"WHEN CATHOLICS PLAY MARBLES THEY PLAY FOR KEEPS"
But What Is Our Part In The Cinema Game ?
Frani IRIS CONLAY, CATHOLIC HERALD Film Critic
Things are getting sealised outside that ought to be recognised inside. Listen to this from Glyn Roberts in the Film Weekly: "The Church of Rome has always specialised in the study of the various media for propagating ideas. For a long time its principal officers have been watching the increasing influence of films over the peoples of the world. . . At last the Church is itself beginning to take an active part in the devising, production and showing of films. . . When the Catholics play marbles they play for keeps."
The Methodist Recorder, too, has something to say from its point of view, and in open forum, debates whether or not the cinema is an aid to Church worship.
This week a film of the life and death of Christ, From the Manger to the Cross, lately remade and adapted to sound by a Church of England clergyman, the Rev. Brian Hession, of Aylesbury, was privately shown to leaders of the Churches, including Cardinal Hinsley. As a result, the Cardinal has notified the L.C.C. that he considers From the Manger "a most reverent film. calculated to do much good," and a new ruling concerning the figure of Christ may even be made.
At the church just opposite to the CATHOLIC HERALD offices, St. Dunstan's-inthe-West, I notice a weekly lunch-how display of another religious picture, The
Church All these signs, Cinemavisible in the sky in Conscious one week of the year,
point to the very obvious conclusion that the English churches are very cinema-conscious, and that outside, the Catholic Church is con
sidered particularly alive to film possibilities.
But are we as alive as our friends give us credit for? Certainly we are not doing the spectacular thing of the English Church of producing great religious pictures to beat the commercial cinema at its own game. But then we have not the Joseph Rank milling and shipping millions behind us, nor do I think any very useful purpose is served by these material manifestations of spiritualities.
In the States at present a great convert writer, Eugene O'Neill (of Mourning Becomes Electra fame) is engaged upon a religious film scenario which promises something as deeply significant as the imaginative work of Mark Connelly's Green Pastures. We cannot offer anything of this kind. Here I would say though that at least our film societies are taking new life and launching out into more ambitious programmes. (A Catholic news-reel is in the offing—see last week's CATHOLIC HERALD.)
Yet there are other
Film Fan activities open to us
Must Help that do not need studios, production units or technicians or money — only interest from the public.
For instance, readers have asked me why the news-reels give no items of Catholic news either from England or abroad. The reason why there is no Catholic news is because exhibitors don't believe that Catholic news has any market.
But the other week an experiment was made : Cardinal Hinsley was included in a reel and Catholics were mighty pleased. Right. But did they think of mentioning their pleasure to their local cinema manager? Not many I'm sure. So the experiment may die its death.
Then the Spanish Nationalist film of General Franco got all round the country. Did the Catholics get verbal in their ap preciation? Very few. Only the other side threw their bricks. Another opportunity for support lost.
It is essential that by every means at our disposal we dispel this prevalent idea in the industry that Catholic news, or the Catholic viewpoint on affairs is unsaleable. And the big way to do this is by getting the market to talk.
So, let us express ourselves. It seems to be the very least we can do.
In Old Chicago
"The O'Learys are a strange tribe" echoes the motive of In Old Chicago (Tivoli). So we discovered even before
each member of the family in turn told us so, but we also found them full of initiative, infinitely human, and amusing, fairly untrustworthy, entirely optimistic, and irresistibly Irish for all their new New England background of the nineteenth century.
It was for the O'Learys that we liked the picture—and we liked the picture just because it was the O'Learys that made us like it rather than the big fire which is the film's piece de resistance.
Conflagrations and like effects on the vast scale arc all very well, sometimes they are nearly symphonic as in San Francisco, sometimes they are just noisy as in The Hurricane. and sometimes beastly and horrific as the locust plague of The Good Earth, but, one and all, they are tricks which 'build up a false popularity based upon their size. Get bigger and bigger and become more popular—but explosion point must be reached one day. So what?
The greatest im
Characters provement about In v. Effects Old Chicago is that the
Enormous Effect of the town's destruction is not the one thing that the producer has spent himself upon. It is never allowed to be bigger than the characters, and they have been built up every bit as carefully as Chicago has been burnt down.
Favourite in the O'Leary tribe will lx Mother (Alice Brady), who has all the best lines and uses them to all the best advantage.' Then there is the attractive naughty boy who makes his money by gambling and helps himself when he wants anything, which includes a wife—that's Dion O'Leary (Tyrone Power). Because he's an O'Leary his heart is in the right place even if his deeds are a little naughty ninety-ish, and you'll forgive him everything like his mother does.
Jack (Don Ameche)
Virility and is the next brother; he Virtue is all Virility and Virtue's—but not Prunes and Prisms, so you'll like him too.
Finally there is Bob O'Leary, the home boy, who drives Mother's laundry cart and marries Mother's ironer. Tom Brown does not get much opportunity here, but he completes the family party and balances the two wilder brothers in their alternation between throat tearing and affectionate political alliance.
Not only are the
Konflagration O'Learys a strange Kolossal tribe, but Chicago of
the muddy streets and
dirtier politics are a stranger tribe. We were quite glad to see it burnt entirely away. The only regret is that it seems to have been burnt for nothing since the new gangster city of today is little better.
Maybe it's time for another Kenflagration Kolossal.
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The Goldwyn Follies
Did Sam Goldwyn know what he was doing when he let Ben Hecht in on the story for his follies? Anyway when you get Ben in on anything be sure that he'll poke fun at something, and if you're not careful, like as not that something'll be yourself.
So in The Goldwyn Follies (Odeon) Ben bites the hand that feeds him and makes fun of Hollywood, of the stupid false sentiment that's put across as feeling and at the materialism of Hollywood's outlook. Perhaps Sam doesn't mind because no one will deny that the usual revue story is much much thinner than this stunt of Ben's. That puts Sam in a special category at least.
The rest of the Follies are to taste. A little ballet and other dances, not too classical; a little opera and other mane, not too heavy; a lot of pretty gilts, on the Gold-wyn standard, definitely—and a "special" of Sam's own device of raising people out of the sea.
* * * *
With the hint of snow scenes and she Russian Cathedral choir from Paris, Troika (Berkeley) promises—but it does not fulfil. Gusts of psalm from the choir get tantalisingly cut for action which is not worthy of so much attention. Snow scenes have beauty, but the Tom Mix chases in troikas (sledges) learn monotony quickly.
Impression left by this French secondclass film is muddled melodrama, growing more tedious reel by reel.