3rd July – KNOCK ON ANY DOOR
On the screen – for seven days – KNOCK ON ANY DOOR – a 1949 American courtroom trial film noir directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart. The picture gave actor John Derek a break in developing his film career and was based on the 1947 novel of the same name by Willard Motley. Producer Mark Hellinger purchased the rights to Knock on Any Door (a novel by the African American novelist Willard Motley) and Humphrey Bogart and Marlon Brando were to star in the production. However, after Hellinger died in late 1947, Robert Lord and Bogart formed a corporation to produce the film: Santana Productions, named after Bogart’s private yacht and released the film through Columbia Pictures. Jack L. Warner was reportedly furious at this, fearing that other stars would do the same and major studios would lose their power. The often-repeated credo spoken by the character Nick Romano–“Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse”– would become the “clarion call for a generation of disenfranchised youth.”
The supporting feature was MANHATTAN ANGEL, a 1949 American musical film starring Gloria Jean. Gloria Cole and Eddie Swenson are working to keep an old house, now being used as a youth centre, from being razed to make room for a new skyscraper in Manhattan. Gloria enters a friend in a beauty contest with a $25,000 first prize and, after some iffy-manoeuvring, her friend wins the contest and the money goes to preserving the youth centre.
10th July – WHISKY GALORE!
On the screen – for seven days – WHISKY GALORE! – a 1949 British comedy film produced by Ealing Studios and released through Rank’s GFD Distributors. It starred Basil Radford, Bruce Seton, Joan Greenwood and Gordon Jackson. It was the directorial debut of Alexander Mackendrick; the screenplay was by Compton MacKenzie, based on his 1947 novel Whisky Galore. The story – based on a true event – concerns a shipwreck off a fictional Scottish island, the inhabitants of which have run out of whisky; the islanders find out the ship is carrying 50,000 cases of whisky, which they salvage, against the opposition of the local Customs and Excise men. Like others of the Ealing comedies, Whisky Galore! explores the actions of a small insular group facing and overcoming a more powerful opponent. It was filmed on the island of Barra; the weather was so poor that the production over-ran its 10-week schedule by five weeks, and the film went £20,000 over budget. The initial cut of the film was considered poor by Michael Balcon, the head of the studio, so one of Ealing’s directors, Charles Crichton, added additional footage and re-edited the film prior to its release.
Whisky Galore! was well-received on its release. It came out in the same year as Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets, leading to 1949 being remembered as one of the peak years of the Ealing comedies. In the US, where Whisky Galore! was renamed Tight Little Island, the film became the first from Ealing Studios to achieve box office success. It was followed by a sequel, Rockets Galore!.
Support was MY DOG SHEP a 1946 American drama film directed by Ford Beebe. It was made by Golden Gate Productions and released through Rank’s GFD. Flame, the dog who starred in the film, went on to star in Out of the Blue, the Rusty series of movies (starting with For the Love of Rusty), and the My Pal series of shorts. He was also in the sequel, Shep Comes Home (1948).
There was also an edition of THIS MODERN AGE to complete the programme.
17th July – A BOY, A GIRL AND A BIKE
On the screen – for seven days – A BOY, A GIRL AND A BIKE – is about a local cycle club, who invite a couple of new members to join them, little do the club realise, that they will soon be involved in a couple of illegal bookmakers putting the squeeze on the son of one of the Members, a stolen bike, a deserting soldier on the run from the police, and a love triangle, that’s bound to lead to trouble. The film was released Rank’s GFD and starred John Mccallum, Honor Blackman, Diana Dors, John Blythe, Thora Hird and Anthony Newley. Throughout the late 40’s and the early 50’s, there seem to be hundreds of these clubs. This film shows a fascinating look at a North Country mill town, with a refreshing absence of traffic jams, yellow lines, traffic wardens, and other things we have become accustomed to seeing on our roads today.
Monday evening at 8.30 two of the stars Diana Dors and John Blythe made a visit to the theatre and appeared on the stage ahead of the evening’s screening of A Boy, A Girl And A Bike.
You can see the film in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRt1gZqg5ag
The supporting programme consisted of a 1946 reissue of THE YEARS BETWEEN, a British film directed by Compton Bennett and starring Michael Redgrave, Valerie Hobson and Flora Robson in an adaptation of the novel by Daphne du Maurier.
24th July – A LETTER TO THREE WIVES
On the screen – for seven days – A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, a 1949 American romantic drama film which tells the story of a woman who mails a letter to three women, telling them she has left town with the husband of one of them. It stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Paul Douglas in his film debut, Kirk Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, and Thelma Ritter. An uncredited Celeste Holm provides the voice of Addie Ross, the unseen woman who wrote the titular letter. The film was adapted by Vera Caspary and Joseph L. Mankiewicz from A Letter to Five Wives, a 1945 novel by John Klempner, which had appeared in Cosmopolitan. It was directed by Mankiewicz, who directed All About Eve the following year. It was released by 20th Century Fox and went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.
The supporting feature was JUNGLE PATROL a 1948 American drama film directed by Joseph M. Newman and written by Francis Swann and Robertson White. The film stars Kristine Miller, Arthur Franz, Ross Ford, Tommy Noonan, Gene Reynolds and Richard Jaeckel. Jungle Patrol was set in World War II and was based on William Bowers’ play West of Tomorrow.
31st July – HUGGETS ABROAD
On the screen – for seven days – THE HUGGETTS ABROAD – a 1949 British film starring Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Petula Clark and Susan Shaw. It was the final film of The Huggetts. After Joe Huggett loses his job, the family decide to emigrate to South Africa, travelling via a land route that takes them across Africa. On their journey they become entangled with a diamond smuggler. Directed by Ken Annakin and produced by Betty Box the Gainsborough Picture was released by Rank’s GFD. The film was less commercially successful than its predecessors. A sequel, Christmas with the Huggetts, was planned but never made.
The programme was completed with ILLEGAL ENTRY a 1949 American film noir crime film from Universal and directed by Frederick De Cordova, starring Howard Duff, Märta Torén and George Brent. The film and its treatment of illegal entry and unlawful residence in the United States is introduced by Watson B. Miller, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service under President Harry S. Truman.
7th August – GOOD SAM
On the screen – for seven days – GOOD SAM – is a 1948 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Gary Cooper as a Good Samaritan, Sam Clayton who has a good heart and likes to help out people in need. In fact, he likes to help them out so much that he often finds himself broke and unable to help his own family buy the things they need–like a house. The RKO Radio Picture was directed by Leo McCarey and produced by McCarey’s production company, Rainbow Productions.
See the picture in its entirety – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkr7_YVN1Ds
Completing the programme was STRANGE BARGAIN, a 1949 American crime film noir from RKO and directed by Will Price and starring Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn and Harry Morgan. It is the story of a bookkeeper in need of money who agrees against his own better judgement to help a wealthy man carry out an elaborate suicide plan.
14th August – MANHANDLED
On the screen – for seven days – MANHANDLED – is a 1949 American film noir crime film directed by Lewis R. Foster and starring Dorothy Lamour, Sterling Hayden and Dan Duryea. It is based on the 1945 novel The Man Who Stole a Dream by L. S. Goldsmith. Audiences and critics found the plot too confusing, and the film was not popular on its release. The film was described by the producer as “somewhat troublesome” at the box office – certainly, this was true at the Empire.
The supporting programme consisted of TWO BLONDES AND A RED HEAD a 1947 American musical film directed by Arthur Dreifuss and starring Jean Porter from Columbia Pictures and a Gaumont British short cartoon YORKSHIRE DITTY.
21st August – CHAMPION
On the screen – for seven days – CHAMPION – a 1949 United Artists American film noir drama sport film based on a short story by Ring Lardner. It recounts the struggles of boxer “Midge” Kelly fighting his own demons while working to achieve success in the boxing ring. The drama was directed by Mark Robson, with cinematography by Franz Planer. The drama features Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Maxwell, and Arthur Kennedy. The film won an Academy Award for Best Film Editing and gained five other nominations as well, including a Best Actor for Douglas.
Second feature was FABULOUS JOE, a 1947 American comedy film directed by Harve Foster and written by Arnold Belgard and Jack Jevne. The film stars Walter Abel, Margot Grahame, Marie Wilson, Donald Meek, Sheldon Leonard and Howard Petrie and was a United Artists release.
28th August – KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
On the screen – for seven days – KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS – is a 1949 British black comedy film, distributed by Rank’s GFD arm. It features Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson and Alec Guinness; Guinness plays nine characters. The plot is loosely based on the novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (1907) by Roy Horniman. It concerns Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini, the son of a woman disowned by her aristocratic family for marrying out of her social class. After her death, Louis decides to take revenge on the family, and to take the dukedom by murdering the eight people ahead of him in succession to the title.
Michael Balcon, the head of Ealing Studios and the producer of Kind Hearts and Coronets, appointed Robert Hamer as director. Hamer was interested in the film, and thought it an interesting project with possibilities of using the English language in a unique way in the film. Filming took place from September 1948 at Leeds Castle and other locations in Kent, and at Ealing Studios. The themes of class and sexual repression run through the film, particularly love between classes.
Kind Hearts and Coronets opened at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and was well received by the critics. It has continued to receive favourable reviews over the years, and in 1999 it was number six in the British Film Institute’s rating of the Top 100 British films. In 2005 it was included in Time’s list of the top 100 films since 1923.
In support there was a revival of FIDDLERS THREE, a 1944 British black-and-white comedy with music. The film was produced by Michael Balcon and directed by Harry Watt. The cast included Tommy Trinder, Sonnie Hale, Frances Day, Francis L. Sullivan, Diana Decker and Elisabeth Welch. Making their film debuts were James Robertson Justice and Kay Kendall near the bottom of the cast list, as the “Girl Who Asks About Her Future At Orgy”. The film follows the adventures of two sailors and a Wren who are struck by lightning and transported back to Ancient Rome, where they are accepted as seers.
4th September – THAT LADY IN ERMINE
On the screen – for seven days – That Lady In Ermine – is a 1948 20th Century Fox American Technicolor musical film directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson is based on the operetta Die Frau im Hermelin by Rudolph Schanzer and Ernst Welisch. The film was Lubitsch’s first musical project since directing The Merry Widow for MGM in 1934. It proved to be his last film. Eight days after principal photography began, he died of a heart attack, and Otto Preminger, who had completed A Royal Scandal when Lubitsch was forced to withdraw due to illness in 1944, took over the reins. He stipulated sole screen credit should go to Lubitsch “as a mark of respect and admiration for the departed master.”
Friedrich Hollaender and Leo Robin composed the five musical numbers performed in the film. The cast included Reginald Gardiner and Virginia Campbell, but an error on the promotional poster mistakenly credits “Virginia Gardiner.”
The supporting feature from 20th Century Fox was CHICKEN EVERY SUNDAY – a 1949 American comedy film directed by George Seaton. The screenplay by Seaton and Valentine Davies is based on the 1944 play of the same title by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein, which was based on the memoir by Rosemary Taylor. It starred Dan Dailey, Celeste Holme and a young Natalie Wood
11th September – DON’T EVER LEAVE ME
On the screen – for seven days – DON’T EVER LEAVE ME is a 1949 British comedy film from Gaumont, directed by Arthur Crabtree and starring Petula Clark, Jimmy Hanley, Hugh Sinclair, Edward Rigby, and Anthony Newley. Produced by Betty Box during her stint at Gainsborough Pictures, it was written by Robert Westerby. The plot, a variation on The Ransom of Red Chief, revolves around Sheila Farlaine, the teenaged daughter of Shakespearean tragedian Michael Farlaine, who is kidnapped by elderly crook Harry Denton when it’s suggested he no longer has what it takes to be a master criminal.
In support was the feature FAMILY HONEYMOON a 1949 domestic comedy film made by Universal International, directed by Claude Binyon, and written by Dane Lussier, based on novel by Homer Croy. It was shot in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. It starred Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray and tells the story of Katie Armstrong, a young widow and mother of three, who’s engaged to be married to botany professor Grant Jordan.
18th September – WE WERE STRANGERS
On the screen – for seven days – WE WERE STRANGERS – a 1949 American adventure-drama film from Columbia Pictures, directed by John Huston and starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. Set in 1933, the film concerns a group of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the Cuban government of Gerardo Machado. The story is based loosely on an episode in Robert Sylvester’s novel Rough Sketch and draws on historical events.
The supporting film was BIG DEAL, originally titled “Blondie’s Big Deal” a Columbia 1949 black and white comedy film and is the twenty-fifth of the 28 Blondie films in the series.
25th September – MR BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE
On the screen – for seven days – MR BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE, a 1949 American comedy film directed by Elliott Nugent. The screenplay written by Mary Loos, Mary C. McCall, Jr., and Richard Sale was based on characters created by Gwen Davenport. It follows on from Sitting Pretty (1948), and had a sequel, Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951). The film focuses on prickly genius Lynn Belvedere (Clifton Webb) who enrolls in a major university with the intention of obtaining a four-year degree in only one year.
In support was I CHEATED THE LAW a 1949 American crime film directed by Edward L. Cahn and written by Richard G. Hubler. The film stars Tom Conway, Steve Brodie, Robert Osterloh, Barbara Billingsley, Russell Hicks and James Seay. The film was released by 20th Century Fox.