I’m intending to do a series of postings about John Mills’ British films on this blog – starting off with a look at a little-known musical. During his long and varied career, Mills was of course best-known for his amazing range of dramatic work. But early on he specialised in song-and-dance roles, both in stage shows – including Noël Coward’s Words and Music – and in musical film comedies such as Car of Dreams. This remake of a Hungarian film from the previous year is included in the John Mills Centenary Collection Volume 2 box set, a varied selection which showcases this actor’s versatility. The DVD print is of good quality. The film is also available in public domain versions at Youtube and Archive.org, but I don’t know what the quality is like.
Mills was actually second-billed behind German actress Grete Mosheim, seen here in her only English-language film role, after fleeing Hitler. Mosheim, who had Jewish ancestry, was an acclaimed star of Berlin theatre and had worked with Max Reinhardt. She speaks English OK here, although her accent becomes heavier when she sings. it seems a shame she didn’t make more films in Britain -. but she did go in front of the cameras again in Germany many years later.
Joseph Schmidt and Charlotte Ander in ‘My Song Goes Round the World’
Following on from my look at the first two films in a new DVD set, released by Network Distributing, here are some thoughts on the other two. Where the earlier films are very British in their humour and their whole atmosphere, the two slightly later offerings on the second disc have a more international feeling. One is set in Venice, the other partially in Vienna. Another similarity between the two is that they both feature great operatic tenors in the lead roles – Joseph Schmidt in My Song Goes Round the World (1934) and Richard Tauber in Heart’s Desire (1934). All the films in this series are part of The British Film Collection.
I really enjoyed both, and for me the first of these is the stand-out film of the entire set. Having said that, Tauber’s voice in the second film is probably the musical high point. In both films, the greatest thrill comes in scenes where the star singer gives an impromptu performance, and those around them suddenly realise that they have great voices which belie their appearance (Schmidt’s height, Tauber’s peasant dress).
Hundreds of early British talkies are gradually being released on DVD in the UK by Network Distributing. The latest volume is British Musicals of the 1930s: Volume 3, due for release on January 12, which contains four rarities, For the Love of Mike (1932), Facing the Music (1933), My Song Goes Round the World (1933) and Heart’s Desire (1934) I’ll just write about the first two films here, and will post about the others separately. They are all part of The British Film collection.
Musicals from this period tended to offer entertaining escapism from the worries of the Great Depression. That’s certainly true of the two films on the first disc, which are both light-hearted romps serving up a blend of slapstick antics and glitzy outfits. For the Love of Mike is set in a grand country house, while Facing the Music largely takes place at a London opera house, and includes several operatic scenes along the way. Both films are amusing, but Facing the Music is by far the more polished of the two, with a highly entertaining performance by music hall star Stanley Lupino, who comes up with endless visual gags and one-liners. Watching this straight after The Love of Mike really gives a feeling of how much British cinema had advanced in just one year. Here’s a trailer to give a taste of the whole set.