MONSIEUR Vincent. I am glad to hear from Mr. Hargate, of C.G.T. (Distributois) Ltd., who handle the film in this cotintry, is still going strong and should be showing over here well into the winter. It thus breaks two records -of being the most widely exhibited foreign film (for many provincial towns it must have been the first they had seen). and of being the first life of any saint to be shown on the screen in the commercial cinema.
Of all the provincial centres so far, Birmingham seems to have given it the most spectacular welcome. Liverpool, one of the first centres to book the film, is having several opportunities of seeing it again it has hooked four more dates. Newcastle is one of the most recent to show it and Mr. Bargate assures me that many more towns in the south of England will see it later on.
The French saints are certainly cooling on to the screen steadily. Although not to he shown to the general public yet, there is an invitation viewing of the Cure d'Ars film Rene Jolivet's Le Sorrier du Girl, this week. which 1 hope to be able to tell you something about.
We have had a double dose of Eric I,inklater in the West End this week and both films bear the title of the two hooks from which they have been made. They are Poet's Pub (Orwoe, Leicester Square) and Private Angelo (Cmuseors). Both books were best sellers and neither film lives up to the book's reputa tion. Because I liked and enjoyed the Private Angelo book more than the somewhat dated Poet's Pub. I was more disappointed by the film. It seemed to me to lack completely the life and lift and general excitement that Linklater gave to this story of a bewildered Italian boy who is caught up like a piece of flotsam in the fantastic military complexities of the Italian " operations," and whose one object is to save his life. One bullet to him is as bad as another. no matter from what rifle or machine gun it is fired. His complete obsession with self-preservation brings him through and in time to enter Rome even ahead of the Allied armies-riding on a cow.
NO ITALIAN THIS The first thing that is wrong with the film is the casting of Peter Ustinov as the Italian boy. And that is no one's fault but Mr. Ustinov's, because he wrote and
directed the picture. He is heavy, monosyllabic, and most of the time sounds like the English public schoolboy in excelsis. I found his immobility at times positively infuriating. Once again a British unit has gone to Italy and brought little of the native scene or character back.
It comes to this, 1 think. The
degree to which you will enjoy Private Angelo depends on (a) whether you have read the book and (Li) whether you know Italy and the Italians. Even crowd scenes in the village with genuine Italians taking part, seem stilted and cameraconscious. The Germans, always easy to caricature, are larger than life.' and the only people I really could believe in were three Customs officers who go into a huddle as to whether or not an artificial limb has to have an export permit.
If Private Angelo is too heavy, Poet's Pub is just a muddle and the only member of the cast who stands out is James Robertson Justice as a bearded. bad-tempered professor. Mr. I.inklater's literary dialogue flutters and dies on the reconditioned air, Joyce Grenfell as a Chelsea pageant mistress. makes a brief -hut electric entrance, but it is only a " solo turn."
Advice to best-selling novelists: It's not fair to your public to let film producers cash in by using the title Of your book. It only irritates your readers when, out of admiration for you, they go to see the film and find that the life and stuffing have gone out of your novel. Be content to retire into your corner, clutching your fat cheque, and go on writing.
SMALL TOWN PIMPERNEL
The lovable personality of that delightful French actor with the extraordinary name of Noel-Noel, will make it worth your while, if you live in London, to go and see him play the part of a small town Scarlet Pimpernel in Le Pere Tranquille (Srupio Om), an unambitious little story about the French re.sistancc. I don't think we can ever know too much about the impact of the German occupation on the ordinary French people and here we have a likeable French family father a mild-mannered little man who had enough of war, so he says, in 1914-18 and now grows orchids; mother in her well-upholstered middle age., and the boy and girl growing up in the. nervous atmosphere of an occupied country. This is not high in the category of French films-but it reproduces with such fidelity the French scene, family life and atmosphere, that 1, for one, found it pleasant to watch.
FANTASY WITH TEARS
The Three Musketeers (EmetnE) is practically a one-man show with Gene Kelly as D'Artagnan whirling his sword all over the place like a Dervish in the last stages of frenzy. But it is a poetic rhythmic frenzy and no wonder that beside him the " Three" look like a group of statuary that only occasionally comes to life. Mr. Kelly outdoes Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who up to now has held the current record for leaping, vaulting, swinging on rope and treebranch from height to dizzy height. Now I am sure Mr. Fairbanks will gracefully bow himself out of that particular ring.
While frankly clowning Dumas's story, Director George Sidney suddenly lets the story come crashing to earth as soon as the tenderer emotions arc engaged, and it is with something of a shock that we see Gene Kelly crying real tears over Constance. True. she dies, but need she. since the whole story is guyed? Lana Turner as Lady de Winter looks amazingly like a youthful Mae West at times, and Vincent Price a de-frocked Cardinal in the part of Richelieu. Note: Legion of Decency intervened and demanded he be called Prime Minister.