Archive for Optimum Films Ltd

Quote of the Day: At Sea

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 8, 2008 by dcairns

knock knock 

Aspiring actress calls at the offices of Optimum Films: 

“I tried to phone, but they said it was out of order.”

“Oh — how nice of them to put it that way.”

“Mr. Draper, the casting director, said if I came back next month — that’s now — Mr. Murington the producer would see me.”

“Oh, I’m afraid the casting director is no longer with us.”

“Isn’t he?”

“No, Murington alone remains, and he faces you.”

“You mean you’re the Mr. Murington?”

“No longer ‘the’. ‘That.’

“It was about a part in your new film.”

“My new film. Ahumm.”

“The casting director thought there might be a part for me.”

“Look — sit down, my child. Surely you have heard of the British film crisis?”

“I thought it was over.”

“My dear girl. What with television to the left of us, Hollywood to the right of us, and the government behind us, our industry — laughable term! — is forever on the brink.”

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”

“Not more than I. I have sat here for months, waiting to start my new film. I have my breakdowns, my crossplots, my shooting schedule…I even have a script. Heh heh. All I need is a quarter of a million pounds. But they won’t give it to me. Miss Clarke, when I tell you that in the past my films have been so successful that no other producer in the country has lost less money, you’ll understand how ludicrously impossible the whole situation has become.”

She Played With Fire

I’ve been spending — I’m not sure why — a lot of time strolling the film-worlds of Mssrs. Launder & Gilliat. I could put a little season of their best work together and they’d be reappraised as forgotten masters. A full retrospective might get them dismissed as also-rans. The real pearls, like GREEN FOR DANGER and I SEE A DARK STRANGER, both quirky, cinematically exuberant, and sharp-witted, are surrounded by numerous disjointed time-passers like FOLLY TO BE WISE and the ST TRINIANS sequels.

LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN is decidedly of the latter camp, but like most L&G shows it manages to rustle up a few delights. The scene quoted above, featuring L&G stalwart Alastair Sim as the Last Gasp of the British Film Industry, come into his office one last time to watch the gas get cut off, has a desultory gloryabout it, and still stands as one of the timeless commentaries on cinema in this country. Perhaps the reason the film as a whole lacks drive and compulsion is that it regards the showbiz horrors it unveils — beauty pageants, commercials, the Rank Charm School, publicity shoots (“Throwing snowballs in bikinis?” “Not necessarily.”) and “French revues” not with anger and satirical spite, which would have elevated it to the level of the Boulting brothers’ I’M ALRIGHT JACK or, later, Lindsay Anderson’s BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, films full of gumption and bile, but with a very British acceptance, a sad shake of the head — things are awful, awful to a ridiculous degree, but they could not be otherwise.

Sim’s little uncredited cameo reminds me of my old friend Lawrie’s entry into films. He was adrift at sea in a lifeboat. It was World War II. He had only a newspaper for company and he read it from cover to cover. There was an article about the man who discovered Leslie Howard. Lawrie had always loved films. “I decided that if I was ever rescued I would look him up.” True to his resolve, once ashore and released from service, Lawrie knocked on the man’s door. “I’ve come about a job.” The Great Producer looked briefly hopeful, then realised that Lawrie was not, after all, offering him a job. 

“Only a few years ago, Marjory, my name was known to every financier in the city. Oh, it’s still known to them, but not quite in the same happy light.”

(The lights go out.)

I See a Dark Stranger