Archive for Victor Saville

The Cad!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2009 by dcairns

Not George Sanders, this time. Emlyn Williams. In FRIDAY THE 13TH. No, not that one.

This is an all-star multi-story British feature of the ’30s, which uses the same gimmick as the later and superior TRAIN OF EVENTS: we start with a crash, in this case a bus (you can guess what crashes in T.O.E.), after which we flashback to find out the individual stories of the passengers, a couple of who we learn are going to die (but we don’t know which). Well, after the scene above, we have a sneaking idea who one of them might be.

Also in the cast are Jessie Matthews and Ralph Richardson, an unlikely romantic couple, and music hall star Max Miller, who can’t act but can do his enervating “cheeky chappy” routine at his fellow players. I was kind of willing him to be decapitated by a sheet of glass, but no joy.

The trouble with this kind of thing is that interweaving multiple stories — as we can see with the excellent but slow-developing Psychoville on BBC2 just now — can lead to very slow narrative development. The speed gained by jumping from one tale to another is kind of frittered away when each tale is interrupted before it can take more than a single step.

Victor Saville directs, from a script patched together by Sidney Gilliat, GH Moresby-White (?) and Emlyn himself.

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Big Jessie

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on April 14, 2009 by dcairns

What with this week’s Hitchcock movie, as I blog my way through all 52 of them, being WALTZES FROM VIENNA, the only time the cockney director worked with cockney star Jessie Matthews (you wouldn’t guess her origins from her accent though), I thought I’d post a bit more of her in the kind of movie she was famous for. This is Victor Saville’s IT’S LOVE AGAIN, a good example of Jessie’s brand of musical comedy glamour.

“He’s sorry.”

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2008 by dcairns

Necessary background: in FIRST A GIRL, Jessie Matthews has disguised herself as a young fellow in order to get a break in show-business. This is where the leading man discovers her secret, and… he’s sorry?

It’s either a direct homosexual allusion, a joke on effete British leading men, or both.

Directed by Victor Saville, FIRST A GIRL is a remake of the German VIKTOR, VIKTORIA, which formed the basis for Blake Edwards’ VICTOR, VICTORIA, which is also pretty bold about gender and sexuality themes — only forty years later.

Jessie M deserves a chapter of her own in any Encyclopaedia of British Rumpo — her fondness for seriously diaphanous costumes ran afoul of the American censors, and her dancing impressed Fred Astaire. she had offers from Hollywood but stayed in England to get married (to that chap in Hitchcock’s SABOTAGE) and have a kid. By the time she was disillusioned with that, America was no longer calling. She was a working-class cockney girl who trained herself to talk incredibly posh, and somehow it goes with her cheeky chipmunk smile. Her husband, by contrast, was a posh lad who trained himself to speak cockney, leading to music hall success.

Like Barbara Windsor, Jessie always pissed in the dressing room sink. You don’t want to use the toilet — who knows who’s been in there?

Her leading man is Griffith Jones, best known (to me, anyhow) as the villainous Narcy (Narcissus) in Cavalcanti’s THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE, just about the best British noir ever. According to my friend Lawrie, Jones had a slight bitter streak: “Of course, they don’t want sincere acting nowadays,” he would grumble, when “in his cups”.

Victor Saville, who directed Jessie in a number of successful British musicals, did go to Hollywood, where he directed Rita Hayworth in TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (memorable scene: a young man dances to a Hitler speech on the radio), Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell in KIM, before tanking spectacularly with THE SILVER CHALICE, which sent him back to England and a long retirement.

NB: though Hitchcock’s BLACKMAIL is often listed as Britain’s first talkie, Victor Saville’s KITTY, which is half-silent and half-talking (BLACKMAIL’s first reel is also mute) was apparently first. I wonder what it’s like?