Prelude to Fame iGAtimorer Am) MARKLE ARC H PAVILION) Director : Fergus McDonell WHY all this pother, suddenly, about the undesirability of child film " stars." In writing that sentence I have broken a vow
never to use the word " star " in this column. Let us say, rather,
child actors. It has taken the advent of a rather unusually bright British boy to rouse the storm. A bit ironic, after all the transatlantic juveniles, from the tear-jerkers to " Our Gang" we have imported steadily since the &tam of the n n
Child actors there have always been and always will be, tumblers in the circus, the horrible child in East Lynne and the unfortunate baby in Madam Burterfav. Let the onobnoxious among them flourish and by all means let us keep them in their place.
Not long ago, a well-known film actor in Hollywood, let fly about some of the poisonous children he had been asked to act with. Precocious horrors who " hog " the camera, who know everybody's lines as well as their own, and are cordially detested by the whole studio. Not least by the unfortunate adults who have to act with them.
The salutary feature about Prelude to Fame, which brings Jeremy Spenser into neon lights (see Piccadilly Circus). is that it actually puts forward a case against the exploiting of child prodigies. It is one thing. Aldous Huxley argues (who wrote the story on which the film is based) to teach and encourage childish talent and quite another to rob him of his childhood and exhibit and exploit him.
The Mendelssohn and the Mozart parents had no such scruples.
Perhaps we ought to be thankful that child roles turn up only occasionally on the films and that in the meantime the child is growing up and eventually reaches the awkward age at which no one will endure him Or her. That is the testing time. If the prodigy is to develop into a competent adult, he can get down to the serious business of studying and learning his job from A to Z.
In portraying the Italian boy musician, Jeremy Spenser has had the advantage of being, half-Italian and, his mother told inc. his forebears were musical. That must have made the director's joh-aand that of Mr. Marcus Dodds who taught him the movements of a conductor-less arduous than it might have been.
It is unfair to judge the adult cast against the " prodigy " themeKathleen Byron as the almost inhuman " patroness," Guy Rolfe (a pleasant film personality temporarily lost to us through illness). Kathleen Ryan (too static)-to mention only the principals. The music is the " hero "-the Royal Philharmonic orchestra-playing magniflcentlyand the amazing simulation of conducting. not only with arms and hands, but with face and feeling by young Jeremy.
Cheaper by the Dozen (ODEON, LEICESTER SQUARE) Director : Walter Lang
Twelve children in a 19th century family was not all that funny. But, to quote Francis Thompson, these are " pinched and dozing days" and everything human seems to have shrunk.
The time here is circa 1920 when a round dozen was certainly a novelty but not the scream it would be today. Clifton Webb (of Sitting Pretty fame) and Myrna Loy (so often the perfect wife and now the super-mother) are the parents of this brood and on the whole enjoying their small kingdom.
Piquant moment: When an interfering member of the Planned Parenthood Society arrives-unaware of the citadel she is storming -to enlist the mother as their vicepresident.
It's all placidly entertaining with a finale that made me wonder if the novel from which it was taken was not founded on fact. Jeanne Crain's narrative commentary seemed to imply it.
Champagne for Caesar (LONDON PAviLION) Director : Richard Whorf We only know what goes on in Amer:can radio stations by hearsay and in so far as the B.B.C. imitates it. Here is a satire on the more extravagant stunts in which Ronald Colman, a man with encyclopaedic knowledge, gets the better of a snap sponsor. He listens to the " Masquerade for Money " and, to quote the synopsis, "regards it all as the forerunner of intellectual destruction."
It is easy enough for Ronald Colman to convince us that he is a man of culture and learning and that this department of commercial life is utterly distasteful to him.
How he sets about to destroy the " soap" concern (whose offices are walled with quilted satin) makes a pleasant enough film which the presence of Celeste Holm underlines, although she is a bit too intelligent for the part she is asked to play. Caesar, by the way, is a parrot who likes beer hut who prefers champagne.
No Man or her Own (Caluerote)
Not once nor twice but ad nauseam has the plot of taking the name and place of a dead person been used in fiction. Here it is once more, well acted by Barbara Stanwyck (who rarely turns in an indifferent performance). She imposes herself and her illegitimate baby on the parents of a girl who has been killed in a train wreck.
Dividing Line (Csm.-rnm) Director : Joseph Losey Much better than its stable companion, The Dividing Line sets out one of the less publicised features of American life-the poverty stricken Spanish-American fruit pickers and the " class " enemies on the other side of the track.