TRIO (LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE) Directors : Ken Annakin and Harold French
AT his best there is something of the "Ancici, Mariner " about Mr. Somerset Maughan The reader and the cinema audience, like th " Wedding Guest," listens willy-nilly to his yarns
He holds hint with his glittering eyeThe Wedding Guest stood still, And listens like a three years' child : The Mariner bath his will.
The Maugham's eyes are more likely to bean than glitter, his tales are less depressing, but the
technique is similar. A literary raconteur of the highest merit he transferred the art of after-dinner speaking-a most civilised medium-on to paper. weaving aphorism and epigram into smooth anecdotes producing stories that fascinate.
On page and screen the kindly scepticism of the Christianity he will not embrace in the letter informs his assessment of his characters. We may be sure that if he does not accept the Church as his Holy Mother. he venerates her as the Universal Lady
Bountiful of the spirit. He is a European, good and true.
It was a happy thought that brought his short stories to the cinema; this " Trio," introduced by the 'master mariner this " old party," as he blandly calls himselfwe found, even as after-breakfast fare, entertainment of sheer delight.
The first talc. "The Verger' should be introduced with the text Blessed are the meek and humble of heart for they shall inherit the Earth. Mr. Maugham preaches with his tongue in his cheek and a chuckle to keep it company.
Once, back in the twenties, there was a verger at the fashionable Church of St. Peter's, Neville Square, London, and he took pride in his position. He wore a respectable black coat and a donee bowler. For seventeen years he occupied the office to the satisfaction of the old vicar and then came a new vicar who discovered that Alfred, the
verger, had a heinous secret. He could neither read nor write
The vicar did not like this; it let, in his view, the side down. So he issued an ultimatum. Either Alfred must go to night-school or get a new job. Alfred, after statesman-like consideration, took the latter course. So his story begins,
His heart is wounded but he is an Englishman of the old school and "never say die" might be his motto. He does not pocket his pride, but instead in Holy Wedlock, pockets his landlady, and invests their savings in a tobacco shop in a long street where no such shop hitherto had existed.
Innocently, without thought of the methods of " big business,' he finds the'key to success and inherits, if not the earth, a large part of London's smoking trade. The proud are brought low. The reader must see the ending of the parable for himself but the fine casting of Mr. James Hayter as
the expansively smiling Albert, Miss Kathleen Harrison, that Cockney Cleopatra whom neither age nor sophistication shall wither, as his spouse, Mr. Michael Horden as the unsmiling modern vicar, the pleasant London settings, and the dotty prewar dresses, make this the perfect appetiser for what follows.
" Mr. Knowall "-Mr. Maugham in his deflatory mood, when he hits at our pride and induces humility. The screen version is remarkable for the performance of Mr. Nigel Patrick, who may be remembered as the tragic second-in-command of the submarine crew in " Morning Departure."
Mr. Patrick here plays Max Kelada. a mercurial international spiv with a British passport-Kelada introduces himself, aboard ship bound for the East, as " Breeteesh to the beck-bone." Contrasted with two British Civil Service types, Mr. Naunton Wayne, whose impassive mug recalls Lords on a foggy day in November, and Mr. Wilfred Hyde-White, whose amiable hatchetface evokes images of the perfection of European scholarship and taste, " Mexxie" emerges as the most crashing bounder-until the last little sequence.
Mr. Maugham knows our weakness, even if he loves us. This is a gem of a scene, and Mr. HydeWhite's feline chuckle and Mr. Patrick's harlequin gestures make it priceless.
"Sanatorium," the concluding item, is more sentimental. Lightly played and often touching, it establishes another aspect of Mr. Maugham-the one that induces him to establish scholarships for young students of his art.
Set in an hospital for the
tubercular in Scotland, it is deftly acted by Mr. Roland Culver as the ubiquitous Ashenden, Miss Jean Simmons and Mr. Michael Rennie as lovers. But chief honours go to minor roles, Miss Betty Ann Davies as the pathetic wife of an inmate and Mr. John Laurie and Mr. Finlay Currie as two ancient and dying Scots who have lived in the sanatorium for many years-Campbell and McLeod carrying on an old feud.
The giant integrity of Mr. Currie, his paradoxically delicate sense of fun and pathos, and the shrewish wit of his fellow-Scot, Mr. Laurie, have never been displayed, in miniature. more appreciably, FANCY PANTS (PLAZA) Director : George Marshall THERE is an echo of " Ruggles !THERE Red Gap " in this Techni
color comedy tailored to the svelte talents of Mr. Bob Hope.
Those like myself who admire the master will find consolations in his performance, but the film, after ten happy minutes degenerates into an anthology of gags so ancient they would make Harold Lloyd blush.
Bob plays an American actor who specialises in English butler roles and is scarcely successful when he makes his English debut. Meeting an American nouveau riche lady, he is accepted as a high-priest of aristocratic domesticity, practically kidnapped, taken to Bib Squaw, a frontier town, and charged with a mission to civilise the natives.
One shrewd glance at these will enable the European to appreciate the human impulse that prompted Redskins to detach white scalps.
Bob and that lovely lanky clown, Miss Lucille Ball, singing "Fancy Pants" and " Home Cookin'," have good moments. But Paramount's scriptwriters are not doing right by our Hope who is their Glory and. on a more sordid plane, meal-ticket. Sans happier inventions they'd better prepare for starvation.
TRIBUTE TO YEATS (FOR RELEASE) Director : George Fleischman': AS a citizen of a country in which Government-sponsored films are generally of such charming cultural interest as instructions on how to cross the street, avoid measles, fill up a form or dust-bin, empty the latter, live in a house without having one, or get a coffin on the National Health Scheme, 1 was cheered by this Irish tribute to one of Ireland's great poets.
That a Catholic Government initiated such a venture makes it doubly welcome.
The result is a slight, graceful essay in pictorial beauty. The camera leads us through the Yeats country, lingers on the downs and lakes and under the trees. while Mr. Cyril Cusack speaks a commentary and Mr. Michael MacLiammoir and Miss Siobhan McKenna read from the poet's work.
The chameleon music of Mr. Cusack's voice and the almost ritualistic control of the supporting actors was a welcome contrast to the facetious vulgarity of the commentators on our home-brewed short films.
This Irish film may be seen at your local film theatre and it is recommended. If it does not come your way, your cinema-manager should have it brought to his attention. It is good.
ROCKET SHIP X-M (LONDON PAVILION) Director : Kurt Neumann
A TRIP to the moon in which ' the rocket-ship, like the script-writer, takes the wrong turning, the former landing on Mars, is the subject of this morbid entertainment.
It may have interest for small boys-I am told that it is scientifically accurate-but I have doubts. I used to be a small boy myself. It presents Mars looking rather like a salt-mine, and the dialogue could have been written by the leader writer on the Daily Express.
Under the latter circumstance one could excuse the Martians for killing two of the crew; when the other three were killed on descent to earth we felt recompensed for their escape.