Looks at the Films
THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS
Certificate U: Odeon, Marble Arch Director: Mark Robson WITH all deference to the glitter" ing cast I think first honours here must go to Mark Robson for the imagination he has shown in choosing the North Welsh landscape and making it stand in so effectively for China. The setting is a revelation in locations—and it makes one wonder why it has taken an American to see its infinite variety and possibilities.
Once again we have the biography of someone written — and filmed — in that person's lifetime. This two hour forty minute production is based on the book " The Small Woman " by Alan Burgess. The small woman is Gladys Aylward—who became convinced when she was only a girl that her vocation lay in the mission field in China. When T asked 20th Century Fox if she was coming to the premiere I was told—No. She has gone back and is again working in North (Nationalist) China.
This small and very determined woman overcame money obstacles and qualification obstacles to get out to China. She took a job as domestic servant in the house of an Oriental scholar, (Ronald Squire) borrowed his valuable books on China in between doing the grates in his London house and paid her fare out to China in weekly instalments to a travel agency, choosing the route via the Trans-Siberian railway because it was the cheapest.
As so often happens in real life, when her fantastic faith and unswerving purpose became known, people took a hand to help. Gladys got to China and remained there to make history and to Robert Donal was very near to death when he played this, his last role, the Mandarin, one of the last representatives of the old China, in "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness". It was a worthy swansong.
become a legend in her own lifetime.
Now by no stretch of imagination could Ingrid Bergman, who plays the part. be called "a small woman," not at any time does she look like a humble domestic servant. Nor is it easy, to believe later on, when she is told by her Chinese
officer Inver (Curt Jurgcns) that she is beautiful, that no one has ever said that to her before.
And yet, Ingrid Bergman is such a supremely competent actress, that she handles every situation with utmost efficiency. Here is an actress whose intelligence is always in complete control.
She is master of every mood the script demands. She can show fear and horror (when she witnesses a public decapitation in the village square); she can show grief when her faithful Chinese servant is murdered; she can show us a woman quivering with fright and yet putting a bold face on it when she goes to quell a riot in the Chinese jail.
Only in a too long drawn out trek (leading a hundred orphans across savage mountain country during the Sino-Japanese War) does even her resource falter and we, the spectators, begin to falter too.
It is a melancholy thought that since the film was made two of its most lovable actors have died. Robert Donat—superb as ever in the part of the mandarin — and Ronald Squire as the employer for whom Gladys worked. Both will leave a sad vacuum in the British film world.
As the Chinese officer (with his eyes slightly drawn upwards) Curt Jurgens has never given a more sympathetic performance. To add to the general wealth of portrayal there is Athene Seyler's brilliant characterisation of an elderly Englishwoman who has lived and worked among the Chinese all her life, and the endearing Chinese servant Yang of Peter Wong. But after all we come hack to the genius of Mark Robson With his evocative direction, and the way in which he has handled the army of children as they struggle weary, ragged and forlorn over the Chinese (Welsh) terrain.
THE TWO HEADED SPY
Certificate U: Odeon, Marble Arch
Director: Andre de Toth
ATELL — this is the strangest reason given yet for the defeat of Germany. A British subject on the German General Staff sending back vital information to London and, when communications fail, sabotaging supplies for the German Army just as the Battle or the Ardennes was about to break. I'm sure "Monty" would be interested to hear that.
Anyway, it based on a story by J. Alvin Kugelmass and it gives Jack Hawkins a chance, not only to appear resplendent in the uniform of a German General—surely the most confining uniform ever devised—but to get as near as he has ever done to screen romance.
The girl in the case is Gia Scala —a sort of German Vera Lynn— nationality never defined but luckily on our side too. Her songs to the German forces are really ingenious codes. The two meet and fall in love. But there is no happy ending for them.
Lots of shivery moments, especially as Hawkins' aide is a member of the Gestapo—ready to denounce anyone on sight, and both envious and jealous of his chief. Erik Schumann in this part cleverly suggests a sort of ingrowing, consum
ingAilleaxtaeder Knox is a pinctnez'd staff general as German as German could be. As for Jack Hawkins his Britishness is as hundred per cent as ever and would never, 1 Imagine. have deceived anyone. Still, you , never know.
GOOD NEWS IT is almost too good to be true.
A committe has been set up-right in the heart of the industry— to investigate the whole subject of cinema posters. The committee will be appointed by the Kinematograph Renters Society and sitting in with them will be representatives of the exhibitors (the men who actually show the films), the Motion Picture Association of America and the Circuit Managers Association.
"X" for sex, horrors, cheap publicity stunts—all those things that make not only London—but Paris and other cities hideous will, let us hope, come under the axe.