SIXTY-FIVE million Americans
go to the cinema every week. The American film industry refers to the vast bulk of them as " the incorruptibles," by which they mean that they will swallow anything that is sent them. The weekly dose is thickly coated with jam and ever more jam from the " critics " on newspapers and fan magazines. Film criticism as it is known in this country scarcely exists, and we all know how. only recently, the American film industry re-acted to British attacks on some of the pictures sent over here.
Listen to an American, Herbert F. Margolis, writing in the current Penguin Film Review,* on the subject; " Too many of them (film critics) are chosen for ability to attune a finger to the pulse of the Great American Public rather than to the pulse of cinematography. Thus, the few reviewers who do exercise a measure of influence on film audiences, mainly because of wide coverage in popular Press and publications, are often a group of inconsequential lackeys, who undulate to a barometer of uncritical public tastes, rather than attempting to elevate standards. Mr. ` Pulse,' worrying about readers in Kalamazoo, views any pinch of Betty Grable and dimples of Lana Turner, surrounded' by 500 Gorgeous Goldwyn Girls, etc., etc.. etc., as spectacle, drama, box-office bonanza and a piece de resistance. Such film appraisals degenerate into mere eyewash and free advertising."
True, the writer points out, there are little islands of revolt scattered here and there, and since the war they are spreading. Perhaps one of the most hopeful signs of all is the result of an experiment which Mr. Margolis himself carried out among G.I.s in Biarritz as part of the postV.E. day educational programme. Working in conjunction with our own Ministry of Information and Film Institute, Ciamathtque Francaise, Soviet Cultural Relations, it was possible to study international types of film making and make the study course one of wide scope. The students, who up to then had looked upon the cinema as just escapist entertainment—the " incorruptibles "—were invited to vote at the conclusion of the course. To show how " corruption " had set in, 95 per cent. found some fault with the Hollywood cinema; 63 per cent. found serious fault; only 5 per cent. were completely satisfied. Mr. Margolis can be excused his jubilant verdict—" The Socratic mission of contaminating youth with the truth has been accomplished?"
Happily, this breach in the walls of smug complacence coincides with constructive revolts against Hollywood smugness in many parts of the States. One significant event is the establishment of a Motion Picture Foundatiou for colleges and univer sities. and among the sponsors are Orsen Welles, James Stewart, John Steinheck. Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard and John Huston.
This getting together of progressives in the film industry and the cultural and educational centres of America is viewed by Mr. Margolis with optimism. " Eventually," he says. " it bids fair to overcome the harriers of professional lethargy and critical apathy; may serve to reeducate Americans towards higher film conceptions and eliminate the cancerous decay of film standardisation."
Films of the week; The Shocking Miss Pilgrim?: (On.FoN, MARBLE
ARCH). Betty Grahle emerges as
quite an actress in • a happy little story of the 1870's when typewriters" were girls and managing directors (if they happened to be Dick Haymes) broke into song in the office. The Turners of Prospect Road (AsTotuk) — British case of spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar. If this story of a " wander " greyhound had been better directed and better photographed, it could have been plumped out into quite a
a Penguin Flint Review, h.