The Romantic Age—The Spider and the Fly—Not Wanted
IT was in February of this year
that the President of the Board of Trade appointed a working party on film production costs to see what was contributing to the financial crisis in British films. They have now published their
findings which all who wish to study at leisure can buy from His Majesty's Stationery Office for 9d.
Among the reasons they give for the crisis are: I. The big increase in entertain ments tax. The effect of this was not noticed when it was first imposed during the war for then the cinemas were enjoying a false prosperity. G.I.s and even our more modestly paid servicemen kept the I Is. 6d. seats filled and the queues moving.
2, That old problem of the " de marcation" line in studios. Holdups in shooting while the appropriate man is fetched to knock in a nail or to change the position of a potted plant, undoubtedly lead not only to a waste of time but to a feeling of irritation and frustration which militates seriously against efficient production.
3. The " star " system. " We deplore the length to which this has developed."
4. Failure to complete scripts before shooting is begun.
hese are only a few of the points made. Perhaps the most disturbing feature, to the looker-on, is the amount of money that has been spent on attempting to make the public swallow " stars" who had nothing of the " star " in their makeup. It is unpalatable, but a fact, that the British film industry. in spite of charm schools, expensive buildups, exotic premieres and all the rest, has failed to create feminine artistes of even national, not to men tion international, appeal. I have talked to all sorts of people hi the
industry about this. Some blame the " mass production " public school system (and its slavish imitators). It tends, said one well-known producer, to leave them with shallow, brittle voices, clipped speech which is all but inaudible, and complete inability to convey any kind of human emotion. Have you ever noticed that the major emotional reaction of many a " star" is to fling herself on the bed. bury her face and shake (with sobs)? But that's not acting.
5th FORM AT ST, WINPFRIDE'S
Well, there it is. There are two new British films this week and one only too vividly illustrates what I mean. It is The Romantic Age (NEW GALLERY), Here is a whole bunch of British girls—all talking the same, and behaving the same. Scene is a " finishing" school, with Mai Zetterling. looking like a rather tired bird of paradise being fright'
fully " French" and corrupting the gentleman professor of Art Appreciation. I'm afraid this is one more film that must go down on the debit side.
The second British picture is The Spider and the Fly 1,0DEFON. MARBLE Ago° with Eric Portman as a police inspector and Guy Rolfe as a Parisian Raffles, while the girl in the case is is Rumanian called Nadia
Gray. Flow this girl managed to make anything of her part is more than I can guess for she is allotted about the smallest amount of dialogue (for a heroine) I have ever heard. Yet in spite of it she manages to build up a character which is attractive, even if unpredictable.
This is very much the two protagonists' film—a highly civilised hunting game played to the tune of fine edged word play with at least one breath-taking episode.
THE UNWANTED BABY Ida Lupino, who has always stood mt as one of the thinking members of Hollywood's colony, has had the courage to use her own money and production unit to make a film around the old hut unsolved problem of the unmarried girl with a baby. The idea, we are told, came to her when she was attending the court one day to study " local colour" for a film. A girl in her 'teens who had been arrested for loitering was brought in. She was going to have a baby—and the poignancy of her case led Miss Lupino to thinking about this whole subject. Among the statistics she dug up was that 100,000 of these babies are born every year in the U.S.A. to girls between the ages of 11 and 19. British statistics are high too, the only difference being that more British babies in this category die than in America.
With the aid of some promising (and unknown) young actors— notably Sally Kelton and Keefe Brasselle, the whole tragic story is unfolded, showing that even in this age of benevolent and understanding social services, the attitude of society has altered little since the days of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The girl is faced with the same desolate future, despair and disillusionment. Her life can only be mended at best.
The Americans encourage adoption of these children but in Britain really constructive after-care is extended to the girl who wants to keep her baby, so that at least in the early days both she and the child need not feel altogether abandoned as she seems to be here, Nevertheless, this is a film well worth seeing, and it is done with intelligence and understanding.
From a correspondent in Italy comes some information about The Prince of Foxes, the American Borgia " film. He says: " I managed to identify the grounds of the Villa Bocaccio, just outside Florence under the hill of Fiesole; as the locale of the ' garden party,' and also the three fortresses of San Marino which have never seen a shot fired in anger. When the castello is being attacked, however, it becomes the Castello Gradara." But I'm still waiting to hear what those lovely palace interiors are."
This letter ends up with a query: "I wonder if the Legion of Decency will make any protest against that disgusting eye-gouging sequence?"
I don't think they have. Nearly all the readings of the monthly bulletins from the L. of D. read: "suggestive" or " immoral" sequences and rarely does one see con demnation of sadism. The latest list puts Germany Year Zero on the black list, commenting: " This film presents offensively subject matter unfit for general picture audiences."