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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 13. July 15, 1953

Films — The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan

page 3


The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan

Films Cartoon

Mr. gilbert and Mr. Sullivan, you presume. No, this film is misnamed. We do not meet these two men; at least, we do not get to know them very well. The intimate facts of their private lives are not revealed. The operactias the thing and thank God Mr. Launder and Mr. Gilbert have thought fit to think so. They cannot be blamed for being affected by Savoyites. When we consider that the lives of G. and S. were centred around that illustrious theatre.

What we do meet are Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sullivan, the artists. I love their operas. I wanted to see something of the minds and circumstances that produced such works. What can it matter to Shakespeare whose work is going to live forever that he should already be twenty-six legs of mutton in arrears with the butcher Why should we worry about it. So be it with Gilbert and Sullivan. It is time that we see a love affair, but wasn't it so much to do with Sullivan's spiritual conflict of the artist We have the famous story of the carpet—the story of a break in a triumphant artistic alliance. But we always find our way back to the Savoy. Let's call the film "Gilbert and Sullivan" then Launder and Gilbert have every justification to concentrate on the operas themselves. The artists come nest. Let's leave out the men of the world—with their finance, marriages, home decoration, gardening, social life, domestic wranglings.

The director does a grand job. I liked watching the ballet of the horses in the parks, keeping strict time to the rhythm of Sullivan's music; I liked hearing the common crowd, the bands, the organ grinders revelling in the top hit tunes of the day. The "gradual dawning of the fact that G. and S. were becoming "as much as an institution as Westminster Abbey itself." The gay Victoria spirit, the captured atmosphere. I wan both amused and moved when the stories of the operas were paralleled with the stories of their creators. I was pleased with the deft handling, the occasional tricks in the photographs, the willingness to allow the singers and actors to do this stuff without Interference, the dramatic cutting, the work of the choruses. Above all I was grateful for the good taste.

Maurice Evans was effective in a quiet, unpretensious way. I fully understood his picture of a discontented artist—the composer mocked by an appreciative Savoy audience in the failure of his life's deepest aspirations. A Jack Point who wanted to "sing a song-o" in the higher realms of art.

What of the other actors "A critic's life is extremely flat when there's nothing whatever to grumble at," and I must have a grumble at Robert Morley as W.S. Gilbert. What exactly he was trying to do I don't know. Obviously his performance was not thought out in the study beforehand. (It would be unjust to say that probably Morley hasn't a study, ) it is rambling and hazy. Morley says his lines in the typical Morley manner—and the result is a kindly wit who occasionally acts like a bad-tempered child, in fact he seemed a bit looney. "A private buffoon is a lightearted loon." One of Gilbert's own lines but I am sure he would have died of rage if it was suggested that it could ever apply to himself. Eileen Herlie and Peter Finch are good as Mr. and Mrs. D'Oyly Carte. And of course, my old friend". Wilfred Hyde-While, the old trouper of such films as "The Third Man." "The Outcast of the Islands" and "The Browning Version." A tribute to you, Mr. Headmaster.

The technicolour is magnifient. No raspberry sauce pinks, sealing-wax reds, washtub blues. All bold and gay, fitting in with the sets and costumes of Helm Hockrath, who fully reclaims his fallen reputation of The Tales of Hoffman." Visually the public is well catered for, but advice to the blind man. Malcolm Surgeant and the D'Oyly Carte company, headed by Martyn Green, are very much in the picture. So don't miss it.

A very good production, worthy of a 21st birthday present from any film company let alone London films. Launder and Gilbert must have quoted from G. and S. themselves: "Here's a first rate opportunity. We must not miss our opportunity." They haven't. Their film has faults (a question of ambition overleaping itself, and then hastening back again) but they are so minor and do not spoil the overall excellence so I will be fair and not mention them. Of course some will say that it is frustrating, that the G. and S. selection is not enough, that the selections are not the best. For me it is not frustrating because the film provides me with a compensating outlet for a desire to sec a Gilbertian and Sullivan opera at least once every quarter. The selection does not satisfy me—I would like to have seen more of "Patience" and "The Pirates of Penzance." less of "Trial by Jury"—but on the other hand it may have suited someone else.

But of course, if you can't [unclear: and] Gilbert and Sullivan don't go to see the film. If you love 'em. I'm sure You will go more than once.

Grading: **** (*)

King Lear

Laurence olivier is preparing a technicolor version with himself as Lear. I hope it is a better effort than "Hamlet."


Come Back Little Sheba

Congratulations, Shirley Booth! To a mediocre story she brings an acting ability unequalled in years. She it is who holds the story together, and gives it a magnetic attraction to warm even the most critical heart. Burl Lancaster is also good; some say he was miscast; but it is the actor's job to act and the "doctor" is a person who is aloof to all emotions save that of Charity. He painfully lives through each day, not daring to look back on his past. A reformed dipsomaniac, he plays his pari with the restraint demanded of him.

But it is Shirley, as his wife, who gives to the audience the background of the couple. A middle-aged wife, pathetic, day-dreaming, love-starved and pining for some sign of affection from her husband; she condones a love affair between a glamorous college student and a hefty, senuous athlete, which revives the post for Burt, including his seduction of the girl who is now his wife through force of circumstances—"You cannot defy convention or the laws of God," he says at one stage, reflecting perhaps his own regret at the failure of his forced marriage. He is driven to drink again, and when he recovers and returns home he winds love awaiting him; and at last it is recriprocated.

Every verbal rumbling by the wife, every silly word, every gesture is full of expression, tolling to the audience the tragic story of the marriage about to go on the rocks. Yes. Shirley, you well deserve your Oscar.

The director of the film. Daniel Mann, is also to be congratulated for the way in which he builds up the story skilfully to its climax. He was also the producer of the play, written by William Inge.

We would dearly like to see more acting of this caliber.

Grading: *****

In other Words, Great!

Brian C. Shaw.