NEW CINEMA DICTATOR
It ia given to few men to have their Signatures better known than their faces. Everybody knows Baldwin, Ramsay McDonald, and Lloyd George; but hardly anybody knows the way they sign their names.
Hardly anybody knows Lord Tyrrell's face, but, before very long, his signature will be the most familiar in the land. Every week over twenty million people will recognise it when it is thrown some half-a-million times upon the thousands of Cinema screens in the country. The signuture Tyrrell will be as familiar as wee Redford, O'Connor, and Shorn, and far more so, unfortunately, than Bradbury, Warren Fisher, Catterus, and Pcppiatt. The president of the British Board of Film Censors is a man of no legal position but of vast moral magnitude. He is the servant of the trade in which he is a dictator. He can enforce his will upon nobody and everybody obeys him. There Is, probably, nobody in all the world who occupies a position more utterly illogical or more completely English.
The Chief Censor (that is not his title but you cannot go on saying the President of the British Board of Film Censors) is appointed by the cinematograph trade, film producers and manufacturers calling themselves the Incorporated Association of Kinematograph Manufacturers; responsible fellows living in sedate suburbs whose names mean little to anybody except their bank managers.
Chosen by the Trade
The Trade (you cannot go on saying the Incorporated Association of Kinematograph Manufacturers) pick upon their man, choose one of pre-eminent common sense, with political experience and no political prejudice, outstandingly diplo matic and acceptable to the Home Office, and then ask him if he will accept £2,000 a year to boss them around.
It seems a funny way of doing things, but how well it works is shown by the men who have accepted and held the position; each one more illustrious than his predecessor; a commoner succeeded by the Father of the Commons, and him by an ex-Home Secretary, and now a peer and famous ex-ambassador. You cannot step higher than that without going into the royal family. It is interesting to note, too, how the personal interest in films has increased in each succeeding chief censor.
Hitherto the interest has almost begun ,with the appointment; Lord Tyrrell is a " fan " as old almost as the industry and very regular as well. Also, though it has nothing to do with his appointment to the office, he is a Catholic, as were two of his predecessors, which is very pleasing to us, and he is the father of two sons killed in the war which will bring him very close to the vast army of his fellow " fans." It is shown, too, by the eminently satisfactory state of cinema in the country to-day.
Chief Censor's Duties
What does a chief censor do? Well, if he follows precedent, and, though there is no reason why he should if he does not want to since he is an entirely free agent, there is every probability that he will since it is a pretty good precedent, he will, through the eyes of his four subordinates (three men and one woman, On his authority films arc " banned "; by him they are returned to the producers for cuts and revisions; not infrequently they are sent back to Hollywood for re-takes.
The censor is a target for everybody's tiltings. We have all had a "go" at him, ourselves included, but, for two decades, as the last chief censor said so well" The censorship has given reasonable satisfaction to a reasonable number of reasonably minded people." It's queer, it's honest, it's English, and it works.
In Scrooge we have the best Christmas film yet. For the first time the screen has really captured the atmosphere of festivity with the underlying depth of human feeling that expresses the essential Christianity of an essentially Christian celebration. Dickens had a lot to do with the expression but, until now, the fullness of the Dickens sentiment has eluded cinema.
Seymour Hicks, the perfect Scrooge of the stage, has been equal to the transition and is again the perfect Scrooge in a more exacting medium. Donald Calthrop ever since Blackmail has been waiting for another chance. In Bob Cratchit he gets it and seizes it with everything he has, and he has plenty. These two performances will rank high in the year's best, and the rest of the production lives up to them.
You should not miss Scrooge, and do not forget your handkerchief.
" Ship Cafe
Still at the Plaza, we have Carl Brisson's latest comedy with music, good modern songs put firmly in their place by a splendid rendering of that fine old shanty Blow the Man Down. It is a nice picture about a restaurant in an old sailing-hulk and a sailor (Carl Brisson) who wants to feel the wind in his face and to win a would-be tough girl (Arline Judge) who wants to feel money in her pocket. Inez Courtney is a newcomer with lots of promise, and you will like William Frawley, Mady Christians, and Eddie Davis.
It is a long time since we have found so pleasing a programme as the Plaza's, though there is a lot to be said for:
" The Turn of the Tide"
Marble Arch Pavilion This is the second West End showing of this lovely story of the fishermen of England. It is practically perfect, even critics ale willing to pay to see it.
" Woman Tamer"
Leicester Square Here is a rattling good tongue-in-cheek picture of a racketeer made trustee of a rich and rackety family the head of which is driven to prison to find peace and quiet. The success of the picture hinges upon Walter Connolly's performance as the father. If he had failed to convince in an almost impossible part the whole thing would have fallen down. He didn't. That's acting and that's Connolly.
George Raft picks up Connolly's torch and makes an improbable racketeer seem plausible. Billie Burke, Joan Bennett and Wallace Ford, with a toy gadget that will bring reminiscent smiles to middle-aged faces, carry on the good work while Donald Meek, as a gangster, is almost as funny as his namesake Duck. Alan Mowbray deserves a sentence of praise all to himself, his ham actor is as good as any that ever came from York or Old Virginia.
The scenario might have been written from a book of popular quotations, but it will keep you laughing. A comedy that careers madly along the edge of the precipice of farce.
" Here's to Romance
The New Gallery Fox's contribution to the big "singies " is Nino Martini of the Metropolitan Opera House and established reputation as an operatic tenor.
A slender domestic comedy of a Society wife, Genevieve Tobin, who, to get upsides with a gay husband, Reginald Denny, sponsors the career of a young tenor— enables Martini to sing the more familiar arias from Marion, Tosca and " Delusions" for our delectation, while Genevieve is falling in love with him and he with a dancer, Anita Louise.
The story does not amount to much, the singing amounts to a very great deal. Martini is excellent, while, as his teacher, the seventy-five-year-old Ernestine Schumann-Heink shows how training can conquer age in an exquisitely simple rendering of a simple song. Maria Gambarelli, Vincente Escudero, Miles Mender and Pat Somerset are in the cast.
Not much for story but " O.K. for so
" O'Shaughnessy's Boy"
The Empire Here Wally Beery and Jackie Cooper try to recapture the glamour and the glory of The Champ in a would-be tear-jerker