Archive for Googie Withers

Ward Bonds

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2018 by dcairns

 

Watching WHITE CORRIDORS, (1951) directed by Pat Jackson (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty), was slightly annoying due to a defective copy that kept drifting out of sync. Fortunately, VLC Media Player has a handy function that lets you adjust, but every five minutes I had to nudge the sound half a second forward, which would put it very slightly ahead, and wait until it got behind again and then nudge it forward again… If the film hadn’t been so engrossing I would definitely have given up.

The movie has no direct connection with Jackson’s later THE GENTLE/FEMININE TOUCH, but it’s another hospital soap opera, following a diverse group of doctors and nurses and their patients through the day. Googie Withers plays a surgeon, and no issue is made of her femininity, other than the question of whether she’ll stay at this midlands backwater to be near her research scientist lover James “Madness!” Donald, or go to London where the action is. She’s in danger of being passed over for promotion here in favour of head surgeon Godfrey Tearle’s smarmy son (champion smarmster Jack Watling). Petula Clark plays a probationary nurse struggling through her first day. Like a lot of British films of the period, the movie eschews a lead character in favour of celebrating community, which has the effect of diffusing close identification somewhat, but gives us a more global view of the story world.

 

One terrifying masterstroke: a little boy (beautifully played by actual little boy Brand Inglis) has been admitted with an infected wound: we’re about to discover that his septicemia does not respond to antibiotics. He’s drawing, and his hands begin to shake. He stares at them, uncomprehendingly.

Then Barker cuts to the nursing staff, but with the kid’s bed visible in the foreground. And his tray begins to shake, uncontrollably. But nobody notices (considerable anxiety/horror is created by this) until the lid falls off a tin on his tray.

This and several other plot strands don’t develop in the expected soap opera ways. When a nurse tells on a negligent medico (her former lover), the other “sympathetic” characters turn on her. There’s a bit of dangerous socialist propaganda about the merits of the National Health Service (Yay!) and some satire of the red tape non-emergency cases still have to struggle with. OK, I’m satisfied that Jackson was a reliable talent with flashes of real cinematic dazzle. Now I have to dig into his early wartime work.

Petula and Bernard Lee. Know him anywhere.

Stars Rose Sandigate; Theo Van Gogh; Sharon McLonergan; Kreacher; Lady Winterbourne;  Mrs Grose; ‘M’, Charters; Melanthius; Dickie Winslow; Becky Driscoll; and Mrs Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone;

Stargate

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on November 29, 2012 by dcairns

A new Forgotten — my host and co-director Paul Duane mentioned this one, which is getting a screening in London soon, as representative of a forgotten strand of British cinema — my ears pricked up at once. That, and the names Basil Dearden and Googie Withers sold it. I think you’ll be intrigued.

Carry On Noir

Posted in FILM, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by dcairns

Had a great time showing NIGHT AND THE CITY to my class a couple weeks ago, a movie I always enjoy, for all kinds of things, from the London noir atmosphere, Francis Sullivan’s eloquently tortured fat man bad guy, and Richard Widmark’s sweaty desperation (ALL the characters in the film are studies in desperation of one kind or another). Despite the seedy atmosphere, the film seems to have had an oddly healthy effect on its participants, with Widmark and director Jules Dassin surviving well into their nineties, and co-star Googie Withers still being with us today. But this time I was taken with a minor player who was not so lucky.


The thug in the car is an actor names Peter Butterworth. Not somebody one associates with thug parts, actually: Butterworth is chiefly known for his roles in the CARRY ON series, often as an incompetent underling to stars like Harry H Corbett (CARRY ON SCREAMING) or Kenneth Williams (DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD). He’s also in three Richard Lester films, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, THE RITZ and ROBIN AND MARIAN, where he plays a barber-surgeon failing to extract an arrow from Richard Harris’s neck.

Melancholy and an end-of-the-pier seediness seem to coalesce around the private lives of the CARRY ON team, few of who reached particularly ripe ages (so it’s pleasing to have Barbara Windsor as an uncharacteristically perky Dormouse in Tim Burton’s mess of an ALICE IN WONDERLAND). Butterworth’s death, aged sixty, from a heart attack while waiting in the wings to go onstage at a pantomime show (I’d previously read “while entertaining at a children’s party” but I’ll go with the IMDb), has a sad sound to it, although you can configure a Hollywood Version easily enough: the sound of laughter/applause ringing in his ears. And it probably beats being bashed with a brick, which is what happens to his co-thug in NIGHT AND THE CITY.

Butterworth was a splendid comic, who could quietly hold his own amid the chaos of a CARRY ON farce — it was actually good from to upstage your fellow players in these things, since the only way to make the experience lively for the audience, with the inert staging, corny gags and clunking editing, was to have a few faces emoting at once, each trying to outdo the other in enthusiasm. Situate Butterworth in the background and he’d add a whole mini-drama just by being endearingly daft. He spends the whole climactic exposition of FORUM struggling to get his sword from its sheath, and faffs around behind Richard Harris in R&M, taking the curse off the script’s poetic musings with a welcome infusion of bumbling.

Here’s a bit of SCREAMING which illustrates a number of the painful pleasures of that series. Fenella Fielding is a great underused resource of British cinema, best known internationally for revoicing Anita Pallenberg in BARBARELLA. Kenneth Williams, always alarming, is especially so as the reanimated Dr. Watt, his voice a-quiver with vibrato suggestiveness. Then, about three minutes or so in, we get Butterworth, who hardly says a word but stands behind the other players and mugs genially. Jim Dale tries to match him twitch for twitch, and you get a sort of doubling of affect as they do a kind of facial dance-off behind Harry H Corbett (once praised as British theatre’s answer to Brando, now a magnificently resourceful farceur with TV’s Steptoe and Son as, essentially, his entire career) and Williams.

You can also appreciate Gerald Thomas’s bad filmmaking. He serves up passable angles in which we can enjoy the mugging, but they don’t cut together at all well — there’s no reason for the angle changes except to serve up a spurious variety to the coverage, and break the scene into manageable-sized segments. Kevin Smith must have been taking notes.

Oh, and the big guy at the start is Bernard Bresslaw, who nearly got the role of the Creature in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, just losing out to Christopher Lee. Imagine what a fun alternative universe that would be!