CALL ME SISTER!
Understanding From The Industry
From IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Herald Film Critic That the cinematograph industry can still call me confrere in all friendship. after the things that have been said lately, is my consolation of the week. In an open letter to me, published in The Cinenia, are these encouraging words, full of understanding of our viewpoint, but pleading extenuation on box office grounds.
I quote them with blushes.
To Miss Iris Conlay, film critic of the Catholic Herald.
We wish they were all as fair-minded as you—and as intelligent.
Sectarian or religious critics of the screen more often than not let their preconceptions and dogmas run away with their good judgment. Not so you. Perhaps it is because you see films before you write about them.
In a recent issue of your paper, presenting the case for the prosecution, you have given your view. We do not find ourselves in complete agreement with it but none the less there seems to he little with which we would quarrel.
Still in the Cradle Stage
. Even your suggestion that the film still clings to its nursemaid patrons instead of marching progressively on, is a criticism not of the film's moral values so much as its expediency. For our part we have studied the audience as well as the show, and we wish, with all your own eagerness, that we could believe it as adult as you do.
True enough, it is in simple things in " simple views on the life of our own people" and not in new worlds created by H. G. Wells" that the screen is most likely to make its safest and surest progress. And like you. we do not despise the nursemaid origins of film. Even the drama of Shakespeare and Shaw, Ibsen and Hauptmann, had its origins in the almost primitive simplicity of the miracle plays and the mummers, where •the doughty deeds of St. George and the petulant wickedness of the devil were surely as elementary as the children's story book.
You fairly and honestly record that you remember no films where the villains triumphed over good men or lost virtue was extolled in praiseworthy terms. How different from those verbose and abusive denunciators who never go to the pictures they scarify!
You, and maybe we, are tired of the pairade of luxury and elegance of the monotonously smart women who trail across the screen. Yet it is the nursemaid and the shopgirl, the typist and the factoryhand, who love to wallow in this world of eleganoe and light. And it is they, after all who pay the piper, they who are entitled to call the tune.
Reform and progress are so easy to theorise but so difficult to achieve. Material circumstances are more powerful than theories.
You are doing yeoman work, not only because you may be criticising the film. After all. your criticism is intelligent and informed. But mainly because you are surely an influence for good, for you must be curbing the high spirits of the ignorant and malicious who so frequently are found in the van of so-called reform.
Keep up the good work, adds The Cinema. To be sure we will, adds the Catholic Herald.
This week's big show has been Knight Without Armour (London Pavilion)—a bit kakidescopic and breathless in the beginning but developing into greatness. The story, which James Hilton has written, is one of those " never-stop-action" novels which film producers fall so easily for, and then find so difficult to utilise.
That is why Knight Without Armour gasps for breath occasionally, it is a little too busy trying to keep up with its author.
Nevertheless there are scenes to be remembered always. The first one in deathly silence while Marlene, daughter of a Rue. sian aristocrat, wakes in a deserted house on the first day of revolution and her path: gathers pace with every movement. All this is as lovely as the gathering crescendo of a great orchestra.
The second, in a dirty waiting-room, Robert Donat recites Robert Browning, poet of optimism, Marlene returns with a Russian verse, sombre with that country's pessimism. Then the change-over to sudden action, violent and strong involving struggle and a small death under a railway bench.
Melodrama? of course — but mixed with rare imagination. We like it that way.