Holiday Camp (Ken Annakin, 1947)

This is my contribution to the Beach Party Blogathon, being hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Please do visit and look at the other postings.

Holiday Camp 3As soon as I heard about the Beach Party Blogathon, I thought it would be fun to write about a film focusing on the great British holidays of the past. There are actually several to choose from, including The Entertainer, where Laurence Olivier is brilliant as seedy seaside entertainer Archie Rice, and the war-time drama Millions Like Us, which begins with a family holiday during the summer of 1939. I hope to write about both films in the future.

However, in the end this time I decided to spotlight Holiday Camp, the smash hit feature film debut of the great Ken Annakin, which gives a vivid portrayal of a world vanished forever. At the start of the film, hundreds of holidaymakers are eagerly flocking by train to a large camp – in fact Butlins at Filey in North Yorkshire, although the location is never stated.

This is a portmanteau-style drama, written by Sydney and Muriel Box, with several different stories unfolding simultaneously. The whole cast is excellent, but Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison steal the show as middle-aged couple Joe and Ethel Huggett, taking a break with their two grown-up children and their baby grandchild. Three more Huggett adventures followed this one, and I’m certainly keen to see them too. There’s plenty of chemistry between the central couple and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jack Warner in a non-police role (though, even so, he does take on a pair of criminals at one point!)

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Forever England aka Born for Glory (Walter Forde, 1935)

Forever_EnglandBack to John Mills with another of his 1930s films, Forever England – one of his first lead roles. He plays a young sailor who ends up waging a lone war on a German vessel during the First World War, against almost impossible odds.This was an ideal role for the young Mills and helped to make him a star, although top billing went to vivacious British music hall and silent film actress Betty Balfour, once known as “Britain’s Queen of Happiness”. The film is available on DVD in the UK, included in the John Mills Centenary Collection II box set from ITV Studios.

Confusingly, this one film has gone by four different titles over the years.It’s adapted from a book by C.S. Forester, and on first release in the UK it took the novel’s title, Brown on Resolution. However, the US release went for a snappier title, Born for Glory – and when the film was re-released in the UK (I don’t know  what year this was) it acquired a more memorable title here too, Forever England. For good measure, it was also reissued as Torpedo Raider in the US!

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Fascination (Miles Mander, 1931)

fascinationThis review is my contribution to the Madeleine Carroll Blogathon being organised by Silver Screenings and Tales of the Easily Distracted – please do visit and read the other postings!

By sheer serendipity, I heard news of the Madeleine Carroll blogathon just after hearing that one of her early British talkies, Fascination, was about to be released on DVD in the UK. How could I resist? Just over an hour long, this melodrama laced with comedy sees Carroll cast as a world-weary actress (she was only 25, but the character seems to be several years older) who tempts a young interior decorator into cheating on his wife. The director was Miles Mander, a British dramatist and actor who had already directed and starred opposite Carroll in silent film The First Born, based on his own play.

Sadly, the film is in pretty bad shape despite BFI restorers’ expertise (it only survives in a damaged nitrate print), and subtitles are provided to help viewers make out the dialogue. Adapted from a stage play, the film does feel stagy at times and some of the dialogue and acting are stilted.  Nevertheless, I feel it is worth seeing if you enjoy early talkies, and it is a fascinating example of Carroll’s British film work. The film also gets steadily better as it goes on – the beginning is rather shaky, but later on it ratchets up the tension, as the love triangle takes its toll on everyone concerned.

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Car of Dreams (Graham Cutts and Austin Melford, 1935)

car of dreams 1 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.

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