live By Night—Adam and Evelyne
WHILE discussions are going forward about the proposed film on the life of St. Thomas More (last week's issue), I now learn that preliminary preparations arc well advanced for the filming of T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. So we may look forward to seeing two of England's greatest saints on the screen, but not for some time. The Thomas is Becket picture, which is being made by Film Traders, will not be ready for at least a year, but when it is I am assured that it will have the full approval of the author. He has been working on the script in collaboration with Mr. G. M. Hoeltering, of Film Traders, who will direct the film.
Miss Mai Harris, secretary of the company (which also controls the Academy Cinema) told me: " Obviously the story has had to be widened in scope for the screen but any changes or additions are being made by Mr. Eliot himself. Apart from a new beginning and some small adjustments, the original text will remain. Our own artist. Peter Pendrey, is busy on research for costumes and scenery. Materials are being copied from old designs and tapestries and they are being woven on our own hand looms," Apart from Shakespeare, this will be the first film to be spoken in verse. an ambitious and courageous experiment. Mr. Eliot, I understand, has made an entire recording of the play—has his own strict ideas of how his verse should be spoken. Much of the filming will be done in Canterbury Cathedral.
THE DEVIL ABROAD
It is some time since we had the devil on the screen. I think it was in that excellent rural morality piece, The Devil to Pay, in which Walter Huston gave us something quite new in demonology. Now, of all people, Ray Milland takes the shape of the evil one in The Contact Man (PLAZA) and has him haunting the precincts of local government offices and trying to demoralise honest Thomas Mitchell—governor-elect-who is out to stop corruption and smash rackets.
Where this Hollywood devil goes wrong is that he ignores the diabolical rule of making humans do all his dirty work and takes a hand in it himself. No self-respecting Mephistopheles, for instance, would murder a man and then pin his murder on someone else. If he couldn't make the man do it himself he might just as well go out of business. But that's what this wicked "confact " man does. There is a scream and a splash and a dead man is floating in the dock.
Mr. Milland manages to look extremely sinister in lounge suit and " derby and he recoils at the sight of the Bible in very much the same way as Mephistopheles does when faced with the crosses on the hilts of the soldiers swords in Faust.
However superior one may feel about the treatment of the story here. I find it quite refreshing to get even the barest acknowledgment of the Devil's existence in these days of super-psychiatrists and their plausible explanation of all human misdemeanour. But if the Devil has a trade union, I imagine he would expel Mr. Milland for behaviour unbecoming to demons.
TOO LATE FOR RECLAIMING?
As I mentioned in this column last week, one of Hollywood's biggest psychological blunders is to build a story round a violent criminal and then develop it into an appeal to your understanding and pity. When a film opens with a savage killing, how can any normal person want the people involved to escape? It is against all natural feeling. The very instinct of self-preservation makes us uncomfortable that anyone threatening life and property is at large. And that is why They Live by Night (ACADEMY) which, in direction and acting, towers head and shoulders over many a gangster study. just fails to enlist pity for the boy criminal round whom it revolves. He has escaped from prison where he has been on a murder charge and at once goes:into a bank-robbing-and-murder (if necessary) racket with his older escapees. To the girl with whom he falls in love and who gangster-bred though she is, knows with a wisdom beyond her years or upbringing that no good will come of it. he cooks up the excuse that with the money he gets he can engage a lawyer who will perhaps get his murder sentence quashed.
Even at this point the boy might get our sympathy. But a small but potent incident follows that I found quite disgusting. An amiable. garrulous jeweller from whom he has bought a watch for the girl, recognising him waiting in the car for the bandits with their loot, innocently engages him in conversation. He is resting his hand on the edge of the car. Impatient the boy cracks down on the hand with what looks like a cosh and the man recoils in pain. It is this utter dehumanising of the boy that revolts me and consequently reduces interest in his ultimate fate. The world, you feel. is going to be a much safer place with him out of it. And so will his girl, no matter how fiercely they love each other. I've said before and will never get tired of saying it that this amalgam of cruelty and sex is all wrong—no matter how artistically it is (resented.
Acting is sensitive and intelligent —Farley Granger as the tips/ and Cathy O'Donnell as the girl. Director Nicholas Ray allows himself one cynical comment on an aspect of the American scene—a neon light over a house that flashes in and out " Marriages Here " twenty dollars plain and thirty with the wedding march.
Jean Simmons is still one of our best assets in British films. Her work in Adam and Eve/yin' (LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE) IS amazingly good and she survives with honours the brash atmosphere of this story of cherubu de her on the run in London's West End.
(Theatre will be found on page 6)
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