—that was 1954 in the Cinema
THE year 1954 will probably go down in cinema history as one of technical revolution.
The wide screen, which had already arrived, heralded by the beating of the big drum, gave way to the co n cave and CinemaScope. Cinerama, so big and so important that it has to have a theatre all to itself in New York and London, tops the sensational poll bat must remain only a notelty until it can be seen by the millions.
3-D. with its bothersome cardboard specs. (you should have heard the critics muttering as they tried to keep them on !I, grew up like a wanton weed and now seems to be only a novelty freak. Vistavision is the rival technique to CinemaScope, but so far we have seen only one example of it, and that not a very good one, Since 20th Century-Fox have bred and nurtured CinemaScope, they naturally see it as revolutionising not only the presentation of films hut the arrangement of programmes.
For instance, they expect the dis appearance of the two-feature programme and consider the future one to be made up of a newsreel, a cartoon, a CinemaScope short and the main CinernaScope feature.
In fact, they look forward to the day when newsreels will he made in the new medium and in colour.
If the short features are of the type and quality of the magnificent "This Supersonic Age" shown recently, then they will be something to look forward to.
NOT having the catalogue type of mind, I never dogmatise about the best six or the best 10 or the worst five films of the year. Hilt it IS
nice to look hack and remember some that pleased.
Taking our own studios first, this has been a year of good average rather than high endeavour.
"The Young. Lovers." in which °dile Versois gave such a moving picture of a girl caught up in the machinery of high diplomacy, had some poignant moments, although I am told it was not a box-office "smash-hit."
"Romeo and hiller—an AngloItalian effort — was one of the
year's disappointments—an indifferent jewel in a superb setting.
The only Graham Greene film of the year, "The Stranger's Hand" (kidnapping in an Iron Curtain cite), was good but not remarkable. "1 he Divided Heart" I consider one of the hest of the serious subjects, and it was good to have Robert Donat with us again in the rather sombre "Lease of Life."
OUR biggest successes have been scored on the light side. "Doctor in the House" was great, and so was "The Maggie." "Hobson's Choice" brought Charles Laughton back and gave us Brenda de Banzie, a character , I quality.
I don't know what heading "Father Brown" comes under. It got a mixed reception but I liked it.
Bang at the top of Hollywood films I put "On the Waterfront," a triumph of directing for Elia Kazan and of acting for Marlon Brand°. He is the acting Man of the Year— a man who lives the character he is playing. He belongs to the new American school of acting which is already producing some notable personalities.
James Stewart had a good year with "The Glenn Miller Story," a very pleasant film, I thought, and again in "Rear Window." Gregory Peck gave one of his high geared, taut-nerve performances in "Night People," and a' whole bunch of big Hollywood names made "Executive Suite," queer goings on in big husiness—a film to see and remember.
Humphrey Bogart topped his year with his splendid work in "The
Caine Mutiny." hut he was not so happy. though, in "Sabrina Fair.' which was really Audrey Hepburn's solo.
Danny Kaye pleased a lot o people in "Knock on Wood," a film I found rather jerky and episodic. He was less than at his best in "White Christmas"—and should never again be teamed with Bing Crosby. (Come back, Bob Hope.)
HAVE 1 forgotten "The Robe"? How could I when nearly every post brings news of more and more millions who have seen it and more and more millions of dollars it is making. It brought us CinemaScope with a bang and I don't think I shall easily forget the first opening shot, when the curtains parted to reveal that staggering Roman slave market.
Among documentaries there was Walt Disney's virtuoso study, "The Living Desert," and the Rachel Carson excursion into the marine depths, "The Sea Around Us."
Recently, and just in time to be included, is the Hans Hass "Under the Caribbean." Best of ail, the Swedish "The Great Adventure," still to be seen at The Academy, Internationally, I remember "The Return of Don Camillo" (Fernandel), and the generous helping from Italy that burst on the eye with "Neapolitan Fantasy."
THIS has not, I am afraid, been 1 France's year in the cinema. And
to remind me of the glories that were France in the old days, Mr. 1. Fairfax-Jones, proprietor of the unique Everyman Theatre, Hampstead, has sent mc a list of famous films shown at his cinema over the past 21 years. It fairly bristles with French cinema classics, such as "The Marius Trilogy." "Edouard Cl Caroline." "La Kermesse Heroique"—all of Cocteau—"The Diary of a Country Priest," "Les Jeux Interdits." N ot h i n g approaching their stature has been forthcoming this year.
Italy, on the other hand, seems to be having another resurgence, judging by the samples we saw at the recent Italian Film Festival here. Their new mood seems to be grim realism, with the new (to us, at any rate) director Fellini to put it over. Some of these are promised for public showing over here in the New Year, Japan's contribution, "The Gate of Hell," provided one of the artistic peaks of the year—an • inspiring pictorial essay on sin, repentance, conjugal fidelity, heroism and retribution.
Nearly all these films from the East are period pieces. Neither the Chinese. the Japanese nor the Indians have yet dared to venture into the contemporary scene.
I have left "The Secret Conclave,' the life of St, Pius X, to the last. it is not a great film, but we must be , grateful to the Italian sponsors a group of business men—for without their help and interest we would not have had any film about our f illustrious new saint.