Ealing Studios Rarities Collection (The): Volume 6 VIDEO REVIEW
Previous editions of Ealing Rarities have included at least one film that in itself makes the package worth having, and this is no exception: the stand-out film is
I Believe in You from 1952, the only one of the quartet that comes from the mature years of Ealing under Michael Balcon. The other three are authentic obscurities from the mid-1930s, made not by Balcon’s predecessor, Basil Dean, and his resident company but by short-lived independent set-ups who simply rented studio space: none of them is any kind of rediscovered masterpiece, but they continue to fill out our knowledge of the sheer abundance and variety of low-budget British production of the time. The Fortunate Fool (1933) is another early example of David Lean’s work as editor, preceding The Secret of the Loch(1934) from Ealing Rarities 4. Lean famously used his long editing apprenticeship to perfect his formal grasp of the medium before he judged it right, with In Which we Serve (1942), finally to move into direction. This film offers no special scope to an editor until an action sequence near the end, being an otherwise straightforward stage adaptation featuring two actors now known mainly for their work with Alfred Hitchcock. Arthur Chesney was father of the blonde heroine in ; Hugh Wakefield was the bumbling sidekick to Leslie Banks in The Lodger , getting himself hypnotised by sinister figures in Wapping. Here, the setting is mainly a West End flat: playwright Wakefield, looking for inspiration, mixes with vagrants on the Embankment, and invites two of them (Chesney, and unemployed typist Joan Wyndham) to be guests in his smart apartment. When his fiancée and relatives return from abroad, predictable complications develop. The collaboration of Lean’s editing with the direction of Norman Walker, a solid professional who later formed a long alliance with J.Arthur Rank on films of an inspirational religious kind, makes for a pleasantly neat instance of 1930s theatre preserved on film. The Man WHo Knew too Much Honeymoon for Three from 1935 has a similar structure. Like Cheer Up (1936) from , it is directed by Leo Mittler, refugee from Nazism, and stars Stanley Lupino, a big stage star of the time now best known as father to actress and pioneer woman director Ida Lupino. Like the Wakefield character, he has a smart West End flat and an unexpected meeting with a woman, out of which romantic complications develop, with an ending likewise no less enjoyable for being predictable. His film moves much faster, to America and back, and has some lavish musical numbers. Rarities 1 The Girl in the Taxi (1937) is another reminder that the British Musical was once a prominent genre, though it does come as a surprise here when the leading man (Henri Garat) suddenly breaks into song after 15 minutes. The film turns out to be a late example – like The Beloved Vagabond (1936) from – of the kind of multi-language production that had been popular in the early 30s. Based on an operetta, Rarities 5 La Chaste Suzanne, of 1910, it was shot in French and English versions, most of the technical credits being the same, but with only one actor, Garat, common to both. The setting is France, the other actors and their accents very un-French, but once the action gets to the Moulin Rouge for its second half the stereotyped Parisian erotic intrigues achieve an entertaining momentum.
I Believe in You we jump forward 15 years, and it feels like a different Ealing, and a different world altogether. The schedule of Rarities has already featured three films from the busy director-producer team of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph: the two melodramas Frieda (1947) and Cage of Gold (1950) in , and set 3 Davy (1957), one of the final Ealing productions, in . This film belongs to an Ealing sub-genre in which they came to specialise, the moralistic portrait of a society or institution built up through multiple characters and multiple narrative strands. set 4 I Believe in You is in effect a sequel to their hit film about the police, The Blue Lamp (1950); the title expresses the belief of its team of probation officers that a variety of young London offenders, male and female, will respond to their care by going straight. Where The Blue Lamp had the young Dirk Bogarde as its main offender, this has Laurence Harvey and Harry Fowler, plus the young Joan Collins in a wonderfully vivid and sexy performance – it’s not hard to see why Hollywood soon signed her. But it has in addition a very full gallery of charismatic British screen actors, ranging from two future Ealing stars 65 years apart in age – Mandy Miller, soon to play the name part in Mandy, and Katie Johnson, memorable as Mrs Wilberforce in The Ladykillers – to the two leads: Celia Johnson, in one of her rare roles after Brief Encounter, and the more familiar Cecil Parker. Through these two, in the words of the late great Raymond Durgnat from his pioneering 1970 book on British cinema A Mirror for England, ‘English do-gooders come movingly alive on the screen’.
A global byword for cinematic quality of a quintessentially British nature, Ealing Studios made more than 150 films over a three decade period. A cherished and significant part of British film history, only selected films from both the Ealing and Associated Talking Pictures strands have previously been made available on home video format - with some remaining unseen since their original theatrical release.
The Ealing Rarities Collection redresses this imbalance - featuring new transfers from the best available elements, in their correct aspect ratio, this multi-volume collection showcases a range of scarce films from both Basil Dean's and Michael Balcon's tenure as studio head, making them available once more to the general public. HONEYMOON FOR THREE (1935) Jack Denver, man-about-town, wakes up after a binge to find himself in the flat of Yvonne Daumery, whose father insists he marries her. Black and White / 74 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English I BELIEVE IN YOU (1952) Cecil Parker, Celia Johnson, Harry Fowler and Joan Collins star in the story of an unlucky girl, a troubled young man and their sympathetic probation officers. Black and White / 92 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English THE FORTUNATE FOOL (1933) A wealthy author, looking for material, ‘adopts’ an incorrigible thief he finds in the streets, together with an attractive typist who is down on her luck. Black and White / 73 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English THE GIRL IN THE TAXI (1937) The head of a Parisian purity league is found out to be anything but when his organisation mistakenly sends an award to the wrong person. Black and White / 66 mins / 1.33:1 / Mono / English