Archive for Anthony Asquith

The Sunday Intertitle: Not Me

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2016 by dcairns


Strange title card from SHOOTING STARS (1928). This one has strange credits, also — it has a scenario by one John Orton, it’s directed by one A.V. Bramble, but it has in addition a non-specific authorial credit — “By Anthony Asquith.” Since Asquith is known to us a director, one tends to ascribe him credit, but heaven knows how the workload was actually divided.

I like A.V. Bramble because his name is A.V. Bramble.

Sad to say, the astounding A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR is unique in the Asquith oeuvre, a Germanic, doomladen, yet quirky drama. A late silent, it contains a naughty parody of early talkies — and then Asquith plunged into talkies himself and immediately came to embody the British tradition of quality, making respectable, theatrical, well-acted movies which are kind of D.O.A. from a cinematic perspective. I don’t know, I have a vague plan to attempt to watch THE V.I.P.S sometime, just to see if it’s really as dull as I remember (I remember it as eight hours long and entirely composed of actors in an airport doing their income tax. Possibly this is a distorted memory.)

But if COTTAGE is the one supernova in Asquith’s career, UNDERGROUND has quite a lot of verve and makes London’s subway into an epic adventure setting, and SHOOTING STARS is the other lively one, with much to commend it. (I’d be very interested to see his other silent, THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS if that ever becomes possible.) Like UNDERGROUND this has the star quality of the underrated Brian Aherne, and character actor Donald Calthrop (Hitchcock’s BLACKMAILer), and its setting behind the scenes of the British film industry immediately endears it to silent movie buffs. The fact that we’re introduced to the crew as they shoot a western just makes it better. British westerns are so scarce that there’s no slang name for them — “fish and chips western” has occasionally been bandied about, but apart from CARRY ON COWBOY there’s very little to apply it to (HANNIE CALDER and A TOWN CALLED BASTARD are the others that come to mind. “The crookedest film I ever did,” was Dudley Sutton’s verdict on the latter).


There are a few moments where Asquith runs mad, creatively, too, such as his subjective camera swinging-from-a-chandelier shots…




Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on August 22, 2013 by dcairns


Norah Baring in UNDERGROUND, the Anthony Asquith silent which forms the subject of this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten, over at The Notebook.

Meanwhile, The ’68 Comeback Special continues at Apocalypse Now with a new essay by Scout Tafoya on Alexsandr Zarkhi’s ANNA KARENINA. Check it!

You can buy UNDERWORLD here:

“My best film…”

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 19, 2010 by dcairns

BLACK RAINBOW, written and directed by Mike Hodges.

Fiona knows Mike, so now I do too. His paranormal-political thriller was one of the subjects of last night’s conversation, and how his reading of quantum mechanics informed the screenplay… Mike is on the jury for the Michael Powell Award this year, and thus sworn to secrecy. Despite the flowing wine, he was the soul of discretion on that point. It’s all the other stuff he told us I can’t talk about… ranging from Anthony Asquith’s role in the Profumo Affair, Alan Bennett’s reaction to WITCHFINDER GENERAL and a surprise revelation regarding the great Robert Fuest… all sealed, until fifty years after all our deaths. Yours too.

Then we dropped Mike at his hotel and got the bus home. It had just managed to get more or less dark, but the sky was still in the deeper stages of cobalt blue and giant seagulls were gliding down the tall streets like X-Wing fighters, scooping up the abandoned fish suppers, and they looked like the giant roc of mythology, large enough to snatch a baby elephant, and you think is nobody else noticing this?