Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hue and Cry

When I was young I used to get given books on the latest films – annuals, mostly. I can remember one of these having Hue and Cry in it, though the book isn’t amongst those I’ve still got. So I was delighted to find the DVD of the film in a bargain bin at The Warehouse recently.
It was made way back in 1946, the first comedy produced by Ealing Studios - and it’s a zinger. Yes, it’s dated; yes, the plot’s a little thin; yes, it’s not a film that has made a big impact, even within the range of Ealing comedies, but it’s still worth watching.
Firstly, there are the performances. Alistair Sim has two or three brief scenes in which he does his usual dithery Sim performance with great style; Harry Fowler, who was twenty when the film was made, but is playing someone a bit younger, is excellent: full of energy and zest, and a natural actor. He’d already played a few parts in movies before this, and went on to play big and little parts for the rest of his long career. IMDB lists his latest performance as being in 2004, when he was a mere 78. His parts range from the notable Sam Weller in Pickwick Papers to a host of little parts in films and on tv - including a stint in Doctor Who. Never a star, but always a reliable player.
The remainder of the boys throw equal enjoyment into their roles; there isn’t a dud amongst them. Not many of them went on to have long careers, but that doesn’t change anything about their performances here.
The second great feature about the movie is that a huge amount of it is filmed on location in London, a very war-torn London, with bombed and broken-down buildings on every hand standing alongside parts of the city that haven’t been touched. The movie stands as a record of a city in recovery.
The third aspect of the movie is the subtle humour: Charles Crichton is the director, and T E B Clarke the scriptwriter. They were a winning combination: Crichton directed several more Ealing comedies, including The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt, while Clarke was also responsible for Passport to Pimlico, another film set in post-war London.
And one last point of interest: the score was written by Georges Auric, one of the original Les Six, if memory serves me right. Apparently he wrote some 130 film scores, something that probably gives him greater fame than his association with the short-lived Les Six ever did.

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