IIOWN comes the curtain on another year's films and the time has come to take stock and see what 1951 has brought us. But before we start " operation dissection," let's wish a happy New Year—with no strings attached—to the folk who have helped to make and present the films, providing us with many a pleasant hour. And by "the folk " I mean the back room boys and girls as well as the big shots—the man who sits in the projection box and the girl who sits in the cash desk and takes our money; the girls who flick their kindly torches like so many energetic fireflies, guiding us to our scats; the hemedalled commissionaires who decorate the foyer, giving promise of the splendours within.
Nor should we forget the technicians in the studios and the clapper boy and the one who pushes the tea trolley. All these are part of the great industry and no one ever sends out a word of publicity about them. So let's remember them now and send them our salutations and greetings.
LOOKING back, it seems to me that the year has been lacking in thrills or sensation. No Third Man and no Bicycle Thieves. In fact. nothing COLOSSAL — only "stupendous." And that translated from Hollywoodese into English means " not too bad."
Let's take Britain first.
Perhaps we should first remember the Festival Tele.kinema with its exciting foretaste of three-dimensional films to come, even though after the first Press show a smoke screen seems to have descended on
its activities. Here is one field at least where the cinema could challenge television.
Leaving the stereoscopic and the stereophonic world, we come back to the " flat," and find some efficient if not brilliant work from the British studios. My nomination for the best of the bunch—" The Lavender Hill Mob," " Laughter in Paradise." " The Browning Version," " White Corridors,' " No Highway," " The Man in the White Suit," "High Treason," " Encore." and " Scrooge."
" The Magic Box " should have honourable mention. "No Resting Place "—Paul Rotha's brave try in Ireland—had a realism unusual in the cinema and that massive coloured confection, "The Tales of Hoffman," we can describe as the most indigestible meal of the year.
SHOULD say that Alistair Sim
and Alec Guinness about shared the honour. Still, no special success to chalk up on the female side— except perhaps Petula Clark, whose work in "White Corridors" I liked very much. Glynis Johns has consolidated her position as our best juvenile lead and Kay Walsh certainly deserves special marks for her work in "Encore."
Among the directors, Brian Desmond Hurst and the Boultings are still in the top flight, and among the studios Ealing has more than held its own. If it's laughter you're after, then Ealing, W.5's the address . . . (With acknowledgements to Tommy Trinder.)
RUMOURS of despondency and ' gloom in the American movie capital are not without foundation, but there's lots of fight in the old girl yet—TV or no TV—and looking back through the files I find several pictures I would not have missed. Early in the year we had that spine chiller. " 14 Hours," when Richard Basehart stool teetering on the edge of a sky-scraper windowsill and moved up several notches in the actor stakes in consequence. " Ace in the Hole," " Detective Story " (also in the harrowing class) did big things for Kirk Douglas. who in turn did big things for them.
" Murder Inc.," strong stuff, was well put over and " Decision Before Dawn "—that probe into the dictum " My country right or wrong "— gave us all something to think about.
Direct propaganda like " I was a Communist for the F.B.I." went the way of most propaganda stuff when it is served up as entertainment. I liked our own "High Treason " much better.
As usual, Hollywood was the only place that sent us any really good musicals—they are still unchallenged in that quarter. " An American in Paris," "The Great Caruso," and "Show Boat" headed a list of runners-up with the usual stock plot about the trials, tribulations and eventual triumphs of show business.
In the experimental field we had Orson Welles' " Macbeth" and we must certainly not forget the film about Cardinal Mindszenty called "Treason "—not in the first flight but a courageous attempt to put a