Feet of Clay (1960)

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“So I gave her wings!”
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UK / 56 minutes / bw / Danziger, UA Dir: Frank Marshall Pr: Edward J. Danziger, Harry Lee Danziger Story: Mark Grantham Cine: Jimmy Wilson Cast: Vincent Ball, Wendy Williams, Hilda Fennemore (i.e., Hilda Fenemore), Robert Cawdron, Brian Smith, Angela Douglas, Alan Browning, Sandra Alfred, David Courtney, Jack Melford, Ian Wilson, Howard Lang, Lawrence Ireland, Arnold Bell, Edith Saville.

As with Monogram or PRC in the US, the name of the UK Poverty Row studio Danzigers was rarely a guarantee of any great quality, but often enough you got a perfectly amenable mediocrity and, every now and then, you got a jewel. This was one of the jewels—or, perhaps more realistically, a diamond in the rough.

Vincent Ball as David Kyle.

Wendy Williams as Fay Kent.

When probation officer Angela Richmond (Saville) is stabbed in a dark alley in London’s docklands, the workers within the legal system, from beat cops to judges, are horrified: Richmond was “The Angel of the Police Courts,” the golden-hearted woman who sponsored the release of young offenders from custodial sentences and gave them the opportunity to build a life.

Alan Browning (right) as Inspector Gill.

The constable (Ireland) on patrol near the alley where the murder was committed saw young Jimmy Fuller (Smith) fleeing from the scene, and Jimmy becomes the first and only suspect of the police investigation led by Inspector Gill of the Yard (Browning). On being captured, Jimmy spontaneously offers a full confession:

Jimmy: “Yeah, yeah, ‘The Angel of the Police Courts.’ So I gave her wings.”

Tyro lawyer David Kyle (Ball) is given the seemingly thankless task of defending the young man. His fiancée, Fay Kent (Williams), herself a probation officer, is horrified: she and her colleagues assume Jimmy is guilty of killing one of their own—one of the very best of them, indeed—and should hang. Even so, she agrees to offer David passive assistance in the form of inside information; and then, as David discovers discrepancies in the case, she becomes his more active helper.

 

Angela Douglas as Diana.

The young people whom Richmond saved from prison were taken to the Hotel Angela, which she owned. Visiting there, David discovers that two of Richmond’s employees, Mrs. Clarke (Fenemore) and the brutish porter, Sanders (Cawdron), are keeping the place running on a shoestring. All the young offenders have been sent away except two of the girls, Diana White (Douglas) and Ginny (Alfred). We very soon learn that all at the Hotel Angela is not so above-board as the world believes, that Mrs. Clarke and Sanders have some kind of a hold over the girls and are using them to “run errands” all over the city:

Ginny: “Oh, well. I don’t really mind. It’s an easy job.”
Diana: “S’pose so.”
Ginny: “Well, it’s easier than shoplifting.”

As by now we’ve seen Ginny go to the Beach Seamans’ Home, we might jump to conclusions as to what the job that’s “easier than shoplifting” might be.

Hilda Fenemore as Mrs. Clarke.

If so, we’d be wrong. The point of Richmond’s enterprise—and now Mrs. Clarke’s and Sanders’s—was not to rehabilitate youthful criminals but to operate a drugs ring, and it is in this unpalatable fact that the solution to the murder is to be found . . .

Sanders (Robert Cawdron) and Mrs. Clarke (Hilda Fenemore) grill Ginny (Sandra Alfred).

There’s no disguising the fact that this is a cheaply made movie, and yet judged by many standards it’s really quite impressive. The screenplay is good and, with the movie being under an hour long, the pace hardly has the opportunity to flag. Jimmy Wilson’s cinematography is never less than workmanlike and rises on occasion to the heights; in a particularly effective sequence we spy on one of David’s prison-cell interviews with Jimmy from a vantage above and outside the window’s bars, echoing our view of Jimmy’s face a little while before through the bars of his hard prison cot. The cast members are by no means headliners, but most of them deliver performances that give the lie to the movie’s clearly meager budget.

David (Vincent Ball) interviews Jimmy (Brian Smith, foreground) in prison.

In fact, I found that I was recognizing a number of the cast by their faces even if their names didn’t ring much of a bell. Alan Browning, for example, did a lot of TV work in the UK around the time this movie was made with occasional appearances in Z Cars and the like, although the real peak of his TV fame seems to have come with his role as Alan Howard in the long-running soap Coronation Street, a series I never followed. Vincent Ball’s TV career was roughly similar, although in his instance the role in a long-running soap was as David Rome in Compact; he also, less prominently, played Kevin McArthur in Crossroads, and was still working as recently as 2015, with a couple of appearances in Home and Away. The other main cast members had similarly extensive curricula vitarum in UK TV, although Angela Douglas is noted also for her appearances in three of the Carry On movies, including as Annie Oakley in Carry on Cowboy (1965); her first husband was the great Kenneth More, a favorite of this site.

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4 thoughts on “Feet of Clay (1960)

  1. This is certainly not the first ‘diamond in the rough’ you’ve unearthed for dissection at this site and they’ll surely be many more to follow. It is a film I’d surely enjoy for multiple reasons. Great essay here!

    • That’s one of the advantages of romping around among the B-features: there are so many rough diamonds to be found. Of course, that’s one of the reasons film noir itself has such great appeal.

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