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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 8 June 27, 1945

Film and Stage

Film and Stage

There's little to recommend at the shows this week. If you like zombies, a very funny double feature bill awaits you; another, I hope the, last, of those "everybody in" films can be seen in Two Girls and a Sailor; Noel Coward is alleged to surpass himself in This Happy Breed. I trust there is no significance in the advertisement for the Coward show which portrays a palatial three-storey-and-basement mansion set in apparently spacious grounds, with the caption: "Within this humble Englishman's home . . ."

* * Melodrama

For Whom the Bell Tolls has some good moments, but unfortunately the film is so ridiculously long that they are lost in a welter of phoney situations, cowboy-and-Indian chases, hammy acting, and alarming mis-statements of the issues of the Spanish Civil War. The film is tedious and not very interesting, and what ' could have been an outstanding document on the prelude to the present war has been castrated by political pressures and pandering to matinee audiences. The acting is uneven, with Gary Cooper expressing all emotion by a slight tensing of the muscles of the jaw; Ingrid Bergman acts very well, but the love affair of Roberto and Maria has had to be sO simplified that she doesn't really have much scope. The finest piece of acting is that of Katina Paxinou, as Pillar. This is quite magnificent. Insofar as they are given the chance, the rest of the cast, which appears to include every Russian in Hollywood, are very convincing, in the parts they are portraying. But it is the interpretation given to these parts and to the story which is most objectionable. The impression one gains is that the Loyalists were military incompetents, bearded and dirty, sadistic, given to shooting each other, frequently psychopathic, and resentful of foreigners who had come to win the war for them. The fascists, on the other hand, appeared to be a very well organised, well disciplined lot. From this, the great film of the great novel of the Spanish Civil War, one gets no idea of why the war was fought, and in fact at most times it is difficult to realise that the Civil War is being discussed. Best scene: the mountain top defiance of five Loyalists. Worst scene: General Gorz, commander of the Republican attack, stating into the telephone that it is a pity he has just received information that the attack should be called off, as the planes have just left. This reminded me of the English MFH apologising to the late-coming huntsman because the hounds have just left; the war, in fact, is treated as a game. You've probably not many better things to do than seeing this film.

* * * * Melodrama

King's Row is a fine film, though I think few people up here will agree with me. It tries to be intelligent and honest, and succeeds very well. The story is an involved affair about sordid doings in an American small town at the turn of the century, and by and large things are a trifle gloomy. Robert Cummings, a handsome young man studying to be a doctor, discovers love with the daughter of his tutor, who, knowing her to be going gradually insane like her mother, shoots her and himself. Ronald Reagan, the local rake, wealthy too, makes a play for the other doctor's daughter. Well, poor Mr. Reagan loses all his money, and is ordered out. He gets a job on the railroad, has an accident, and his ex-love's father quite unnecessarily cuts off both his legs—straight he does, the old hound. While you are recovering, in comes Ann Sheridan, the town's Rad Girl, and tends him, and love blooms. Mr. Cummings returns from Vienna where he has been studying the new psychiatry and discovers another girl, so one way and another the film has a moderately happy ending, but everybody goes through hell to get there.

Now, although this story might, seem quite incredible, you'll find the film has been directed and acted with such skill that you'll almost believe it. It retails, I suspect, In a slightly [unclear: exaggected] form, the brooding horrors that exist in small towns, and everyone makes a genuine attempt at a mature approach.

I'm keen about King's Row. It is daring enough not to follow the welltrod rond of meeting, quarrelling and making it up. The director and the cast have been sincere and frank about insanity, cruelty, and small town viciousness, and their attempt at honesty deserves much more consideration than the plain mis-statements of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

I found Robert Cummings a trifle too good to be true and Ronald Reagan definitely unconvincing. The "featured" players (as opposed to the "stars") are the makings of this film:—Maria Ouspenskaya. Claude Rains, Judith Anderson, and Charles Coburn could carry any film through, although in this case they are actually assisted to a considerable extent by the stars. There is also, in Kaaren Verne, about the most beautiful girl I have ever seen on the screen.

By the way, you needn't take any notice of the trailer or the advertising for King's Row. They mean even less than most advance publicity.

Coming Events

Friday, June 29—
  • 7 p.m.: Film, next in series "Why We Fight."
  • 8 p.m.: Debate, "That nationalisation of the coal mines would ensure sufficient supplies of coal."
Wednesday, July 11—
  • The Kirk Cup.