Both great in their way
By Iris Conlay
CATHOLIC HERALD Film Critic
Of Mice and Men
OMING together with Nazi invasion of Norway perhaps enhanced the effect of this film, whose attack on the emotions is as swiftly delivered as any Nazi coup. But nothing could obscure the great " longing for land " message that inspires the whole work of John Steinbeek, author and social reformer.
Originally a novel, then a play, and now a film, " Of Mice and Men " has taken by the storm of its sincerity all America and England into its sympathy. Like all successful and great
works of art it has nothing new to say --to have "roots" and to need people are humanity's fundamentals, and on these the theme is built. But the presentation is so fearlessly direct, so sudden in its mood, so sure in its thrust that the truth it tells is floodlit with a new fierce intensity.
THE story is as simple as the theme and the language in which it is told. George and Lennie are two wandering ranch hands who trek from one farm to another in the Middle West, taking up jobs as they are needed, never reaping what they have sown, never knowing the delights of " a place of their own."
But on their travels they often think of such a place. George has thought it all out and Lennie has made George repeat it over and over agatn until he knows it off by heart: "Some day we'll buy a little house of our own and a few acres of ground., with a cow and some pigs and some rabbits, and we'll live off the fat of the land."
YEARS go by and it doesn't work out that way because Lennie, big and helpless and simple-minded, is for ever getting himself into trouble, and George and he have to get out quickly, losing valuable jobs and money time and again.
But George's plan nearly works out at Salinas River valley. He has the money counted out, the letter written to the farm he hopes to buy, when Lennie gets involved again; involved in murder which he did not mean, involved in an escape front the rough justice of wild men whom he does not understand. And George is faced with a horrible certainty of seeing the trusting, uncomprehending, terror-ridden Lennie torn to a brutal death by his maddened pursuers or of dealing the merciful revolver shot death with his own hand before the pursuers touch him.
DECAUSE of the intention, of the 1,1 sincerity, of the restraint, of the pictorial simplicity of the American language used (like the Irish) " Of Mice and Men " is the most hauntingly real film out of Hollywood since "Winterset." And Burgess Meredith, who played in "Winterset," repeats the magnificence of his performance in that poetic film in this most sombre prose one.
Odeon Its Etaient Neuf
SACHA GUITRY cannot open a door take off his hat, or indeed perform any single ordinary operation without endowing that action with intense importance. And when he writes, pro duces and acts nearly all the parts in his own film, that film assumes more importance than a Cabinet meeting, although it be all about nothing at all.
"Neuf Cdlibataires " (Nine Bachelors) is all about nothing, but such a delicious nothing that I lind it very hard not to say that this frolic of absurdity is the best film of the year.
IMAGINE a more inane story if you can. A decree goes forth that foreigners cannot live year in and year out in France; they inuet take French nationality if they wish to establish themselves permanently. Naturally consternation is caused, particularly among the foreign women, who see no solution except marriage with Frenchmen.
So Guitry (useless to give his name in the film; once Guitry, always Guitry), with an eye on the money, opens a home for old French bachelors—and there he waits.
Scon the bachelors arrive from the gutters and attics of Paris, some lame, some blind, some crazy, but no matter— bachelors. And after them come the foreign clients who wish to marry nominal French husbands: some beautiful, some ugly, some young and some old—but all rich. The fun becomes its richest here. Guitry pairs them off and cleverly pairs himself off, too, amid what riots of absurdity.
Yea, on paper what a regrettable story —but in celluloid, and Saeha Guitry'a specially prepared celluloid, there is nothing quite to compare with it.
EARLY in this picture one was asked to believe that Miss Flora Robson (who had apparently been dipped headfirst Into a barrel of flour) was Mr George Raft's Momma.
And the assault on our credulity did not stop at that. If you want somebody to portray a character, who having made one false step, done a year In Sing Sing in consequence, and is now back for good on the straight and narrow, you should not ask Mr Raft to fill the gap. Like the gentleman in the picture, his record is against him. Beside Mr Raft's career of pictorial crime, even Mr Humphrey Bogart's (he is also in this film) looks like a petty sessions casebook. It is too late for Mr Raft to reform now, in my opinion; and he will get no sympathy from me by dragging in Miss Robson, who was once a very good actress in English films. and passing her off as his little old lady. No, sir!
Well, towards the end of "Invisible Stripes," everybody, including Mr Raft, shoots everybody. incorporating Mr Bogart. Miss Robson was not shot, but this ought to warn her to keep out of pictures like "Invisible Stripes."