THE MINIVER STORY (EMPIRE) Director: H. C. Potter WHEN The Old Curiosity Shop was appearing
in Household Words as a serial, 'and it looked as though Little Nell was doomed, Dickens was bombarded with frantic letters from fans of the little girl, " Don't let her die!"
Now, if Mrs. Miniver had been part of a film serial I can quite imagine the author getting similar letters of protest. But, alas ! Without any warning, her second appearance has proved to be her last -the last of Mrs. Miniver-that strange, bright, beautiful creature-too strange, indeed. too beautiful for this world.
Greer Garson again plays the heroine-the third person this year to die on our screens after receiving the dread verdict across the specialist's desk. First there was Alec Guinness in I.ast Holiday ; then Margaret Sullavan in No Sad Songs, whose plot pattern is in many ways close to the Miniver one. But that's the way of films-some call it a cycle ; others telepathy ; and few seem to know who thought of it first.
Walter Pidgeon as Mr.
Miniver, returned from the war,' speaks the narrative and takes' part in the flashbacks-and he I tells us that queuing, hard work; and the stress of war were the cause of her death. Yet, neither in this nor in the first instalment did we ever see Mrs. Miniver standing in a queue, washing up, or, most familiar pose of all war and postwar women in this country, waddling along weighed down with a sack of vegetables on one side and by a carrier bag full of groceries on the other.
What sustains the film is the attractive personalities of Miss Gerson and of .Mr. Pidgeon. The director, too, has captured that sense of deflation that is the aftermath of war with its artificially contrived good felloeship. 1-le is less successful with the English. scene and I feel quite sorry for John Hodiak, who looks extremely uncomfortable as a love-lorn American colonel who has to make a speech in a pub on peace night and who can only say to the British there assembled : " Get yourselves a good rest !" Some hope !
Many people in my vicinity cried for the loss of this rare being Mrs. Miniver, and I am sure it would hsve been far better to leave her as we knew her before accepting the homage of the rose-growing ticketcollector, surrounded by the fragrance of the rose he so aptly named for her.
DESTINATION MOON (LIFICTSTER SQUARE THEATRE) Director : Irving Piehel
NOT very long ago I saw a short
documentary -subject Greenwich Observatory (now moved to Hurstmoneeux). A most excellent film it was, in which we were allowed a close-up of the moon through the giant telescope. What we saw was a revelation and a shock -this much serenaded, sighed-after deceiver looks like one of those knobbly relief maps-drab, stony,
barren. So when the space-ship is manned here Dm' its trip to the moon I could have told the occupants roughly shat to expect. If you cut out the pleading for private enterprise and a certain amount of rather pretentious " stars and stripes" piety (as when the moon is taken in tow in the name of the United States for the benefit of mankind), you will find this a most thrilling trip through the milky way, done in Technicolor, with a musical accompaniment as near to the music of the spheres as makes no matter.
It should be extremely popular with senior students who have the dew of the science room fresh upon their brows. Others will just have to accept the scientific arguments with bowed heads.
SHADOW OF THE EAGLE (LONDON PAVILION) Director: Sidney Salkow
OUR old friend of the cinema, Catherine the Great, turns up again here, played in a hard, unglamorous way by Binnie Barnes. But she is only a foil to the lovely pretender to the Russian throne, Princess Tarakanova, exiled in Venice and played by the patrician-featured Italian actress, Valentina Cortese.
I'm afraid some threadbare clichés are used to tell the story of how Count Orloff (Richard Greenealways a gift to these period pieces) comes to Venice to bring her back in chains and falls in love with her instead. There is a good deal of technique of the Fairbanks school, sword-play, jumping on guards, fights up and down stairways and, of course, the black and moonlit vistas of Venice always a gift to the cameraman.
There is one extraordinary scene
in a church to which the Count follows the princess who has gone there to Mass. But when he gets there, the church is conveniently empty so that they can have a quiet, romantic chat.
It reminded me of the time that Stewart Granger went out into one of the Vatican corridors with the Pope listening to a concert on the other side of the door, to settle his love problem. Why will they do this sort of thing ?
CAGED (WARNERS) birector: John Cromwell 0NE more prison story -and
one that poses a question that should be answered : Should first offenders be lumped together in the same prison as old lags '1 The answer suggested here is No. It is a woman's prison to which a young pregnant married woman (a poignant performance by Eleanor Parker) is sent. She has all reactions of a normal, law-abiding girl until the breaking-down process, resisted for a long time, takes effect.
A corrupt wardress (quite a terrifying person as played WI massive Hope Emerson) shows how a ruthless linkwoman (what she is) can do to ease or roughen the life of the prisoners. according to the amount of graft they can raise " outside."
Final stages show the girl, released on parole, joining up with vice-racketeers. "She'll be back," says the sad-eyed, weary superintendent, who has fought for reform. An honest film, with no fake happy ending. Have we here the courage to probe into our own women's prisons ?
Waterfront : Robert Newton and Kathleen Harrison show what veterans can do with a not too convincing story of life in Liverpool's dockland.
Winchester .73. All about a rifle that helped America settle their long dispute with the Redskins. James Stewart.
Stage Fright : Alfred Hitchcock entertains with the aid of some formidable acting talent including Marlene Dietrich and Alistair Sine