Saint Of Schoolboys
Film Story Of The Salesian Founder Is Concluded
From IRIS CONLAY, CATHOLIC HERALD Film Critic
This week concludes the story of the Don Bosco film—the film of the saint's life made by the Salesian Brothers in Turin to be shown for the first time in England at the Cambridge Theatre on April 29 in Cardinal Hinsley's presence.
The first Catholic film to have a premiere in the West End, much is expected of the production—and indeed it is worthy of the high tradition of workmanship set in every branch of industry by the Salesian Brothers.
Last week the boy Bosco grew up in these columns from the vigorous schoolboy who ran races with his companions and beat them, and also read his catechism at home much to his elder brother's chagrin who thought Bosco an idler, to the adolescent Bosco as a seminarian.
The second part of the film is intended to illustrate in broad outline the work of the priest-apostle, and it opens with a crowd of peasants leaving In the Slums the wretched and famished countryside to trudge their weary way to the capital, led on by a mirage of good fortune which in those unhappy years could not exist but in desires and dreams.
Among the poor outcasts, the unemployed, and those dependent on public charity, Don Bosco presents himself to the numerous young people abandoned in the midst of their wretchedness. He appears in the slums, in the taverns where so many of the youthful poor resort. Impulsively and even fiercely he quells quarrels and brawls. He even follows his charges to the hospitals and prisons, leaving everywhere profound marks of his spiritual activity.
Providence, however, reserves for him a wider and yet more determined field of activity. The saint, by sudden inspiration, perceives this in the sacristy of the church of St. Francis of Assisi where he meets a poor boy, Bartholomew Garelli, who had casually entered the building and been roughly thrown out by the sacristan. Don Bosco defends the boy, speaks of him as his friend, and having thus gained his confidence, makes of him the first stone of that building which he prepares to erect: the work of the Festive Oratories, intended to gather on festival days abandoned youths from the streets and attract them to places where they could be suitably directed and instructed.
The first gathering-place is a field. There Don Bosco celebrates Mass, gives instruction, and hears Confessions. The boys pass many pleasant hours there, but their uproar at football disturbs the neighbourhood, and their growing numbers alarm the authorities. Thence come denunciations, persecutions, inquiries and finally dismissal.
From the field, however, the Oratory is transplanted to a small hired shed-like erection, which the boys enthusiastically transform into an in
Sanctity in a habitable place. This Shed building is the
Pinardi shed which was the nucleus of the great Salesian organism. Here Don Bosco transplants his mother from the Montferrato countryside, to become the mother of the abandoned youths who find at last in that house the refining influence of family life.
In a comprehensive pictorial synthesis we are carried across the years from that humble workshop to a superb spectacle of Salesian professional and agricultural schools. From the publishing department a book is issued which we see upon the desk of Urban Rattazzi, Minister of the Interior. It is a treatise on the Preventive System for the education of youth, which the Minister says he has read with great interest and which induces him to grant Don Bosco an exceptional permission: to conduct alone and without guards upon a day's outing 300 young prisoners of the reformatory, who have been attentive listeners of Don Bosco's sermons.
The incident is the acid test of the Preventive System and succeeds beyond measure in winning the esteem of Rattazzi who, while at the Salesians are same time putting be Founded fore the Subalpine Parliament a law for the suppression of Religious Orders, advises Don Bosco as to the manner of perpetuating his highly bene..ficent work by means of a new religious family.
But by now the work of the Piedmontese saint has gone beyond the confines of Italy and Europe. The capitals of the world contend for the honour of seeing and welcoming him. From the triumphs of Paris and Barcelona, however, he returns to his beloved children of Turin, who receive him with huge enthusiasm.
In striking contrast is the world-wide grief at his passing. The veteran warrior of Christ is now near
Bosco Dies that happy consum
mation of which he spoke with great calmness to Don Rua in a conversation full of spirituality. The room of the dying man is entered by a most varied crowd of people, intense in their contemplation of the death of a just man.
In a melancholy line the boys pass by to kiss that hand which had been so often raised in blessing over their heads, and beneath a silent and motionless crowd fills the stairways, the courtyards and the public square. The passing bell tolls and the crowd falls to its knees overcome by emotion and grief.
The solemn tolling of the death-hell changes to the joyous sound of festivity. It is Rome. It is the Basilica of St. Peter's that announces to the world the glory of a new saint. On the square filled with an immense multitude, there waves the banner of the new saint above the splendour of the papal court, above the cheering crowds, and above. the Pontiff himself.
* * * *
A Yank At Oxford
Metro Goldwyn Mayer British is right up to Metro Goldwyn Mayer U.S.A. standard, and A Yank at Oxford started its hilarious and happy long life in Leicester Square in the very early hours of the morning of April Fool's day.
The date was no omen. There were no flies in this production of Oxford life which was at once entertainment and very faintly flavoured satire—satire as much upon the foibles of Americans as upon the English ye olde customes of University city.
By now the story of the film must be twice-told. Bob Taylor is an American athlete whose profound prowess in the home town brings him to Oxford University where he expects the same fame. That he eventually gets it is inevitable—but it's how he gets it that makes the. film.
High acting honours all round. Bob gets the most limelight, but the half-dozen lines of Morton Selten are as significant as all Bob's utterances. Maureen looks lovely; Vivien Leigh beautifully malicious; and Oxford itself put its best out for the camera to rest upon with sweet English sentimentality. Everyone will like this film—but for widely differing reasons.
Empire. * * * *
Mad About Music
Deanna Durbin again, and unchanged,
unspoilt, and unHollywooded. For this we are grateful, but we miss her voice too often in Mad About Music. There is the theme song, charming enough for a bicycle ride, and there is Gounod's Ave Maria. the rest of the music was Inexpensive Popular.
I, personally, did not think the sympathy of Herbert Marshall's presence atoned for the loss of a Philharmonic Orchestra and a genius conductor.
The Count Of Monte Cristo
Although four years old, which is very old in filmic years, The Count of Monte Cristo wears well enough technically and is full of good things to look at, but it is its story that makes it. a tiring kind of mental gymnastic to watch. Full of Big Adventure, it has outmatched even its origin in fantastic improbability,
and somehow I think that we have all grown up a little, and become too full of the real improbabilities of a crazy world to have patience enough to follow Cristo's fancy contortions.
Robert Donat deserves his laurels though —he is nearly credible.
* * * *
Son Of Mongolia
Soviet film industry proceeds eastwards and makes its first production outside of the U.S.S.R. in the People's Republic of Outer Mongolia.
(Continued at foot of column 3)