WHEN 1 started to look back
in the files for the past year my first feeling was: what a lot of mediocre stuff I've been watching. Certainly the year (always excepting what I have seen described as that film—you know, the one with the chariot race in) has gone out with a bit of a squeak rather than a roar.
However, as I worked backwards. I found myself saying: " Now I really enjoyed that." And that was one I wouldn't mind seeing again. And so here is my personal choice—never mind about prestige or sterling worth. Just jolly good entertainment.
And before I go any further let me say that the year has also been marked with the usual jeremiads
Looks at the Films
about how the cinema is on the way out, that no one is going any more—just staying at home to look at the telly—and that bankruptcy is staring the industry in the face. I've been hearing that sort of thing ever since I started writing about films and have long since stopped taking any notice.
Best of the year for me was "I'm All Right, Jack "—a triumph for the Boulting Brothers and for Peter Sellers. I have even heard it said that it helped to lose the election for the Labour Party. But never mind the political side of it. It is entertainment in the highest degree and in the general screen election I put it at the top of the poll.
Another film I would like to see again—and of which I remember almost every bit—is "Mon Oncle", a joy and a delight and a French triumph for Jacques Tati, It has provided many a lively discussion with many a reminiscent laugh. Why doesn't France send us more like this—and fewer of the lurid ones with the still more lurid posters?
Then there was the delectable "Gigi "—American Vincente Minelli getting great performances from his Anglo-French cast. This was the musical high-spot of the year.
In spite of some pretty severe criticism of the subject, 1 have heard nothing but praise for the treatment and direction of " The Nun's Story " and I only hope that the provinces give it the same enthusiastic viewing that it got in the West End. Director Fred Zinn& mann has always had my profdund admiration, and he hasn't put a foot wrong here. Laurels, too, to Audrey Hepburn, to Peter Finch, to Dame Edith Evans, and to Dame Peggy Ashcroft—all performances ts.: remember and treasure.
Oh, and there is one American film that I remember with affection. It was "Shaggy Dog"— a crazy affair about a boy who kept turning into a dog. I still laugh at Fred MacMurray's portrait of an exasperated father—a real bossy father and such a relief for all those sloppy apologetic ones we encounter far too frequently on the screen.
So much for unadulterated entertainment and pleasant memories. But, of course. we mustn't leave out suffering and stress of which we have had plenty.
There was " Room at the Top " in which Jack Clayton, one of Britain's most discerning directors, did an almost perfect translation of book on to screen. It gave Laurence Harvey the first of two good films for the year—the second was " Expresso Bongo ". Mr. Harvey may eventually qualify for admission to the company of Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers —both of whom are able to sink their own personalities in the part they are playing. I think this is only the second film Jack Clayton
A scene showing girls in the convent school from the film Our Man in Havana " adapted from the novel by Graham Greene and directed by Sir Carol Reed. It will have its premiere in the West End at the end of the month and will be reviewed in THE CATHOLIC HERALD next week.
has done. We should hear more of him and soon.
Suffering also came to us in "Look Back in Anger ". I'm no admirer of this sort of whining indulged in by angry young men, but it was an efficient piece of screenwork and probably an apt enough comment on one phase of post-war Britain. It's already passing, thank goodness.
Another memorable film was "The Diary of Ann Frank ".
Has it been a good year for Sir Alec Guinness? Well, there was " The Horse's Mouth " and " The Scapegoat ". but neither stretched his powers to the full. We have still to see "Our Man in Havana " which should suit him better than either of these. It has been Ian Camiichael's year (" I'm All Right, Jack " and "Right, Left and Centre ") and Stanley Baker's— who gave two good performances in "Yesterday's Enemy" (in the suffering class) and " Blind Date " (tough policeman role).
Alfred Hitchcock delighted most people with his extravaganza "North by North West ". As Cary Grant remarked about him: " He doesn't need actors I " But he made good use of Mr. Grant all the same.
Hollywood sent us two devastating ones in "The Savage Eye " and " Blue Jeans ". While this last may scarify some people, others have found it a salutary lesson. The moral: keep an eye on your teenage sons and daughters and just try to find out what they're up to down there in the furnace room.
Delbert Mann—Paddy Chaefsky Specialist—made a very good film out of " Separate Tables ", and I really should have included David Niven among the actors whose year this has been. His phony major in this was great.
Of Europe's contribution special mention to Russia's "Swan Lake ", Sweden's " The Face ", Poland's "Ashes and Diamonds ", France's "A Priest in Pigalle ", " Les Cousins", and "Buis Clos".
No one can accuse the British Board of Film Censors of severity during this year. The sluice gates are wide open, and goodness knows what strange fish will swim through in 1960.
Great things are expected of France's bunch of new young directors, some of whose work we have already seen challenging and interesting, but, as the American " Time " has remarked, characterised by their "moral vacuum". One we may expect is the film version of " Les Carmelites " on which Poulenc based his opera.