7th July – A WINDOW IN LONDON
On the screen – for seven days – A WINDOW IN LONDON – is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Herbert Mason and starring Michael Redgrave as Peter, a crane operator, Patricia Roc as Pat, Sally Gray, Paul Lukas and Hartley Power. It is a remake of the French film Metropolitan (1939). The plot focuses on a crane operator who becomes drawn to the wife of a jealous magician – after spotting what seems to be a murder in their flat. The film is set in London, when Waterloo Bridge was still under construction. It was released in the US in 1942 under the title Lady in Distress. It was a Gaumont release through GFD.
Watch the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyeuHLrSscA
In support was A FORGOTTEN WOMAN a 1939 American drama film directed by Harold Young and written by Lionel Houser and Harold Buchman. The film stars Sigrid Gurie, William Lundigan, Eve Arden, Donald Briggs, Donnie Dunagan and Elisabeth Risdon. The film was released by Universal Pictures.
14th July – SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
On the screen – for seven days – SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – is a 1940 American film released by RKO Radio Pictures and directed by Edward Ludwig. Tim Holt was the first star signed, then Freddie Bartholomew and Terry Kilburn were borrowed from MGM. This was the first feature-length film with a performance by Orson Welles, who went uncredited as the story’s narrator. t is based on the 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and is the first feature-length film version of the story about a Swiss father, William Robinson, wishes to escape the influence of the superficial profligacy of London on his family in 1813. His eldest son, Fritz, is obsessed with Napoleon, whom he considers his hero. His middle son, Jack, is a foolish dandy who cares only about fashion and money. And his dreamy son Ernest is preoccupied with reading and writing to the exclusion of all else.
William Robinson sells his business and house, in order to move with his wife and four sons to Australia. They set out on a brig bound for the faraway country. Following a long voyage, the family is shipwrecked on a remote deserted island after the captain and crew are washed overboard during a storm. The family members collaborate to create a home for themselves in the alien jungle environment. They gradually learn to use the unfamiliar plants and animals to create what they need to live and thrive. They have many adventures and challenges and make many discoveries. The mother, however, misses her elegant home and community in England, and wishes to somehow be rescued and return. The father slowly convinces her that living in the natural environment is better for the family and that they are meant to be there.
Watch the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb9K6seBchU
Support was TWO THOROUGHBREDS a 1939 American drama film directed by Jack Hively, written by Joseph Fields and Jerome Cady, and starring Jimmy Lydon, Joan Leslie, Arthur Hohl, J.M. Kerrigan, Marjorie Main, Selmer Jackson and Spencer Charters.
21st July – TOP HAT
)n the screen – for seven days – TOP HAT – is a 1935 American screwball musical comedy film from RKO Pictures, in which Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) to win her affection. The film also features Eric Blore as Hardwick’s valet Bates, Erik Rhodes as Alberto Beddini, a fashion designer and rival for Dale’s affections, and Helen Broderick as Hardwick’s long-suffering wife Madge.
The film was written by Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor. It was directed by Mark Sandrich. The songs were written by Irving Berlin. “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Cheek to Cheek” have become American song classics.
Top Hat was the most successful picture of Astaire and Rogers’ partnership (and Astaire’s second most successful picture after Easter Parade), achieving second place in worldwide box-office receipts for 1935. While some dance critics maintain that Swing Time contained a finer set of dances, Top Hat remains, to this day, the partnership’s best-known work. Top Hat was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in its second year, 1990, as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
In support was MARRIED AND IN LOVE – The film was based on a play Distant Fields which had been presented in London in 1937. RKO bought the film rights in October 1937 intending to make it a vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck.However plans to make the film were thrown into disarray when Stanwyck refused to make the movie and was placed on suspension.
28th July – VIGIL IN THE NIGHT
On the screen – for seven days – VIGIL IN THE NIGHT is a 1940 film (produced and distributed by RKO Pictures) based on the 1939 serialized novel Vigil in the Night, by A. J. Cronin. The film was produced and directed by George Stevens and stars Carole Lombard, Brian Aherne and Anne Shirley. In Great Britain, nurse Anne Lee (Carole Lombard) takes the blame for a fatal error made by her sister Lucy (Anne Shirley), also a nurse, and is forced to leave the hospital where they both work. She moves to a large city where she procures a job at another hospital and falls in love with Dr. Robert Prescott (Brian Aherne). Overcoming obstacles and personal tragedy along the way, Anne and Prescott work together to bring about better conditions for the care of the sick as well as fighting a smallpox epidemic which threatens to overwhelm all those around them.
In support was LAW AND DISORDER – a 1940 British comedy crime film directed by David MacDonald and starring Alastair Sim, Diana Churchill and Barry K. Barnes.The screenplay concerns a young solicitor who defends a number of petty criminals accused of sabotage.The film was made at Highbury Studios, with sets designed by art director James A. Carter. The film premiered at Gaumont Haymarket in London on 7 June 1940.
4th August – CHARLEY’S AUNT
On the screen – for seven days – CHARLEY’S AUNT – [known in the US as “Charley’s (Big-Hearted) Aunt“] is a 1940 British comedy film directed by Walter Forde starring Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch as Oxford ‘scholars’.
The film made by Gaumont at Gainsborough Studios and released through GFD is one of many to be made based on the Victorian farce Charley’s Aunt. Arthur Askey’s professional nickname was “Big-Hearted Arthur”, which was added to the title to distinguish it from Jack Benny’s version, for its (limited) American release. Aside from the Oxford setting and the premise of a male student impersonating his wealthy aunt, the film bears little resemblance to the original play. In one brief sequence, the play “Charley’s Aunt” is shown being performed by the Oxford students.
Watch the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etn1b9mGwD8
In support was ONE HOUR TO LIVE a 1939 American crime film directed by Harold D. Schuster and written by Roy Chanslor. The film stars Charles Bickford, Doris Nolan, John Litel, Samuel S. Hinds, Paul Guilfoyle and Robert Emmett Keane. The film was released by Universal Pictures.
11th August – CONVOY
On the screen – for seven days – CONVOY – is a 1940 British war film, produced by Ealing Studios for Associated British, directed by Pen Tennyson and starring Clive Brook, John Clements and Edward Chapman. Convoy was Tennyson’s last film before he was killed in an aircraft crash, while serving in the Royal Navy. It tells of A Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Apollo commanded by Lt. Tom Armitage (Clive Brook) returns to base to find all leave has been cancelled and they are to start out straight away for a special mission. Supplemented with a new first officer, Lieutenant Cranford (John Clements) who turns out to have caused the captain’s divorce a few years earlier, they are sent to meet a convoy in the North Sea and escort it safely into British coastal waters.
One stubborn freighter captain from the Seaflower, who has a cargo hold full of refugees, mainly Jews, refuses to join the convoy and is captured by a U-boat which sets a trap for the convoy escort. One of the passengers is Lucy Armitage (Judy Campbell), the former wife of the cruiser’s captain, as well as the former lover of the first officer. A reconnaissance aircraft sent from the British, finds the freighter and the German fleet, but the aircraft is shot down.
The Germans make use of this, sending urgent messages from the freighter, claiming it is sinking and naming her as one of the passengers. When the first officer takes the bait and tries to send a destroyer to the freighter’s rescue, the captain locks him up, as all ships must protect the convoy. Eventually, a North Sea patrol destroyer comes to the rescue instead, sinks the U-boat and takes the freighter in tow to the convoy, where the captain and his ex-wife meet and come to an understanding.
However, the German pocket battleship Deutschland soon appears. Although his cruiser is hopelessly outgunned, the captain decides to attack in order to keep the battleship away from the convoy until British battleships arrive. During the battle, the captain and his wife’s former lover reconcile before the latter dies trying to save the ship. The British battleships arrive at the last minute.
The support was WOLF OF NEW YORK, a 1940 American crime film from Republic, directed by William C. McGann and written by Gordon Kahn and Lionel Houser. The film stars Edmund Lowe, Rose Hobart, James Stephenson, Jerome Cowan, William Demarest and Maurice Murphy.
18th August – BILL OF DIVORCEMENT
On the screen – for seven days – A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT – a 1940 film from RKO, by John Farrow. It was also known as Never to Love and was based on a play that was filmed in 1932 with John Barrymore and Katharine Hepburn. Hilary Fairchild (Adolphe Menjou) returns home after a long spell in a lunatic asylum. He has regained his sanity, but finds that his strong-willed daughter Sydney (Maureen O’Hara ) has grown up and is planning to marry and his wife (Fay Bainter) has divorced him.
The supporting feature was THE MARINES FLY HIGH, an RKO 1940 action film, starring Richard Dix, Chester Morris and Lucille Ball and directed by George Nicholls, Jr. and Benjamin Stoloff from a story by A.C. Edington
25th August – SWANEE RIVER
On the screen – for seven days – SWANEE RIVER – is a 1939 American film from 20th Century Fox, directed by Sidney Lanfield and starring Don Ameche, Andrea Leeds, Al Jolson, and Felix Bressart. It is a biopic about Stephen Foster, a songwriter from Pittsburgh who falls in love with the South, marries a Southern girl, then is accused of sympathising when the Civil War breaks out. Typical of 20th Century Fox biographical films of the time, the film was more fictional than it was factual.
According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, David O. Selznick was interested in working on this film. Material contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library adds that Richard Sherman worked on a treatment, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. In story conferences, Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Nancy Kelly for the role of Jane and Al Shean for Kleber. Twentieth Century-Fox publicity materials at the AMPAS Library note that some sequences were shot along the Sacramento River. Studio publicity also adds that Don Ameche learned to dance the soft shoe and play the violin for his role in this film. A news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that Andrea Leeds was borrowed from Samuel Goldwyn to make this picture.
There was an earlier screen biography of Foster only four years before this one. In 1935, Mascot Pictures produced a film on Foster’s life entitled Harmony Lane, which was directed by Joseph Santley and starred Douglass Montgomery. Still another fictionalised biopic of Foster would be made in 1952. A B-picture entitled I Dream of Jeannie, it was released by Republic Pictures and starred Bill Shirley (Jeremy Brett’s singing voice in My Fair Lady) as Foster.
In the film, Stephen Foster marries a girl from the South, but in real life, his wife was from Pittsburgh, as Foster was. Additionally, Foster was not known as a Confederate sympathiser nor was he or his songs criticised for this aspect during his actual life, unlike the film. The film’s final scene is wholly inaccurate; there was no performance by E.P. Christy on the day Foster died. In reality, Christy died nearly two years before Foster; he committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window at his home in New York City, in May 1862. Foster himself died in January 1864.
View the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG1eTYeaEvU
The support was CITY OF CHANCE a 1940 American drama film directed by Ricardo Cortez and written by John Larkin and Barry Trivers. The film stars Lynn Bari, C. Aubrey Smith, Donald Woods, Amanda Duff, June Gale and Richard Lane. The film was released by 20th Century Fox.
1st September – PINOCCHIO
On the screen – for seven days – PINOCCHIO – is a 1940 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions, distributed by RKO Radio Pictures and based on the 1883 Italian children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. It was the second animated feature film produced by Disney, made after the first animated success Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
The plot involves an old wood-carver named Geppetto who carves a wooden puppet named Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by a blue fairy, who informs him that he can become a real boy if he proves himself to be “brave, truthful, and unselfish”. Pinocchio’s efforts to become a real boy involve encounters with a host of unsavory characters. The key character of Jiminy Cricket does not appear in the original book, though a 100 year “wise, old” cricket does. The cricket warns Pinnochio of his impudence when they meet only to be killed in return shortly after. The film was adapted by Aurelius Battaglia, William Cottrell, Otto Englander, Erdman Penner, Joseph Sabo, Ted Sears, and Webb Smith from Collodi’s book. The production was supervised by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske, and the film’s sequences were directed by Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, and Bill Roberts. Pinocchio was a groundbreaking achievement in the area of effects animation, giving realistic movement to vehicles, machinery and natural elements such as rain, lightning, smoke, shadows and water.
Critical analysis of Pinocchio identifies it as a simple morality tale that teaches children of the benefits of hard work and conventional values. Although it became the first animated feature to win a competitive Academy Award – winning two for Best Music, Original Score and for Best Music, Original Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star” –, it was initially a box office bomb, mainly due to World War II cutting off the European and Asian markets overseas. It eventually made a profit in its 1945 reissue, and is considered one of the greatest animated films ever made, with a 100% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. The film and characters are still prevalent in popular culture, featuring at various Disney parks and in other forms of entertainment. In 1994, Pinocchio was added to the United States National Film Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
The supporting programme comprised a newsreel and cartoons.
8th September – MY FAVOURITE WIFE
On the screen – for seven days – MY FAVOURITE WIFE – EMPIRE –
My Favorite Wife (released in the U.K. as My Favourite Wife) is a 1940 screwball comedy produced and co-written by Leo McCarey and directed by Garson Kanin. The picture stars Irene Dunne as a woman who returns to her husband and children after being shipwrecked on a tropical island for several years, and Cary Grant as her husband. The story is an adaptation of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Enoch Arden”; in tribute, the main characters’ last name is Arden. The supporting cast features Gail Patrick as the woman Arden has just married when his first wife, now declared dead, returns, and Randolph Scott as the man with whom his wife had been marooned. My Favorite Wife was RKO’s second-biggest hit of 1940.
Bella and Sam Spewak and Leo McCarey were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story, Ray Webb for Best Score, and Van Nest Polglase and Mark-Lee Kirk for Best Art Direction.
In support was THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY 1939 American western film directed by David Howard from a screenplay by Jack Lait Jr.. Although no story credit was given, this film bears a striking similarity to the 1935 western, The Arizonian, whose screenplay and story were written by Academy Award winner Dudley Nichols, and some sources state that this film was a remake of the earlier picture. Both were produced and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, and The Marshal of Mesa City was released on November 3, 1939. The film stars George O’Brien and Virginia Vale.
Along with a documentary MEN OF THE LIGHTSHIP telling the story of the bombing and sinking of the East Dudgeon lightship on January 29th 1940, and the crew’s attempted escape.
15th September – PRIMROSE PATH
On the screen – for seven days – PRIMROSE PATH – is a 1940 Americanf ilm from RKO, about a young woman determined not to follow the profession of her mother and grandmother, prostitution. It stars Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea. The film was based on the play of the same name by Robert L. Buckner and Walter Hart and the novel February Hill by Victoria Lincoln (uncredited for legal reasons).
Marjorie Rambeau was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
The support feature was GLAMOUR BOY a 1941 American comedy film directed by Ralph Murphy and written by Val Burton, F. Hugh Herbert and Bradford Ropes. The film stars Jackie Cooper, Susanna Foster, Walter Abel, Darryl Hickman, Ann Gillis, William Demarest and Jackie Searl. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.
22nd September – LET GEORGE DO IT
On the screen – for seven days – LET GEORGE DO IT! – (US: To Hell With Hitler) is a 1940 British black-and-white comedy musical war film directed by Marcel Varnel and starring George Formby. It was produced by Michael Balcon for Associated Talking Pictures and its successor, Ealing Studios, and distributed in the UK by Associated Britsish Films. This was the first comedy from this studio to deal directly with the Second World War.
At the beginning of the Second World War, before Germany invaded Norway, a ukulele player in a British dance band playing at a Bergen hotel, is found shot dead during a radio broadcast of the band’s show. It turns out he was a British agent keeping an eye on the band leader, Mark Mendes (Garry Marsh), who is suspected of being a German agent passing on information about British shipping to German U-boats, using a code concealed in the radio broadcasts.
When Mendes calls a musician’s agent in London for a replacement, British Intelligence tries to send another agent in his place. However, through a series of mistakes in a blacked out Dover, ukulele player George Hepplewhite (George Formby), who is on his way to Blackpool, is put on the boat to Bergen instead of the new agent. When he arrives, the receptionist at the hotel, Mary Wilson (Phyllis Calvert), who is another British agent, makes contact but eventually realises the mistake. George, however, is totally unaware and starts working with the band, although Mendes is suspicious of him. Eventually Mary tells George what is going on, and together they manage to find what the code is and alert the Royal Navy.
When Mendes discovers that his code has been broken, he gives George a cup of coffee containing a truth serum, and George reveals that he and Mary are British spies. George, drugged, is left in his room, where he dreams of flying to Germany and giving Hitler a right hook. Eventually, he flees to join Mary on board a ship, but it has already left. So he hides in a motorboat which takes Mendes to a German U-boat, with the intent to torpedo British troop ships as well as the ship that Mary is on. George manages to get on board and alert Mary’s ship over the U-boat’s radio. After a series of chaotic incidents on board, where George accidentally launches the U-boat’s torpedoes and thus tells the British Navy where to find it, he hides in one of the empty torpedo tubes. So when Mendes tries to torpedo Mary’s ship, he shoots out George instead, who flies through the air and lands on the ship deck, thus reuniting with Mary.
The supporting feature was Fighting Mad a 1939 American adventure film directed by Sam Newfield and written by George Rosener and John Rathmell. It is based on the 1927 novel Renfrew Rides Again by Laurie York Erskine. The film stars James Newill, Sally Blane, Benny Rubin, Dave O’Brien, Milburn Stone and Walter Long.
29th September – IRENE
On the screen – for seven days – IRENE – is a 1940 American musical film produced and directed by British born Herbert Wilcox, from RKO Pictures. The screenplay by Alice Duer Miller is based on the libretto of the 1919 stage musical Irene by James Montgomery, who had adapted it from his play Irene O’Dare. The score features songs with music by Harry Tierney and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.
The story is about upholsterer’s assistant Irene O’Dare (Anna Neagle – who would become the wife of director Herbert Wilcox) who meets wealthy Don Marshall (Ray Milland) while she is measuring chairs for Mrs. Herman Vincent at her Long Island estate. Charmed by the young girl, Don anonymously purchases Madame Lucy’s, an exclusive Manhattan boutique, and instructs newly hired manager Mr. Smith to offer Irene a job as a model. She soon catches the eye of socialite Bob Vincent, whose mother is hosting a ball at the family mansion. In order to promote Madame Lucy’s dress line, Mr. Smith arranges for his models to be invited to the soiree.
Irene accidentally ruins the gown she was given to wear and substitutes a quaint blue dress belonging to her mother, and it creates a sensation. Irene is mistaken for the niece of Ireland’s Lady O’Dare and, in order to publicize his collection, Mr. Smith decides to exploit the error and moves Irene into a Park Avenue apartment. Dressed in furs and draped with diamonds while escorted around town by Bob, Irene’s appearance prompts gossip columnist Biffy Webster to suggest she is a kept woman. Outraged, Irene demands Madame Lucy protect her reputation by revealing the truth, only to discover Don is the owner of the shop.
Irene agrees to marry Bob, but on the night before the wedding, Bob confesses he still loves former sweetheart Eleanor Worth, and Irene realizes she loves Don. The couple decides to make things right by reuniting with their rightful partners.
The film was shot in black and white with the exception of the sequence set at Mrs. Vincent’s society ball, featuring the musical number “Alice Blue Gown,” which was filmed in Technicolor. It was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Score.
In support was Tilly Of Bloomsbury, a 1940 British comedy film directed by Leslie S. Hiscot and starring Sydney Howard, Jean Gillie, Kathleen Harrison and Henry Oscar. It was based on the play Tilly of Bloomsbury by Ian Hay. The screenplay concerns a young woman who falls in love with an aristocrat, and attempts to convince his family that she is of their social class.