Illegal (1932)

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Are there no bounds to a mother’s love?
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UK / 71 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: William McGann Pr & Story: Irving Asher Scr: Roland Pertwee Cine: Willard Van Enger Cast: Isobel Elsom, Ivor Barnard, D.E. Clarke-Smith (i.e., D.A. Clarke-Smith), Margot Grahame, Moira Lynd, Edgar Norfolk, Wally Patch, Margaret Damer, Joy Chatwin, Victor Fairley, Arthur Goullet, J. Lauriston, H. Heath, Hamilton Keene, Leo Raine.

Evelyn Dean (Elsom) has two small daughters, Ann and Dorothy (both uncredited), from her first marriage and a second husband, Franklyn (Clarke-Smith), who knocks her around and has spent all her savings on booze and the geegees. Now, emboldened by her loyal friend and neighbor Albert (Barnard), a waiter at a nearby nightclub, Evelyn has decided it’s time to throw Franklyn out—and throw him out she does, even giving him a one-way ticket she’s bought him for Cape Town:

Evelyn: “I haven’t much pride left, but I’d rather my children didn’t have the disgrace of a stepfather in jail.”

So off he goes.

Evelyn (Isobel Elsom) explains her problems to Albert (Ivor Barnard).

A few hours earlier, though, she paid off Franklyn’s bookie (Patch) with the last of her money, and the good-natured fellow told her he’d put the money on a horse, Scarecrow, running that day; any winnings beyond what Franklyn owed would be hers. And, sure enough, Scarecrow wins—and so does she: to the princely tune of £180!

Evelyn’s two daughters (both uncredited), for whom she’d sacrifice everything.

That’s enough for her to buy and renovate the niterie where Albert has been working but which has now closed down—because, Albert avers, its damnfool owners stuck to the law on gambling and after-hours drinking. Soon The Scarecrow, as Evelyn renames the club, is Continue reading

Silent Dust (1949)

UK / 82 minutes / bw / ABPC, Independent Sovereign, Pathé Dir: Lance Comfort Pr: Nat A. Bronsten Scr: Michael Pertwee Story: The Paragon (1948 play) by Roland Pertwee and Michael Pertwee Cine: Wilkie Cooper Cast: Sally Gray, Stephen Murray, Derek Farr, Nigel Patrick, Beatrice Campbell, Seymour Hicks, Marie Lohr, Yvonne Owen, Maria Var, James Hayter, George Woodbridge, Edgar Norfolk, Irene Handl.

Silent Dust - 0 opener

It’s a few years after the end of WWII, and Robert Rawley (Murray), a self-made millionaire (or thereabouts), cannot get over the fact that his beloved son by his first marriage, Simon, was one of those who never came back from the Front. Now he’s building a new cricket pavilion in the nearby village to commemorate Simon—even though his bumbling aristocratic neighbor, Lord Harry Clandon (Hicks), urges him to alter the dedication to honor not just Simon but all of the local men who died in the war, as does Robert’s second wife, Joan (Campbell), née Cummings,

Robert: Man can’t live with the dead.
Joan: No. But how hard you try.

Robert is a man whose snarl is very much worse than his bite. We see this essential goodheartedness in an early sequence when he’s informed by the foreman of the team working on the pavilion, Sugden (Woodbridge), that one of the laborers has fallen off the construction, damaging both the weathercock and himself. Robert rants about the lad’s stupidity and clumsiness and the fact that the broken weathercock might delay the Grand Opening, but at the same time he slips Sugden a hefty contribution to any medical expenses the culprit might have—more than enough to cover them all, if we’re to judge by Sugden’s expression.

Silent Dust - 1 Robert listens for what he cannot see

The blind but undaunted Robert (Stephen Murray).

We first become aware that Robert’s blind when he trips over the tricycle that Clandon, who has come to visit, left at the steps of the mansion. Since we’ve earlier seen the Rawleys arrive home in a luxury car, it’s very clear how Continue reading

Spy in Black, The (1939)

vt U-Boat 29
UK / 79 minutes / bw / Harefield, London Film, Columbia
Dir: Michael Powell
Pr: Irving Asher, Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Scr: Emeric Pressburger, Roland Pertwee
Story: The Spy in Black (1917) by J. Storer Clouston
Cine: Bernard Browne
Cast: Conrad Veidt, Sebastian Shaw, Valerie Hobson, Marius Goring, June Duprez, Athole Stewart, Agnes Lauchlan, Helen Haye, Cyril Raymond, George Summers, Hay Petrie, Grant Sutherland, Robert Rendel, Mary Morris, Margaret Moffatt, Kenneth Warrington, Torin Thatcher.

Spy in Black - 0a opener

Spy in Black - 0b opener

In 1917 the German newspapers are full of propaganda to the effect that the country’s U-boat campaign to sink food vessels has brought Britain to the verge of starvation. U-boat commander Captain Ernst Hardt (Veidt) and his second-in-command, Lt. David Schuster (Goring), are all too well aware, though, that food shortages are just as rampant at home. No sooner have they returned to Berlin on leave than they’re sent out on a fresh mission—a secret one to the Orkney Islands, far off Scotland’s northwest tip, where the British destroyer fleet is based. There Hardt is to go ashore and make contact with the new schoolteacher at Longhope, supposedly called Anne Burnett but in fact a German spy called Fraulein Tiel (Hobson).

We see the real Anne Burnett (Duprez)—the name’s spelled Ann in a newspaper report but Anne in the credits—being abducted as Continue reading

Four Just Men, The (1939)

vt The Secret Four; vt The Secret Column

UK / 82 minutes / bw / CAPAD, ABFD Dir: Walter Summers Pr: Michael Balcon Scr: Angus MacPhail, Sergei Nolbandov, Roland Pertwee Story: The Four Just Men (1905) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ronald Neame Cast: Hugh Sinclair, Griffith Jones, Francis L. Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Anna Lee, Alan Napier, Basil Sydney, Lydia Sherwood, Edward Chapman, Athole Stewart, George Merritt, Arthur Hambling, Garry Marsh, Ellaline Terriss, Percy Walsh, Roland Pertwee, Eliot Makeham, Frederick Piper, Jon Pertwee, Liam Gaffney.

Wallace’s novel was a massive bestseller in its native land, and the assumption of this movie was that viewers were at least vaguely familiar with the book’s premise: that a group of four men, working to secure justice where the cops could not, operated covertly—often taking the power of life and death into their own hands—to defend justice and the British way of life. In the novel they were essentially conspiratorial vigilantes; in the movie, made as Europe trembled on the verge of World War Two, the emphasis is more political.

In 1938 one of the Four Just Men, James Terry (Lawton), awaits execution this very morning in the German prison of Regensberg. Even as he’s being prepared for the ax, an imperious officer arrives with instructions that Terry is to be taken away for further interrogation. Sure enough, as the staff car speeds away, it’s revealed—to the surprise of no one in the audience—that the officer and his driver are two of the other Just Men, respectively distinguished stage actor Humphrey Mansfield (Sinclair) and theatrical impresario James “Jim” D. Brodie (Jones). Back in London, the three reunite with the fourth of the quartet, French couturier Léon Poiccard (Sullivan).

The Four Just Men - 1 Poiccard (Sullivan) has it easy - for now

Poiccard (Francis L. Sullivan) has it easy — but for how long?

Terry, who’s dying of emphysema or some similar illness, managed to discover at Regensberg some further details of a dastardly plot against international peace that the Just Men have been investigating. He’s promptly despatched to the Near East to make further inquiries while Continue reading