THE W PLAN
Production companies: Burlington Films Ltd. / British International Pictures
Director: Victor Saville
Adaptation: Victor Saville
Based on the book by: Graham Seton
Additional Dialogue: Miles Malleson, Frank Launder
Photography: René Guissart, F.A. Young
Editor: P. Maclean Rogers
Art Director: Hugh Gee
Music Director: John Reynders
Sound Recordist: D.F. Scanlan
Recording system: RCA Sound System
Studio: British International Studios, Elstree
Shooting: March – April 1930
Running time: 104 minutes
BFI print: 101 minutes
Cast: Brian Aherne – Colonel Duncan Grant,Madeleine Carroll – Rosa Hartmann, Gordon Harker – Private Waller, Gibb McLaughlin – Private McTavish, Mary Jerrold – Frau Muller, C.M. Hallard commander in chief, Clifford Heatherley – cafe proprietor, Alfred Drayton – prosecuting counsel, George Merritt – Ulrich Muller, Frederick Lloyd – Colonel Jervois, Gregory – Flight Commander Mayne,Austin Trevor – captain of military police, Norah Howard – lady of the town, Cameron Carr – Otto Geddern, Milton Rosmer- president of the court martial, Charles Paton -defending counsel, Robert Harris – British subaltern
Film Weekly, 1 March 1930, John Quill, p. 4:
Every week the position of British talkies is strengthened by the discovery of another voice which successfully resists the distortion of the microphone; and when such a voice is allied to good lucks, brains, and acting experience, the gain is great indeed. The latest recruit to talking films to be passed “all present and correct” is Brian Aherne, whose brother Pat made his sound-debut in the rather feeble City of Play. Brother Brian is more fortunate in being selected by Victor Saville to play the young Scots colonel in The W Plan, an exciting war story of a soldier who lands behind the German lines and frustrates a deep-laid plot […] Rehearsals start immediately, so we do not have long to wait; and since his voice tests have been satisfied Victor Saville, I hardly think we need worry. Saville is fussy!
Brian Aherne, A Proper Job, 1969, pp.160-162:
[…] The wonderful thing we now discovered was that we, the actors, did the talking just as we had been trained in the theater; the director, the cameraman, and their technical retinues were all deprived of their megaphones and huddled into small glass-fronted, unventilated booths in which they crouched miserably with the cameras, able only to make signs to us, when we bothered to look at them. This was not often, as we were fascinated by the new breed of sound experts – studious, worried young men who crouched round the set, endlessly hanging, laying, and changing cables and listening through earphones. It seemed they had to change a cable several times before they could record a single line. […]
Until the advent of sound, the cameraman and his court had been the great temperamental wizards of the set […] but now the soundmen swept them aside and nobody allowed them time or paid them any attention. Suffocating in their booths, they made no demands for extra angles or additional takes; indeed, they set up three or four cameras on a scene and took several angles at the same time. They were forgotten and embittered men.
The sound experts conferred gravely in their control room, usually down a passage away from the set, struck tuning forks and listened, changed cables, tightened and loosened microphones, and impressed us all with the knowledge that they were expert participants in a great mystery. The head man had even been to Hollywood to confer with his fellow wizards there, and this gave him a special aura. His importance, at that time, seemed even greater than that of the director […]
The Times, 9 August 1930 p. 8:
The idea upon which M. Graham Seton based his war novel was an obvious temptation to the film producer. Yet, though Mr Seton had no scarcity of powder in his book, the discharge of the artillery in the film scarcely shocked us to the degree we expected. Was this because Mr George Merritt, the disguised German major, took his spying with too monocular an air, aware that an Englishman posing as a German officer must make good use of his eye-glass? Or was it that his dash by air into the very axis of danger was checked by the gaiety of German cafes and the charm of Miss Madeleine Carroll?
Whatever the cause, Mr Victor Saville, in making the film, appears to have had difficulty in sustaining the note of overwhelming danger at its proper pitch, for it must be borne in mind that the mission of this particular spy was to affect the whole course of the War, and merely to have breathed without precaution was to invite disaster. If Mr Merritt, the charmed avenger of the piece, inhales too easily this dangerous air, the film nevertheless contains a great deal that is entertaining, and in its description of an aspect of war little observed by the screen – Germany behind the lines – it has a value of its own.
Wisely, only a glimpse of the battlefield is shown, the most ambitious scenes being devoted to the mining operations which form the basis of the “W” Plan. This part of the film is handled with vigour and imagination, and is full of thrilling episodes. On the acting side, too, the film is conspicuously good, and excellent work is done by Miss Madeleine Carroll, M. Gordon Harker, Miss Mary Jerrold, Mr Gibb McLaughlin, and Mr C. M. Hallard. The W Plan is sure to entertain those who relish straightforward melodrama of a good swinging pattern, with suffficient originality of plot and characterization to redeem it from
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
WAS BLACKMAIL REALLY BRITAIN’S FIRST TALKIE?
Presentation by Geoff Brown
With extracts from:
WHITE CARGO, UK 1929, Neo-Art Productions / W. P. Film Company Ltd.
Directors/producers: J.B. Williams, Arthur Barnes; Screenplay: J.B. Williams, from the play by Leon Gordon
Photography: F. A. Young; Music: “Tondeleyo”, music by Noel Gay, words by Stanley Hill; Sound system: RCA Photophone. With Maurice Evans, Gyspy Rhouma, Leslie Faber.
MR SMITH WAKES UP!, UK 1929, British Sound Film Productions Ltd.
Director: Sinclair Hill. Supervisor: Henrik Galeen. Screenplay: the radio comedy sketch by Vivian Tidmarsh.
Photography: Arpad Viragh. Sound system: British Talking Pictures (De Forest Phonofilm patents). With Elsa Lanchester, Barbara Gott.
UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE, UK 1929, British International Pictures
Director: Harry Lachman. Screenplay: Monckton Hoffe, Frank Launder, Rex Taylor, Harry Lachman, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy. Photography: Claude Friese-Greene. Editor: Emile de Ruelle. Art director: Wilfred Arnold.
Music director: John Reynders. Sound recordist: Dallas Bower. Sound system: RCA Photophone. With Marguerite Allan [dubbed by Peggie Robb-Smith], John Batten.
TO WHAT RED HELL, UK 1929, Strand Film Company / Twickenham Film Studios
Director: Edwin Greenwood. Producer: Julius Hagen. Screenplay: Leslie S. Hiscott, from the play by Percy Robinson.
Photography: Basil Emmott. Music: John Greenwood. Sound system: RCA Photophone. With John Hamilton, Athole Stewart, Wyn Weaver, Jillian Sande.
1929: A DRAFT PRODUCTION TIMELINE
7 November 1928: Press reports announce the future production by Alfred Hitchcock and British International Pictures of Blackmail, based on Charles Bennett’s stage play.
15 December 1928: The Cinematograph Times reports that British Lion’s The Clue of the New Pin, “the first full-length British sound picture”, will start production next week at Beaconsfield. “Edgar Wallace has undertaken to write some special dialogue for the film although this does not mean that it will be a “talkie” throughout. The sound accompaniment which Phototone is fitting will mainly consist of effects and musical accompaniment.” The film is trade shown in March 1929, but seemingly without synchronised sound.
Mid-January 1929: British Sound Film Productions’ comedy short Mr Smith Wakes Up! begins production at the Wembley Park studios. Trade shown on 21 February, it will offer 25 minutes of continuous synchronised dialogue: at the time a British record.
Mid-February 1929: Blackmail begins shooting as a silent film at BIP’s Elstree studios.
13 March 1929: Press reports reveal BIP’s plans for talkie productions in its new sound studios, currently being erected. Titles mentioned include Juno and the Paycock, Under the Greenwood Tree, and Mumming Birds (never made). No mention of Blackmail. Gaumont-British also reveal plans for the futuristic drama High Treason, previously proposed in as a silent film; it will now also be made as a talkie – a change that necessitates recasting roles, delaying production. This is the day, too, when Victor Saville sails for New York City, where he will spend six days at the RKO Gramercy studios in New York City, directing talking sequences for the BIP/Burlington production Kitty, shot as a silent in 1928. When he returns to England, he tells film journalist Nerina Shute that the Americans he met can’t understand why Britain, with all the advantages of good voices, good actors and brilliant authors, are being so slow to make talkies.
27 March 1929: Denison Clift announces that will make Britain’s first full-length talkie at Gainsborough, subject and cast unspecified. This is wishful thinking.
11 April 1929: Kine Weekly reports that the talking sequences for Blackmail “are in being” in a temporary sound studio at BIP. At the same time building work continues on two permanent large-scale studio floors. The temporary studio is 40 ft by 70 ft in width, and 25ft high. To aid sound-proofing, heavy flannelette material is draped over its walls. BIP’s choice of sound system is RCA Photophone.
15 April 1929: At Gaumont’s Shepherd’s Bush studios, Maurice Elvey begins shooting scenes for the silent version of High Treason. The studio doesn’t yet have working sound facilities.
6 May 1929: Herbert Wilcox’s full-length talkie production Black Waters, made by his British and Dominions Company in Hollywood late in 1928, receives its London trade show and is well received. But the Board of Trade does not register it as a British film.
10 May 1929: Newspapers carry news of a production pact between British and Dominions and the Gramophone Company, owners of His Master’s Voice. HMV will supply sound expertise and recording artists for a programme of films to be made at B & D’s new studio now under construction at Elstree, to be equipped with Western Electric sound apparatus. An ambitious programme of a dozen features, and numerous short subjects, is eventually announced. But only four films are made, and HMV pulls out in January 1929, before most of the films have reached the public.
13 May 1929: Filming begins at Shepherd’s Bush on the talking sequences for High Treason. Since sound-proofed facilities are not fully completed, shooting takes place early in the mornings to minimise the risk of extraneous noise. On the same day, the Duke and Duchess of York visit BIP at Elstree. They inspect the sound facilities, watch rehearsals for a Blackmail scene, and see the company’s four final silent productions being shot.
22 May 1929: Exterior shooting launches work on BIP’s talkie Under the Greenwood, directed by Harry Lachman, first begun (and then aborted) as a silent production in 1928. Interior scenes will be shot in the studio space vacated by Blackmail, which enters the cutting room in early June. The last footage of Greenwood will be shot on 5 August.
20 May 1929: BIP begins a further talkie feature, The American Prisoner, using a second temporary sound studio recently created alongside the Blackmail space. Shooting continues until mid July. The director Thomas Bentley, described by the Kine Weekly in March as “an ardent believer in the future of the 100 per cent talkie”, has had previous sound experience directing Phonofilm shorts. Sequences for the talkie version of BIP’s The Informer, directed by Arthur Robison, are also shot in the studio, sometimes at night. Like Anny Ondra in Blackmail and Marguerite Allan in Greenwood Tree, Lya da Putti and Lars Hanson, its leading players, will have their foreign accents removed by dubbed English voices.
22 May 1929. Exterior shooting at Deal begins on BIP’s Lady from the Sea (working title, Goodwin Sands). It moves into the studio for talking scenes in July, by which time it is estimated that BIP has eight talking features in various stages of production.
3 June 1929: Location shooting of BIP’s Atlantic, the first British feature to be conceived from the start as a talkie, and the first talkie film worldwide to be made in two parallel language versions (English and German), begins at London Docks. Studio work at Elstree will eat up July, August, and half of September.
8 June 1929: The part-talking version of Kitty (BIP/Burlington) begins its premiere run in London. Reviewing it in the Daily Express, G. A. Atkinson dubs it the “first British sound and talk feature”.
22 June 1929: Blackmail, advertised as “the first full-length all talkie film made in Great Britain”, is successfully trade shown at midnight. During the day, at Twickenham studios, shooting begins on the talkie version of To What Red Hell – previously shot, cut and edited as a silent in the winter and spring, but held back from exhibition. Around this time, another film shot as a silent, the W. P. Company’s White Cargo, is also revamped as a talkie, using rented space at BIP.
27 June 1929: Denison Clift’s talkie subject pops up again in the trade press as the likely first beneficiary of the RCA sound equipment being installed at Gainsborough’s Islington studios. It doesn’t happen; instead, Gainsborough will concentrates on revitalizing its recently shot silent films.
23 July 1929: Gainsborough’s new sound facilities at Islington spring into action with Denison Clift adding talking sequences to City of Play, shot silent earlier in the year. By the end of September, Gainsborough will have given similar rejuvenating treatment to seven of its silent films.
2 August 1929: In association with Burlington Films and Tiffany-Stahl Productions, Gainsborough begins shooting its first talkie feature – but in Hollywood. It is Victor Saville’s talkie remake of the company’s early silent success, Woman to Woman.
8 August 1929: Gaumont’s High Treason, the talkie, is successfully trade shown.
12 August 1929: Herbert Wilcox’s production programme belatedly gets underway with the melodrama Wolves, shot at the Blattner studio at Elstree, as British and Dominion’s own studio isn’t yet operational. Later, in an interview, its American co-star Dorothy Gish will tell the world: “It’s one of those grimly serious things, and only manages to be screamingly funny. When I saw it, I laughed so hard they turned me out of the projection-room”. Wilcox will have much more success with the army revue film Splinters and the film of the stage farce Rookery Nook, both in production in September.
19 September 1929: Twickenham studios, now wired with RCA Photophone, houses a French production, Pathé Natan’s Les Trois Masques, shot in fifteen days, as French studios still lack sufficient sound facilities of their own. Another French production, La Route est belle, will move into BIP’s studios in October, when it is described in Kine Weekly as “the first 100 per cent French talkie”.
Mid October 1929: At Islington Gainsborough begins work on its first original sound feature, a musical revue on American lines, called The Gainsborough Picture Show. It is exhibited in February 1930, but only as a series of shorts.
30 December 1929: In his end-of-the-year report for the Daily Express, G. A. Atkinson waves the Union Jack and declares: “The best talkies of the year, considered in relation to the general advancement of talkie art, are the British films Atlantic, Splinters, and Blackmail. No American talkie showed anything like the adventurous spirit of these four British films.” The 1930 Kinematograph Year Book admits that some good things came from British studios in 1929, but the dominant tone of its industry analysis is captured in the wording of two paragraph headings: “Bad Direction” and “Not Good Enough Yet”.
© Geoff Brown, 2015
Dark Red Roses
Thursday 10 September
Director: Sinclair Hill
Scenario: Leslie H. Gordon, from a short story by Stacy Aumonier
Photography: Arpad Viragh
Art director: O. F. Werndorff
Editor: E. R. Richards
Music director: Philip Braham
Choreography: George Balanchine
Sound recordist: John Ree
Recording system: British Talking Pictures Phonofilm process
Studio: British Talking Pictures, Wembley
Trade show date: 16 October 1929
Running time: 67 minutes
BFI print: 48 minutes
Cast: Stewart Rome – David, Frances Doble – Laura, Hugh Eden [Hugh Morton] – Anton, Kate Cutler – Mother, Jack Clayton – Jack, Jill Clayton – Jill, Sidney Morgan – Tim, Una O’Connor – Mrs Weaks, George Balanchine, Anton Dolin, Lydia Lopokova – dancers
Nerina Shute, Film Weekly, 19 August 1929, p. 11:
There are ever so many interesting points about Dark Red Roses, a full-length talkie being made by Sinclair Hill for British Sound Film Productions. For the first time in history the Russian Ballet is introduced to the camera and microphone. Madame Lydia Lopokova, Anton Dolin and Georges Balanchine, the famous dancers, are engaged by this company. Added to which, it is the first talkie of Frances Doble, the stage actress whom William Gerhardie [the novelist] once told me was the most lovely woman in the world. (We had just dined).
Lastly, Dark Red Roses is an experiment in a new technique, come upon by accident. The story is a triangle, of course. It surrounds a sculptor (Stewart Rome), his wife, two children, some kittens, a guinea pig, and a French musician whose advances to the wife nearly (but not quite) prove the downfall of everyone – including the guinea pig. But listen! Instead of learning their lines, the entire cast is allowed to ‘gag.’ I think this has never been tried in a talking film, and it may, or may not, be successful. Sinclair Hill says that the idea came to him straight from Heaven. He heard the children, Jack and Jill Clayton, taking without given lines. They were so natural that he adopted a new technique. Everybody now is allowed to ‘gag’ provided they work up to a main cue.
- A. Atkinson, Daily Express, 17 October 1929, p 3:
Dark Red Roses, a new English all-talking film, the first to be recorded by a British-made system, scored an unmistakable triumph at a private view held In London. In general vocal and musical quality, and particularly in the effort to create a sound atmosphere, this British talkie marks a great advance on any foreign film. It is the first dialogue film yet shown that loses nothing of the old silent technique while exploring the possibilities of dialogue and sound. There is a large sense of movement in it, as well as space and depth, panorama and perspective […]
Frances Doble’s vibrant and emotional voice records magnificently. Scarcely inferior, if at all, are the voices of Stewart Rome, Hugh Eden, Kate Cutler, Una O’Connor, and Sidney Morgan, all stage players with the exception of Mr Rome, but the principal charm of the production, in this respect, is with the two youngsters, Jack and Jill Clayton, children of a London businessman, whose clear, natural, ringing voices carry irresistible appeal. It would be difficult to over praise Dark Red Roses, especially at this juncture. It is the first talkie that I have heard that really comes “across the footlights” in any considerable sense of the phrase.
Robert Herring, Close Up, June 1930, pp. 459-460:
I went to see Dark Red Roses after this [Herring had just watched the American film Dangerous Curves, with Clara Bow], to see Lopokova dance, and I found I was listening to a foreign language. Fresh from “bums” and “guys” and “that’s OK with me” and “it suits me,” I found all this stage English very unusual. They called each other “chaps” and said “it isn’t done” and they said “Splen-did” and “Goo’ night,” and each time you had to sit up, catch the word, translate it and say to yourself, “oh, yes, that means so and so, and should be said like this.” Lopokova danced. The camera took it. I can’t think why a dance wasn’t made out of it. Panning in order to follow isn’t putting dance on the screen. […] I can’t think why Lopokova didn’t insist on being given a screen equivalent, instead of a photographic reproduction. She is surely big enough. It needs an entirely new kind of choreography. Why didn’t she seize the chance?”
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
Thursday 10 September – 4pm
Director: Jack Raymond
Producer: Herbert Wilcox
Screenplay: W.P. Lipscomb
Photography: David Kesson
Music: played by Carroll Gibbons and His Master’s Voice Orchestra
Music director: Carroll Gibbons
Recording system: Western Electric, “The Voice of Action”
Studios: Blattner and British and Dominion studios, Elstree
Shooting: 31 August -– early October 1929
Trade show: 23 December, 1929
Running time: 86 minutes
Cast:Nelson Keys, Sydney Howard , George Baker , Lew Lake ,Walter Glynne, Wilfred Temple, Sidney Grantham, Reg. Stone, Hal Jones, Alex Scott-Gatty, Clifford Heatherley, Carroll Gibbons
Supported by a BEAUTY CHORUS OF FORTY (-and every one a Perfect Gentleman!)
‘Put Your Hands Out, Naughty Boy’;
‘I Know Where He Is’;
‘Pack All Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag’;
‘You’; ‘Mademoiselle from Armentiers’, ‘Old Folks at Home’,
‘A Lancashire Lassie is Stuck on Me’, ‘Are We Going to Marry’,
‘Come Close My Dear to Me’,
‘That’s What I’m Trying to Say’, etc.
Film Weekly, 23 Dec 1929, ‘Famous War Revue Becomes a Talkie’ p. 17:
For months we have been waiting to see and hear the first film made in the great new studios at Elstree. We have been told repeatedly that ‘His Master’s Voice’ (now working in conjunction with British and Dominions) will offer to the screen some of the finest music and finest artists in the world. There is every reason to suppose that Splinters, a talkie comedy commencing at the Capitol, London, on December 23rd, and starring Nelson Keys, will head a programme that is likely to “put the wind up” Hollywood.
The story of Splinters is true in every essential. It was in 1915 that General Sir Henry Horne organised an official concert party for the entertainment of the Tommies. The first show put on by ‘Splinters’ near the front line was such a success and did so much to improve the spirits of the troops that Sir Henry Horne caused a special theatre to be built. The concert party became an institution. Today, more than eleven years afterwards, the company with its principal comedians, Hal Jones and Reg Stone, is still a box-office attraction at London and provincial theatres…
The shooting of Splinters took five weeks in all. It was done at night, owing to the fact that the studio was occupied in the daytime by Albert de Courville and his Wolves. Jack Raymond, the director, is known for his productions Peep Behind the Scenes and Something Good. Splinters should increase his reputation… I am told by Herbert Wilcox, production director of British and Dominions, that Splinters has a beauty chorus forty strong. It is composed entirely of men. There is not a single woman in the cast. But it suffers nothing from want of beautiful legs and ‘sex appeal!’ Mr Wilcox assures me that England was raked for men with ‘curves.’
Reg Stone is, of course, the most amusing female impersonator in England. He took to it during the War, not so much from bent as from necessity. No women were available. And everyone felt that a revue without girls – more especially “over there” – was like an egg without salt. So the Front Line supplied the Tiller line. In the talkie version of Splinters they are reported to give the best performance of their lives.
Frat. Variety, 5 February 1930:
[…] Jones and Stone are the only two of the original troupe in the cast, but the film is stolen by Sydney Howard as a north country boob. He is well fed by Nelson Keys as his buddy, but Keys hardly gets a look in owing to Howard’s capacity for comedy. […]
First rate recording and photography, with a nice directional sense of comedy and contrast, but not much imagination. Good singing straight by Wilfred Temple and nice cockney soldier stage manager bit from Lew Lake. Film is hot for this market and will gross a bank roll. Doubtful for America, as the humor is distinctly British. […]
A. Atkinson, Daily Express, 4 September 1930, p. 4:
Splinters is notable for its shrewd and genial understanding of the mentality of ‘other ranks’ during the war, and in that respect has some right to be regarded as an authentic war document. It is the complete antidote to the nonsensical war-comedies that come from abroad. Every ex-soldier who sees it must subscribe to the accuracy of its observation and to the mellowness of the memories which it evokes. Reg. Stone, surely the best female impersonator that either stage or screen has ever known, heads an all-male beauty chorus which must be seen to be disbelieved. The best compliment that can be paid to Mr Stone is to say that from beginning to end he makes no error of taste, and how easy it would have been to do it!
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
Thursday 10 September – 6pm
Director: Maurice Elvey
Producer: L’Estrange Fawcett
Screenplay: L’Estrange Fawcett, from the play by Noel Pemberton-Billing
Photography: Percy Strong
Art Director: Andrew L. Mazzei
Theme Song: ‘March on to Peace’ by Walter Collins and Patrick K. Neale
Dance Number: ‘There’s Nothing New in Love’ by Louis Levy
Incidental Music: Louis Levy, Quentin MacLean
Sound recordist: Stan Jolly
Recording sysem: British Acoustic
Studio: Shepherd’s Bush Studios
Shooting: 15 April – late July 1929
Trade show: 8 August 1929
Running time: 95 minutes
American release print: 68 minutes
Cast: Jameson Thomas – Michael Deane , Benita Hume – Evelyn Seymour, Basil Gill – President Stephen Deane, Humberston Wright – Dr Seymour,Henry Vibart – Lord Sycamore, James Carew – Lord Rowleigh, Hayford Hobbs – Charles Falloway, Milton Rosmer – Ernest Stratton, Judd Green – James Groves, Alf Goddard – tele-radiographer, Irene Rooke – senator,Clifford Heatherley – delegate, Wally Patch – Peace League commissionaire, Kiyoshi Takase – arms manufacturers’ henchman, Raymond Massey – member of the Federated States council.
Quotations from the multi-page trade show advertisement in Kinematograph Weekly, 8 August 1929:
A sensation from start to finish. The world’s greatest talkie…an all-dialogue play of the future…Here is a 100% talkie which is not only different, but which has special interests for women-folk – a dramatic romance played against the background of the fashions ad fancies of 1940. Every woman will discuss the clothes Benita Hume and the ladies of 1940 wear in this picture….a masterpiece in sound & picture…She was a maid of Peace – he, a man of War. She loved him till the hint of war put them in opposite camps. Then the woman who had been so adorable became a mutinous virago.
SENSATIONAL ACTING in a soul-stirring picture of the woman of 1940…something entirely new in film entertainment.
The Observer, 11 August 1929, C. A. Lejeune, p. 11:
[…] Curiously enough, although High Treason is a full-length ‘talkie,’ and that still rarer thing, a full-length British ‘talkie,’ it is not as a talkie that you think about it. Only when the recording is bad, as it is at certain moments of close speech – is it a noticeable point that the traditional stage diction is the least sympathetic to reproduce – does the idea of the novelty of the medium become insistent. The rest of the time you take the voices and the hum of the machines and the music from a bare orchestra as a matter of course; they are part but not the end of the picture, not in themselves a challenge, only a means of making a challenge known. For the first time since sound in pictures became a commercial possibility, something big in ideas has come into the talkie field, and its effects are startling. Somebody had thought first, produced afterwards; chosen his sounds to fit his theme, instead of hanging a narrative around his sounds. For the first time, the thing behind the thing said has been the thing that matters; the thing actually said, and the way of saying it, have been regarded as little more than means to an end. […]
Scully, Variety, 2 October 1929, pp. 22, 31:
Gaumont tossed this one cold into Marble Arch and it’s proved a hot hit. American-made and plugged it would have been a sensation, and it will make a lot of money for Gaumont even with its dumb sense of showmanship.
High Treason deals with such boob-bumping scientific items as women’s fashions 10 years from now, television phone calls from your sweetie, roofs where helicoptered aeroplanes can land in London, electric newsboards for newspapers, women drafted for war service, English Channel train service by tunnel, and, in fact, everything yellow newspapers give the mob on Sundays.
What every British producer has done to date is to follow the American lead – years later. Not so, Maurice Elvey. When he saw the talker wave coming he stopped production for eight months and then with no sound studio and a lousy untried recording system, set out to make a glorious clean-up or a terrible flop. He let the other birds play ‘em close to the chest, but for himself he tossed out blue chips as if they were cigar bands.
He didn’t have a story, but he had a climax. This scene showed a man about to broadcast a declaration of war to the world and being shot down by a peace advocate who sent out a peace message instead. With that as his hop-off, Elvey zoomed into the unknown and landed with the best entertainment that has come out of Europe since Metropolis.
This, of course, is faint praise, but with some healthy editing, shearing the last half reel or more completely, High Treason can be made into acceptable entertainment for any house anywhere. They’ll like it or they’ll hate it, but they’ll go.
A pip of a cast, and Elvey’s old stage producing days show in the directing of this all-talker, all-screecher. Chief among the eye-fillers is Benita Hume, humdinger. She’s the first femme they’ve flashed on a British screen who didn’t look like a powdered frump. And to show her s.a. is not at all in her eyes, they have her do a strip act behind a frosted glass that’s more complete than an old Moulin Rouge number. She skips from her office to a dressing room next door, takes a shower and then nose-dives into what the young girl of 1940 will wear. For dinner dances their clothes don’t differ much from today except that instead of silk knickers that only show half the time, the girls wear silver panties that show plenty all the time.
But that’s not Elvey’s picture. That’s merely to get the mob by the door. His real idea is to show that 2,000,000 people can’t be wrong. A mob of that size against war could stop an international row whatever the provocation […] Before you could say Cecil B. DeMille, everybody is burning everybody else and the bombing squad is all set to make New York look like a dumping ground.
The love-interest is pumped up between Miss Hume, who is the daughter of the head of the peace league, and Jameson Thomas, head of the air force. They act well and are awful good to look at, so the fact that the love-interest is dragged in by the ears doesn’t matter. Humberston Wright, looking like a white-robed General Booth entering heaven, gives a swell performance as head of the peace league.
There are lots of ideas the coupon-clippers will think seditious in this picture, but what of it? […] It’s a rough diamond as productions go, but that’s better than a smooth performance about nothing at all. With anti-war feeling on a rising market, this one’s in the bag.
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
THE GUNS OF LOOS
Thursday 10th September – 8.30pm
Director: Sinclair Hill
Assistant producer: Harcourt Templeman
Scenario: Reginald Fogwell, Leslie H. Gordon
Photography: D. F. Cooper
Lighting: Desmond Dickinson, Sidney Eaton
Editor: H. Leslie Brittain
Art director: Walter Murton
Titles: Edward Strong
Electrical effects: Frank Hauser
Production manager: Oswald A. Mitchell
Studio: Cricklewood Studios,Shooting: July 1927,,Length: 8000 ft,BFI print: 7900 ft.
Cast:,Madeleine Carroll – Diana, Henry Victor – John Grimlaw, Bobby Howes – Danny, Donald McCardle – Clive, Hermione Baddeley – Mary, Adeline Hayden – Coffin Lady Cheswick, Tom Coventry – Bill, William Freshman – Officer of the battery,Wally Patch – Battery sergeant, Philip Hewland – Stevens, Jeanne le Vaye – Arlette, Frank Goldsmith – Colonel Jameson.
As part of the national commemorations to mark the centenary of the Battle of Loos (known as Dundee’s Flodden), this long forgotten feature was made in 1927, just twelve years after the terrible events it depicts. The Guns of Loos marked a bold new approach to depicting the war on screen. Previous British war film concentrated on highly detailed, documentary-style reconstructions of particular battles, with little attempt at drama or character. For this film, the striking recreations of the conflict at Loos provide the backdrop to an intense psychological drama about a factory owner, John Grimlaw (Henry Victor), whose dictatorial manner and apparent nerves of steel quickly unravel when faced with the horrors of war. Grimlaw’s subsequent mental breakdown threatens to lose him the love of Diana (the wonderful Madeleine Carroll in her film debut), while his absence leads to industrial unrest at the factory. Combining strong performances with outstanding cinematography, the film received rave reviews on its release in 1928, with many critics declaring it the best war film ever made. However, along with many other great films of its era, it was quickly forgotten during the talkie revolution which followed in 1929.
The Stage, 26 May 1927, p. 21:
[…] Some of the action will take place among the big iron foundries of the North – a capital chance for “telling the world” of our great industries on the lines so skilfully utilised in nine out of ten American features. Casting is now in progress. […]
The Times, 15 August 1928, p 10:
If Guns of Loos, the new British film which is being shown at the Marble Arch Pavilion this week, fails to achieve complete success, it is because insufficient use is made of a good underlying theme. One is shown, as the central figure, a stern ironmaster who feels that the way to run his business is to make his men fear him. Though his works are turned on to the manufacture of munitions, he himself goes to the front and his nerve gives way during the Battle of Loos. He retrieves himself in time to come out of the ordeal blinded, but with his reputation re-established.
During this early part of the film there are many references to the dearth of shells from which the Army was suffering, and one imagined that this would lead up to a stirring second half in which onlookers would be allowed to see something of the strenuous efforts that were made by those who remained at home to make good the deficiency. It began well with the return of the blind hero to his own works, where a strike is in progress, and his passionate appeal to the strikers to play the game by their colleagues in France. The appeal, of course, was successful, and work was soon in full swing.
One expected to see this side of the film developed further, and there might well have been a few scenes showing the feverish activity that prevailed throughout the country when the urgent need for an increased output of munitions was brought home to the workers. As it is, the film ends rather lamely with a love scene which provided the necessary sop to conventional sentiment.
Mr. Harry Victor, as the ironmaster, has his best film part since The Luck of the Navy, and Miss Madeleine Carroll, a newcomer to the screen, thoroughly justifies her selection as a heroine who has little more to do than look suitably impressed when rival suitors seek her hand. The one tragedy of the film is to see experienced comedians like Mr. Bobby Howes and Miss Hermione Baddeley utterly wasted in parts which might have been very effective if they had been allowed to elaborate them.
Sinclair Hill, ‘Thirty Years of Film Making’, Film Weekly, 8 April 1932, p. 9:
My wartime experiences were the original inspiration for Guns of Loos, perhaps my most successful film to date. In this picture Madeleine Carroll made her debut. No less a person than Mr Lloyd George expressed a desire to see this picture, so we took a copy down, and with the aid of a portable projection apparatus showed it in the statesman’s drawing room with the great man himself, his daughter Megan, Mrs Snowden, and the local doctor as audience. I remember with some pride the complimentary words he was generous enough to pass, saying, amongst other things, “If I had had this film in 1916 it would have been worth a division to me.”
Stephen Horne on playing to the Guns of Loos
This score was commissioned jointly by the Great War Dundee Project and Dundee Contemporary Arts. When developing it, I was mindful of the importance that the Battle of Loos has for the people of Scotland and in particular this city. While the fictional love story around which the film revolves seems to take place south of the border, I am hoping to maximise the Scottish element in the scene involving the battle itself. At one point the legendary bagpiper Daniel Laidlaw appears as himself, recreating his historic role. I have sourced a recording of Laidlaw playing the same tune which he used to pipe the soldiers into battle and I will incorporate this.
There will also be an element of the ‘cue sheet / medley’ score as well, partly influenced by the work I did for the Imperial War Museum on The Battle of the Somme / Ancre. I have chosen drums and trumpet because of their associations with military music, but I hope that the effect will be slightly abstracted and take on a commemorative tone. The two musicians joining me are ex-RAF trumpeter Geoffrey Lawrence and Nigel Shipway who, among many other credits, was solo featured percussionist for Carl Davis’ Napoleon score.
Reviews compiled by Geoff Brown
THE ROCKS OF VALPRE
Friday 11 September – 9am
Dir: Maurice Elvey
Running time: 80mins
Adapted from the novel by the extremely popular writer, Ethel M Dell, this is a romantic melodrama about a young woman, Christine, who falls in love with a glamorous French soldier. Bertrand is involved in secret work with the French army but when he gets falsely accused of stealing army plans, she marries the sensible, rich and older Trevor Mordaunt. Their marriage is strained when her feckless brothers hint that she has only married him for his money and they themselves keep pestering for handouts. Marital problems escalate and her fidelity questioned when Christine and Bertrand get cut off by the tide on the Rocks of Valpre and are forced to spend the night together. Elvey’s Torbay locations look absolutely sumptuous!
NOT FOR SALE
Friday 11 September 11.30am
Scenario: Lydia Hayward
Photography: Percy Strong
Art Dir: Walter Murton
Editor: Challis Sanderson
Dir: Will Kellino
Cast: Mary Odette, Ian Hunter, Gladys Hamer, Jack Trevor, Phyllis Lytton, Lionelle Howard, Mary Brough, Maud Gill, Edward O’Neill, Moore Marriott, Julie Keene, Mickey Brantford, George Bellamy, W.G. Saunders, Minna Leslie, Robert Vallis
The BSFF has been championing films scripted by Lydia Hayward in recent years – her work with Manning Haynes on their adaptations of W. W. Jacobs stories are a genuine rediscovery of the best of British silent cinema. This modest but well constructed tale of a young aristocrat reduced to living in a Bloomsbury boarding house. A strong ensemble cast is well directed by comedy king W P Kellino.
Not for Sale is the last of a trilogy of comedy films which Kellino made for Stoll in 1924, the other two being His Grace Gives Notice and The Mating of Marcus. Will Kellino (aka W. Gislingham) is best remembered for the comedies he made in the teens with Fred Evans better known to us as (‘Pimple’), Lupino Lane and Billy Merson. In Not For Sale he attempts to emulate the type of very British comedy drama George Pearson and Betty Balfour were making in the ‘Squibs’ series.
The story centres around a boarding house which is run by a young impoverished Mary Odette. Her lodgers are an assortment of some of the best character actors in British cinema at the time. Locations scenes take place at the British Empire Exhibition which opened in 1924 as well as the hop fields of Kent, a traditional destination for working class Londoners who would go for a working holiday at harvest time.
Particularly enjoyable are the performances of Gladys Hamer’s ‘slavey’, Mickey Brantford’s take on Lon Chaney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and Jack Trevor who plays a role different to his usual dour character.
Not for Sale was based on the novel of the same name by Monica Ewer, a forgotten woman writer and film and drama critic for the Daily Herald. She also wrote a novel, Insecurity which contains references to the film business.
Programme note information supplied by Tony Fletcher & Bryony Dixon
THE MAN FROM HOME
Friday 11 September – 1.30pm
Dir George Fitzmaurice
Cast: Anna Q Nilsson, Norman Kerry, James Kirkwood, Annette Benson, Jose Ruben
Like Three Live Ghosts, The Man from Home was adapted from an American property, the 1906 stage play by Booth Tarkington (best known for The Magnificent Ambersons) and Harry Leon Wilson (author of Ruggles of Red Gap). It’s a fairly conventional romance of an American heiress, loved by the boy back home, but bedazzled by a glamorous prince in beautiful Italian surroundings. The boy back home has rather unfortunately been appointed her guardian by her father and the romantic prince, of course, is not quite what he seems and is involved with a local fisherman’s wife which leads inevitably to tragedy.
In the print surviving at the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands the English titles designed by Hitchcock like those in Three Live Ghosts have been replaced, but Charles Barr and Alain Kerzoncuf do offer an argument that Hitchcock’s own hand is detectable in the film!
Charles Barr will reveal more in his introduction.
Programme note information by Bryony Dixon
DEN STARKASTE/ THE STRONGEST
FRIDAY 11 SEPTEMBER -3.30pm
D: Alf Sjöberg, Axel Lindblom;
SC, DP: Axel Lindblom
Cast: Bengt Djurberg -Gustaf, a sailor, Anders Henrikson – Ole, a hunter on the “Viking”, Gun Holmquist – Ingeborg Larsen, Hjalmar Peters – Larsen, Ingeborg’s father, skipper of the “Viking”, Gösta Gustafson – Jens, a hunter on the “Maud”, Civert Braekmo – Olsen, skipper of the “Maud”;
35 mm, 2541 m, 106′ (21 fps)
Print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm.
An itinerant sailor meets a beautiful girl on the road and takes a job with her father, the Skipper of an Arctic sealer. He must prove himself stronger than his rival among the glaciers and ice floes. One of the most striking films of the late Swedish silent cinema and among the greatest silents of all time. The cramped scenes on board the ship are beautifully contrasted with images of the men leaping from ice floe to ice floe in search of their quarry. One suspects that the filmmaking was as heroic as the story.
“In 1920 cinematographer Axel Lindblom (1891-1967) was assigned by AB Svensk Filmindustri to film a pictorial reportage in the Arctic Ocean with author Albert Viksten. Their journey took them from the Norwegian port of Tromsø across the Barents Sea to the Russian island of Novaya Zemlya, and resulted in several short non-fiction films, which were included in screening programmes in the early 1920s. More importantly, Lindblom’s experiences led him to write a script for a fiction film, Den starkaste (literally, “The Strongest”). Completed in 1923, the script lay dormant for some years until the studio decided to realize it in 1929. To co-direct the film, the studio engaged the young stage and film actor Alf Sjöberg. Location shooting started in late Spring in Tromsø, followed by five weeks on the Arctic Ocean off Spitsbergen.”
“The film opens with a sailor arriving in northern Norway, biding his time as a farm-hand while waiting for the next opportunity to board a ship bound for the Arctic Sea. The images of Tromsø and the surrounding areas on the mountainsides overlooking the fjord are picturesque, but the opening of the film is at best slow, if not uninteresting. But when two rival ships, the Maud and the Viking, set sail on a hunting expedition for seals and polar bears, the film is transformed. The confined spaces on board the ships are nicely used to advantage by alternating camera set-ups, and the long sequences of the men jumping from ice-floe to ice-floe, largely told without intertitles, are among the most striking images in all Swedish silent cinema.”
“At times the film contains visual references to sound, including having musical instruments and gramophone records in frame, an indication that the studio at one point was contemplating releasing the film with sound. However, no records exist to indicate that the film was ever released with synchronized sound played on from separate discs. Lindblom shot 17 feature films in the 1920s. Also being shown at this year’s Giornate are Polis Paulus’ Påskasmäll (The Smugglers, 1925, Gustaf Molander), and Fången n:r 53 (A Cottage on Dartmoor, 1929, Anthony Asquith), which was his last film as cinematographer. After this film, Lindblom left cinema altogether and settled down as a farmer. Alf Sjöberg (1903-1980), on the other hand, would become one of Sweden’s leading stage and screen directors. In the 1930s he focused on his first love, the theatre, before picking up his film career again in the 1940s, making films such as Iris och löjtnantshjärta (Iris and the Lieutenant, 1946), Karin Månsdotter (1954), and of course Fröken Julie (Miss Julie), for which he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1951. Hailed as the foremost theatre director of the 20th century in Sweden, Sjöberg had a tremendous influence on the young Ingmar Bergman, and in fact they collaborated on the film Hets (Frenzy, 1944), directed by Sjöberg from Bergman’s script.”
“The Print: A duplicate negative, downsized to Academy ratio, was made from a nitrate positive source in 1982, when viewing prints were also struck from the new negative. The inferior image quality in parts of one of the reels is due to the fact that the new negative was completed with images taken from another safety positive source existing at the time, with more generation loss from the original.”
Programme information from Jon Wengström
THREE LIVE GHOSTS
FRIDAY 11 SEPTEMBER– 6pm
Dir George Fitzmaurice
Cast: Anna Q Nilsson, Norman Kerry, Edmund Golding, Cyril Chadwick, John Miltern
Recently rediscovered at Gosfilmofond this comedy is one of the thought-to-be lost films on which the young Alfred Hitchcock worked during his tenure at the Famous Players Lasky’s London studio. Directed by George Fitzmaurice, this was adapted from a popular Broadway play by Frederic S. Isham and concerns three veterans (including one amnesiac) who return to London from the War only to discover that they have been officially listed as dead. The spent life insurance money means they have to stay dead for a while with the inevitable complicated consequences. There are some nice London locations, apparently this includes the East End which rarely appears in film of that era. Hitchcock aficionados will recognise cast members regular favourite and Leicestershire lass, Clare Greet (Lord Camber’s Ladies, Number Thirteen, The Ring, The Manxman, Murder!, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, Jamaica Inn) and Annette Benson (Downhill).
The scenario was written by Scottish screenwriter Margaret Turnbull and the glamorous Ouida Bergère who was married to director George Fitzmaurice and later paired up with Basil Rathbone. Fitzmaurice was a prolific Hollywood director of note and also made The Man from Home during his stay in Britain.
The print is incomplete and the original titles as designed by Alfred Hitchcock are replaced with Russian translations, but this is the first ever chance to see the film he was working on at that stage in his career.
Programme note by Bryony Dixon
Friday 11 September – 8.30pm
Dir.: Viacheslav Tourjansky;
sc.: Viacheslav Tourjansky, Ivan Mosjoukine, Boris de Fast,
From the novel by Jules Verne;
ph.: Léonce-Henri Burel, Nicolas Toporkoff, Fedote Bourgassoff;
Art dir.: Alexandre Lochakoff, Pierre Schildknecht, César Lacca, Wladimir Meinhgardt;
Cast: Ivan Mosjoukine, Nathalie Kovanko, Acho Chakatnouny, Debain,, Gabriel de Gravonne, Eugene Gaidaroff, Tina de Izarduy, Boris de Fast, Wladimir Kwanine;
35mm, 3845m., 169’ (20 fps),
Didascalie in francese / French intertitles.
As we celebrate the centenary of Technicolor this Pathecolor spectacle shows what glories could be achieved with the stencil process developed way back in the 1900s. An adaptation of Jules Verne’s epic scale Siberian adventure ‘Courier of the Czar’ is the perfect vehicle for mega star Ivan Mosjoukine. This huge production out-Hollywood’s Hollywood in offering fantastic locations, costumes, action and romance. The colour sequence in the Tartar camp is astonishing and unforgettable and brace yourself for a genuinely affecting torture scene.
Whatever reservations one might have about the film and its star’s contribution to it, Tourjansky’s film remains to date the best screen version of Jules Verne’s famous historical romance, bar none — I would even say it is one of the greatest film adaptations of a work of popular literature ever brought to the screen. There are several reasons for this: the first obviously being that the world of the novel – the Imperial Russia of Tsar Alexander II – was recreated by a group of émigré Russian filmmakers who for the first time had the golden opportunity to indulge all their nostalgia for their usurped homeland in a film (and it was a double nostalgia, since the story was set in their own historical past). Having just taken part in another kind of “exile” – from Montreuil to Billancourt, where producer Noë Bloch, having just split with Albatros co-founder Alexander Kamenka, created Ciné-France-Film, the French affiliate of the powerful new German-led Westi production consortium — these Russians suddenly found themselves with the financial and technical resources to evoke the splendors and vastness of Mother Russia — from the opulence of the imperial balls (shot at Billancourt) to the savage pomp of the rebel Tartar camp (shot on location in Latvia, with considerable logistical support from the local government and military).
But if this Strogoff works, most of the credit is due to writer-director Tourjansky (in what certainly remains his best work). The film has all the panache, epic sweep, and naïve charm of Verne’s novel — the battle scenes, with their pathetic detail, are especially evocative of Griffith’s Civil War scenes in The Birth of a Nation, and the opening ballroom scenes, with their rushing dancers intercut with shots of advancing Tartar hordes, bear the influence of Gance’s rapid cutting techniques — let’s not forget that Strogoff and Napoléon were shot virtually back-to-back at Billancourt studios in 1925! (It was only after completing Strogoff that Tourjansky would give Gance a helping hand directing Napoléon’s Toulon battle scenes in 1926.)
Most importantly, Tourjansky doesn’t betray Verne’s final coup de théâtre. If Strogoff doesn’t lose his eyesight to the executioner’s burning hot sword, it is indeed because he sheds tears for his poor mother and thus saves his vision — not because (as later film versions would have it) the executioner is bribed to fake the blinding! And Tourjansky’s fidelity to dramatizing this physiological miracle prepares us for one of the film’s great moments: the close-up of Mosjoukine’s slowly opening eyes as the villainous Ogareff lets out a terrified cry: “He can see! “This is great popular moviemaking.
And then there’s Mosjoukine. This may not be one of the summits of his acting career, but in this best of film versions of the book, he is the best of Strogoffs, cutting a splendidly romantic figure of the man of action, sacrifice and loyalty, despite some unfortunate moments of bathos and a interminable delirium sequence which seems like a parody of the dream scenes in Le Brasier ardent and is at odds with the tone of the film. In fact, these interpolations seem to have been Mosjoukine’s principal contribution to the screenplay (which Tourjansky claimed to have basically written alone), and they suggest the actor’s uneasiness about moving into large-scale spectaculars in which he might finally lose his artistic soul.—
Lenny Borger – Reprinted from the 22nd Pordenone Silent Film Festival 2003 catalogue
The British Silent Film Festival would like to thank the Cinémathèque française for the loan of this film.
Saturday 12 September – 9am
Production Company: British Instructional Films
Director: John Orton
From the book By Way of Cape Horn by: A.J. Villiers
Dialogue: A. P. Herbert
Photography: R. J. Walker, A. J. Villiers, Jack Parker
Editor: John Orton
Music: Hermann Löhr
Assistant directors: Arthur B. Woods, Edward Baird, Stuart Legg
Sound direction: Victor A. Peers
Sound recordist: A. F. Birch
Sound system: Klangfilm
Location shooting: at sea, April – September 1929
Studio: Welwyn Studios, June 1930
Trade show: 18 September, 1930
Running time: 68 minutes
Cast: Michael Hogan – Bert, Tony Bruce – Jack, Hal Gordon – Alf, Roy Travers – Old Ned, Gordon Craig – youth, A. Bake, Charles Levey , A. Cunningham, A. Russell, Hal Booth, A. Christie, G. Thomas
Adapted from the book By Way of Cape Horn by A.J Villiers,
Windjammer is a beautifully-filmed record of the last journey of the Grace Harwar, a full-rigged Windjammer sailing from Australia to England via Cape Horn. A hybrid of actuality and fiction, the real-life film of the journey was shot silent and later combined with dramatic ‘talkie’ sequences filmed in the UK. The journey was fraught with difficulty as the ship encountered storms, rough seas and becalming in the Doldrums. The crew ran out of food and water and tragically the cameraman, Gregory Walker, was killed on the journey with his burial-at-sea incorporated into the narrative. Windjammer is a unique portrait of the last of the great sailing ships and the men who served on the most demanding but stunning sea voyages.
Q. Bishop, The Observer, 9 November, 1930, p 13:
Behind The Windjammer, shown at the Regal last week, is one of the most exciting stories in the history of cinematography. As I sat in the theatre watching the panorama of life on a full-rigged sailing ship on the Cape Horn trade, a long struggle against the elements, I wondered how the scenes had been photographed. My friend even suggested that the film had been made by means of models, but all our theories were dispelled the same evening when Mr. A. P. Herbert, who wrote the dialogue for the slender thread of story that gives human interest to the picture, told me that the majority of the scenes were taken by two young Australian journalists who sailed before the mast on the long voyage from Australia to London.
The following day Mr. A. J. Villiers, who is now employed In the Australian Cable Service, gave me a graphic account of the whole undertaking.
‘The late Ronald Walker and I were young reporters on a newspaper in Hobart (The Mercury),’ he said. ‘He was keen on sailing, but had never been to sea, but I had served my apprenticeship before the mast and had sailed to London and back in the Herzogin Cecilio, one of the last of the four-masters. Both of us felt that, as they were disappearing, there should be a motion picture record of life on one of the old sailing ships before it was too late. Neither of us had any money, so we attempted to interest people in the idea. We wrote letters to many film companies without getting a single reply. Apparently they were satisfied with the sea pictures that already existed – mostly of ships in land-locked waters.
‘We had the popular notion of the expenses of making film pictures, and imagined that it would cost thousands of pounds for equipment alone. When we came to make inquiries we found that two suitable cameras and six thousand feet of film (all we could purchase in Australia) could be bought for £400. Walker sold his belongings, and I borrowed some money on an insurance policy, and the necessary sum was raised.’ ‘Had either of you any experience of cinematography?’ I asked. ‘None at all. But we had seen a number of films, and come to the conclusion that a novice ought to be able to make better pictures than those seen in the average movie show. To be frank, we did not expect that the results would be taken up by a film company but they might be a basis for lecturing. The next thing was to find a ship. I heard that the Grace Harwar, the last of the full-rigged vessels in the Cape Horn trade, now a Finnish boat and formerly the crack ship of the Montgomery firm, was at Wallaroo. We gave up our jobs and made our way to South Australia. As the captain was short of crew, he took us on at once, and we sailed on April 17 of last year. ‘We were afraid to talk about our film plans, as the owners might step in and make a charge for moving picture rights, so we arranged to smuggle our equipment on board at 7 o’clock on the night before we sailed. The captain was on shore and the crew was drunk so the ship was well out at sea before the cameras were seen. The ship was under-manned – there were only 13 hands before the mast and we had a particularly hard time owing to very bad weather. The 6000 miles to Cape Horn took two months instead of the usual four weeks, and when we were 31 days out Walker was killed in a storm. It was a ghastly tragedy, and some of the pictures shown in The Windjammer were of his funeral service when his body was committed to the sea. I had left all the technical details about exposure to him, and after his death I carried on entirely by guesswork. Some parts of the apparatus I could not use at all, for I did not understand what they meant, and most of the time I just chanced my arm. It is pure luck that the results were so good. ’Did you find the captain antagonistic when he discovered your purpose? ’On the contrary, he was very helpful, and did all he could to assist me after my friend’s death. In fact he became interested enough to improvise a rough dark room in his cabin, and portions of the film were developed before we reached the Channel.’ ‘How much of the film was finally used?’ I asked. ‘About three thousand feet and all the negatives are to be presented to the Sailing Ship section of the South Kensington Museum. I had great trouble in getting any film people to take up the pictures, but eventually the British Instructional Company interested itself in the matter and, luckily for me, Mr A. P. Herbert, whom curiously I had met in Australia, was commissioned to write the story, the scenes of which were taken near London.’
A.J. Villiers, By Way of Cape Horn, 1930:
We wanted to make a picture that would capture some of the stirring beauty of these ships…we wanted to make something real, no matter what imperfections it might have…We wanted to film the real life aboard the Cape Horn ship – a life that would stir people’s blood, and bring them from their seats in warm and comfortable cinema halls and compel in them some fear of the cold and heartlessness of the bitter sea, some admiration of the courageous spirits who set out in their old sailing ships and always fought it…
- J. Villiers, Preface to the 1939 cheap edition of By Way of Cape Horn, p.20:
It all developed perfectly, and I tried then to market it. I wandered a long time in Wardour Street and never grew to like it much. I saw all kinds of people in the film trade and never grew to like them much either. In the end, some of its scenes were used in a film called Windjammer. Much of this was made in a studio at Welwyn Garden City, and the film the public saw contained little that was real. Perhaps the reality of the brave ship herself and the cleanliness of the open sea too clearly showed the hollowness of the studio concoctions. I don’t know. I was allowed to have very little to do with it. This was show business, I was not concerned with that. I saw the film long afterwards at a West End cinema, crowding in at the end of a queue lined up to see another masterpiece; and I was glad that I had not the responsibility for what the screen showed. I went away and took the real film that had not been used, and looked at it myself. This was, I thought, one film the nabobs might have left alone. Yet I was surprised, too, that it had developed so well, and I was glad that at least something had been used and Ronald Walker had “not wholly died in vain”.
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
The World in 1915 – The Sinking of the Lusitania
2015 marks the centenary of the sinking of the great Cunard passenger liner RMS Lusitania by a German U-Boat in the waters off Southern Ireland resulted in the deaths of 1,198 people, 128 of which were American. This was the most notable of several unprovoked attacks on civilian shipping that marked the first tentative step toward the United States’ entry into the First World War on the side of the Allies. The event caused serious anti German riots in Liverpool – the Lucy’s home port, as well as in Manchester and London and even New Zealand. Still shrouded in controversy this event had a huge impact in which cinema, now a well-established news media, played its part.
The BFI’s curator of silent film, Bryony Dixon will show footage, including rarely seen early British animations, relating to the sinking of the Lusitania and discover some strange ways in which the beautiful ‘Lucy’ intersects with the world of silent film.
The American Liner “Lusitania” Entering New York Harbour (1911)
The Lucy in her heyday coming into New York aided by tugs.
The Sinking of the Lusitania (1915)
Gaumont Graphic coverage of relatives at the Cunard offices and survivors arriving back in London.
Funeral of the Lusitania Victims (1915)
Procession and funeral at Queenstown over mass graves.
Anti-German Riots in Liverpool following the Loss of ‘Lusitania (1915)
The Aftermath of anti-German riots in the Liverpool streets where many of the crew were from.
Remember the Lusitania (1915)
Gaumont Graphic item about an anti-German march in London featuring a large model of the Lusitania carried in procession.
John Bulls’ Animated Sketchbook no. 4 (1915) Sinking of the Lusitania
Short animation of sinking of the Lusitania by Dudley Buxton
Studdy’s War cartoons: Frightfulness v Fair Play + Sea of Crime (1915)
Propaganda showing attitudes to the sinking and to Germany
The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)
Winsor McKay’s extraordinary film of the event which took so long to draw that the war was over by the time it was released. A landmark in animation.
The World in 1915 – Death of a War Hero
Saturday 12 September – 11am
Presented by Dr Toby Haggith, Senior Curator, IWM.On 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire was sunk by a German mine off the coast of Mainland, Orkney. Among the 655 men killed was Lord Horatio Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, and a national hero. Kitchener had not only created the new volunteer Army, which first saw action at the Battle of the Somme, but was personally identified with the formation of this force, by his face appearing on recruiting posters. Mystery and speculation surrounded the sinking of the Hampshire and the death of Kitchener (as his body was never recovered), while the loss of the ship was greatly felt by Orcadians, as many had rushed to the cliffs overlooking the point at which the Hampshire had sunk to try to rescue survivors. Both aspects of this story – the mystery and the loss, are covered in two rarely seen films from the IWM collection, Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (1926) and ‘The Unveiling of the Kitchener Memorial, Orkney’ (1926). The second part of the programme will be a selection of animated films used for military training during the First World War.
IWM 213 With Lord Kitchener in France (1916), 10mins
NPU 12 Pathe Gazette: Section one (paper to paper), items 2 & 3, Kitchener Memorial Service and the burial of Lt. Col. Fitzgerald, 1916, 2.23mins
Section two (paper to paper) Lord Kitchener Dead a nation mourns; Kitchener views units of the New Army, 1916, 2.06mins
IWM 1126 Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (1926), 6mins
MGH 4618 Unveiling of the Kitchener Memorial (1926), 2mins
NPU 30 Pathe Gazette: Item 8 (paper to paper), 1916 ‘The Latest Topical Animated Cartoon’, 2mins
IWM 467 Vimy Ridge (1917), 16mins
IWM 275 Cooper’s Diagrams -Hounslow – ‘Lorry Driving’ (1917), 5mins
IWM 1103 ‘Gas Warfare’, Start to paper (ca.1918), 4mins
MTE 4052 Theory of Flight Without Tears, reel 1, 10.22min
IWM 583 Shipyard Activity, (1918), 4mins
THE GREAT GAME
Saturday 12 September – 4pm
Director: Jack Raymond
Scenario: W. P. Lipscomb
Story: W. P. Lipscomb, ]. G. Bettinson
Photography: Percy Strong
Cutting: G. E. Hardy
Art director: Andrew L. Mazzei
Sound recording: S. A. Jolley
Sound system: British Acoustic
Studio: Shepherd’s Bush Studios
Shooting: April 1930
Trade show: 27 August 1930
Running time: 79 minutes
Cast: Renée Clama – Peggy Jackson, John Batten – Dicky Brown, Randle Ayrton – Mr. Henderson, Jack Cock (Millward F. C.) – Jim Blake, Kenneth Kove – Mr Bultitude, Neil Kenyon – Mr Jackson, G. Poulton – Mr Franks, Billy Blyth (Birmingham F. C.) – Billy, Rex Harrison – George, Lew Lake – Tubby, Walter Patch – The Trainer
Team players from Arsenal, Birmingham, Chelsea, Fulham, Spurs, and West Ham Football Clubs
Set in Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge football ground and featuring appearances from many real-life players from the day, this is the first film to feature football as its central theme and is recognisably modern and authentic. It deals with the day to day dramas, conflicts and love interests of players and managers in the run-up to the Cup Final. The Club manager wants to introduce new, young players whilst the Chairman insists on signing older, mature players such as Jack Cock who played for Chelsea in real-life. There’s a romantic side story between the Manager’s daughter and aspiring young player who wants to break into the team and the film features the first appearance by Rex Harrison.
Manchester Guardian, 6 Sep 1930, p. 19:
Film producers in this country have been very slow to realise and to make use of the possibilities of sport in any of its forms as kinema material. Racing, of which there have been many films, is an exception. Sporting events form the main and usually the most interesting material of every news reel, but we have had to wait a long time for a full-length picture made in this country about our own games, with the sport itself as mainspring of the action. This tardiness is difficult to understand, for the camera can clearly make a great deal of football and cricket and running and the rest. There is speed and a fluidity of movement about the dash of a forward with the ball at his toes, and the race of a fast bowler to the wicket and the hard-fought rallies of the tennis court that are of the very stuff of kinema. The Americans, of course, woke up to this long before we did. We have suffered a long time from the inanities of Hollywood college stories; we have tried in vain to fathom the mysteries of American football; we have suffered a last and shameful ignominy in allowing the first picture with a cricket match in it to be made in California, with imported material and Ronald Colman wielding a bat as if it were a truncheon. Yes, The Great Game is long overdue. It is nonetheless welcome because it comes too late. Yesterday’s trade-show in Manchester revealed it as excellent entertainment of an unsophisticated kind. The story itself is puerile, the kind of thing messenger boys read inside lurid yellow covers in tiny print that ruins their eyes. But like those two-penny dreadfuls, it is exciting in a hearty, vivid way, and disarms criticism by its very ingenuousness.
It is concerned with the fortunes of a professional football team, their struggles to win the Cup, and their ultimate success despite misfortune of every kind, injuries to their players, and disaffection in the ranks, and directorial squabbles. The great dual is between the chairman of the board, a self-made man who believes he can drive players as he drove his workmen, and the kindly manager who refuses to believe that football is a business, despite huge transfer fees, gate-money, and dividends. Mixed up with this rivalry is another that of two players for the centre forward position, and a love story, in which the young, curly-headed hero, contrary to the traditions of yellow journalism, meets with no opposition at all. In the end the manager and the milk of human kindness triumph over Big Business, which as a moral is not true and not convincing. But that does not matter. What does matter is that this juvenile trash is transformed into something really worthwhile and worth watching by the brilliance of the acting and the amazing fidelity to detail in the life behind the scenes. Anyone who has played any sort of football will recognise the dressing-room and training scenes with delight. Nothing is forgotten; the cotton wool, the lemons, the skin pads, the liniment, the bucket and the sponge – all those little things help to make up an atmosphere that is unmistakably true to life. We are shown glimpses of streaming bodies under showers, injured men limping painfully to receive massage, the nervousness of the last moments before the game begins, the good-humoured raillery after the game, the mock ceremonial which greets the man who scored the winning goal, all the incidents which mean so much and are really part of the game, certainly part of the fun. And the sequences of the games themselves are well done. We know what is happening and follow the game up and down the field in an exciting way. Indeed the ‘cutting’ in this film is remarkably well done throughout. The acting is well studied and clear cut. Neil Kenyon makes a delightful figure of the manager, and Randle Ayrton as the bullying director reveals once again the finish of an artist which marks all his recent film work. There are several professional players in the cast, including Jack Cock, who is remarkably natural and unaffected. The gem of the whole piece, however, is Kenneth Kove as a lounge-lizard director. His high piping tones, his prim walk, his vacant and loving eye, these are irresistibly funny. Jack Raymond has made a film that will undoubtedly be the most popular ‘talkie’ yet.
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
THE COSMIC VOYAGE
Dir: Vasili Zhuravlov, 75mins U.
Cast: Sergei Komarov, Vasilii Kovrigin, Viktor Gaponenko, Nikolai Feoktistov
Vasili Zhuravlov’s film version of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s book about a boy’s involvement with the first Soviet moon shot (in 1946!) was intended to encourage a generation of cosmonauts, and with its breath taking model work, pacy action-adventure vibe, it certainly does that, or it would have done had it ever been released, The film was closely linked with the Soviet space race and its amazing futuristic architecture and technology is closely linked with the ideas of Soviet Constructivism. Its visionary achievement predicts real-life developments in space exploration with uncanny accuracy.
Neil Brand’s new electronic score channels Ron Goodwin and Hans Zimmer and premieres here at the British Silent Film Festival.
In February 1931, the film-producing factory of the state film trust Soyuzkino moved to new Moscow facilities. This move was part of the campaign to modernize the Soviet film industry, one of the goals of the first Five-Year Plan adopted with the aim of transforming the USSR into an industrial nation. Among those who got an opportunity to use the new facilities was film director Vasilii Zhuravliov, who started his career in cinema in 1924 with a screenplay in which he touched upon the theme of space travel and which inspired the satirical animated cartoon Interplanetary Revolution (Mezhplanetnaya Revoliutsiya). Zhuravliov is chiefly remembered as a founder and practitioner of Soviet cinema for children and adolescents, and as a second-tier filmmaker who preferred adventure plots and was able, in the best films, to overcome his own limitations with the assistance of closely interacting professionals.
At one point, Zhuravliov worked at the Soyuzkino factory under the artistic supervision of Sergei Eisenstein. According to Zhuravliov, Eisenstein commended his idea of a film for younger audiences about a flight to the Moon and initiated a screenplay contest. Zhuravliov’s ambitious project was started in 1933 and finished in 1935, after the reorganization of the film factory into the Mosfilm Studios. Cosmic Voyage premiered as a silent film with a synchronized score by Valentin Kruchinin in January 1936. The fact that 1935 was officially regarded in the USSR as the last year of silent cinema possibly explains why Cosmic Voyage has been traditionally put in the category of sound films.
In its title sequence, Cosmic Voyage was designated as a “fantastic novella”, but it was indelibly linked to Soviet rocket research. The year 1933 saw the establishment of the Research Institute of Jet Propulsion in Moscow and a number of Soviet missile tests. In 1934, Sergei Korolev, the future mastermind of the Soviet space program, published a key text entitled Rocket Flight in the Stratosphere (Raketnyi Polet v Stratosfere). And, most importantly, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857- 1935), a founding father of the theory of space flight, became Cosmic Voyage’s scientific consultant.
The action of Cosmic Voyage – involving the preparation and implementation of the first flight to the Moon – unfolds in the near Soviet future, namely in 1946. The film is full of futuristic technological and architectural details influenced by Soviet Constructivism, which at that time was being supplanted by a quasi-classicist style, represented in the film’s panoramas of the future Moscow by the most utopian 175 R & R of Stalinist architectural projects, the Palace of the Soviets, whose construction was terminated by World War II.
The film’s set designs were by Aleksei Utkin, a one-time associate of Evgenii Bauer and a respected expert in architectural styles; Yuri Shvets, a talented designer with valuable experience of working in the fantastic genre (he would return to designing science fiction films in the late 1950s); and newcomer Mikhail Tiunov. The sets and innovative special effects were implemented in close coordination with Tsiolkovsky and Aleksandr Galperin, a cameraman whose readiness for experiment, discriminating expressiveness, and ingenious use of lightning added monumental scale to the models and authenticity to the details of the interplanetary journey. A cinematic spectacle unique for its time as an attempt to present a scientifically precise picture of space flight, due to the efficiency of its special effects Cosmic Voyage is not only an enjoyable state-of-the-art production and its director’s most complex work, but a visionary achievement sometimes strikingly relevant to later real-life developments in space exploration.
In 1953 Cosmic Voyage was remade as a 30-minute animated cartoon, The Flight to the Moon (Polet na Lunu, directed by Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg). A mixture of children’s fantasy and popular science, Flight faithfully followed the structure of Zhuravliov’s feature film, but its romantic conviction in the power of science was substituted by a less-exciting didactic tone.
Sergei Kapterev – Reprinted from the 32nd Le Giornate Del cinema 2013 catalogue
Silent Film & Live Music
Dir. Bert Haldane, F. Martin Thornton, UK, 1915,
Scr. Rowland Talbot from play by W G Wills
Cast: Blanch Forysthe, Roy Travers, Rolf Leslie, Robert Purdie
An original Ealing Studios film
Running Time – 80 minutes
With a specially commissioned score by Laura Rossi and Performed live by Orchestra Celeste.
A cast of thousands is used to great effect by Will Barker (founder of the first film studio in Ealing) in his ambitious version of the much-told story of Jane Shore, a goldsmith’s wife who becomes mistress to Edward IV and then falls foul of the future Richard the Third, here portrayed in his Shakespearean villain mode. It was adapted from a popular stage version by W. G. Wills. With gorgeous location work at Chepstow Castle and the Devil’s Punchbowl in south west Surrey this early feature demonstrates a love for historical drama which shows no sign of abating in British film today.
A rare chance to see this early classic from the BFI National Archive on the big screen, the new transfer has been made, under the HLF Unlocking Film Heritage scheme, directly from the original tinted nitrate print. The new score by Laura Rossi (A Song for Marion, London To Brighton), was commissioned by the Classic Cinema Club Ealing.
- William, Matthew & Jane The Yorkists (led by King Edward of York) beat the Lancastrians. William Shore [Lancastrian] is prisoner & gets brother Matthew (Jane Shore’s fiancé) to rescue him.
- King Edward fancies Jane Shore. Margaret fancies Matthew! King Edward fancies Jane Shore. Margaret fancies Matthew, and is jealous of Jane. Edwards makes moves on Jane, Matthew witnesses this and quarrels with Jane and they decide to marry. Margaret, in revenge of their marriage, tells the king that Matthew is Lancastrian.
- Edward gets Jane. King Edward persuades Jane to be his mistress in return for her husband Matthew’s life. Margaret burns the letter Jane has written to her Matthew explaining. Margaret takes Matthew to spy on Jane & the King.
- Richard spies on Edward & Jane. Hastings fancies Jane. King leaves for battle. Richard III, Duke of Gloucester spies his brother King Edward and Jane in garden + shows the angry Queen. William Hastings [Edward’s friend] also fancies Jane King joins his army and leaves Jane in the Palace.
- Edward and Hastings killed by Richard III. Jane tried for Witchcraft. Yorkists (King Edward) lose war; Matthew survives and escapes to Flanders. Jane (believing Matthew dead) accepts Edwards love. Richard poisons King Edward. Edward’s dying wish is for Jane and Hastings to marry. Matthew hears of Edward’s death & decides to return. Hastings is arrested at the altar (on Richard’s orders). Then executed. Richard tries Jane for witchcraft and is hounded through the streets. She collapses on the snow where she’s found by Matthew.
Laura Rossi: Composer, Piano & Electronics. Laura Rossi is an acclaimed film composer with extensive film and television credits including London to Brighton, The Cottage, Song for Marion, The Eichmann Show, and silent films including The Battle of the Somme (IWM) and Silent Shakespeare (BFI). Her music has been performed by The Philharmonia, The London Musici Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. www.laurarossi.com
Mike Outram: Electric & Acoustic Guitar, and Glockenspiel. Mike Outram is a guitarist and improviser. He has toured internationally with Herbie Mann, Carleen Anderson, Tim Garland and Theo Travis; recorded with Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp, and is Guitar Professor at Trinity College, The Royal Academy, and the Guildhall, London. http://www.mikeoutram.com
Charlotte Bonneton: Violin. Charlotte Bonneton studied at the Royal Academy of Music and obtained a Master of Arts diploma with Distinction. She is a member of the Castalian String Quartet and the London Contemporary Orchestra, and has performed as a soloist in venues including the Maison de Radio France, the Auditorium du Louvre, the Festival Radio-France and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Peter Gregson: Cello: Peter Gregson is a cellist and composer “working at the forefront of the new music scene” (The New Yorker). He has premiered works by composers including Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Gabriel Prokofiev, Tod Machover, Steve Reich, and regularly collaborates with many of the world’s leading technologists, including United Visual Artists, Microsoft Labs, and the Media Lab at MIT. www.petergregson.co.uk
For more details about the music and film go to: http://www.laurarossi.com/janeshore For more details about the film go to: http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b6ad7e27c We gratefully acknowledge financial support from PRS for Music Foundation’s Women Make Music Programme, and The Arts Council, England.
Thanks to the British Film Institute for the restoration + Classic Cinema Club Ealing for the commission.
The World in 1915 – Gallipoli
The centenary of Gallipoli has a special poignancy for Australia and New Zealand for whom it was a defining nation-building episode. It was no less traumatic for the Allied troops of Britain and France with their racially diverse regiments or indeed for the Turks who were defending their homeland at appalling cost. Arguably, more than any other campaign of the Great War, our collective memory of Gallipoli is defined by film. In this selection we look at the source footage that inspired later films such as Asquith’s Tell England and Peter Weir’s magnificent Gallipoli of 1981.
A by-word for failure of the Allied command during World War I, the Gallipoli Campaign was a complex operation in which concepts of imperialism and nationhood were tested. The experience of Allied troops, which contained large contingents of British and French colonial territories during the campaign varied, and no doubt the same was true of their opponents, the Turks and the Germans. These rare surviving films about the Gallipoli and Dardanelles actions reveal some of this complexity as Empires crumbled, or were severely shaken, and nations were born.
Introduced by Bryony Dixon – curator of silent film BFI National Archive
Dir. Peter Weir
Aussie mates enlist together and meet up on training manoeuvres in Egypt. The light hearted tone of this scene in which the pair play wounded in the mock battle with a cheery ‘we’re dead mate’ to the officer is in strikingly contrast to the later scenes in the hellish trenches of the Gallipoli peninsula.
TELL ENGLAND extract
Dir. Anthony Asquith
The Allied landing sequence was originally planned for a silent version of this Gallipoli story based on the famous novel by Ernest Raymond. The film was finally made as a sound film by Anthony Asquith whose elder half-brother was there, travelling out with his friend the poet Rupert Brooke who died on route and was buried at Skyros not far from the peninsula. The long sequence as the Allies try to land on the beaches, under heavy fire from the Turks is an incredible piece of filmmaking almost unprecedented in British film up to that time.
FIGHT FOR THE DARDANNELLES
Dir. F. Percy Smith
Animated cartoon which shows by maps the preparations and operations involved in the Dardanelles campaign March-April 1915, showing progress from commencement of the naval action to the landing of Sir Ian Hamilton’s army.
With the ALLIED FLEETS IN THE DARDANELLES
Newsreel showing positions on Helles held by the French, with shots of the British battleship HMS Goliath (sunk by Turkish torpedo boat).
ALLIES IN THE EAST
Gaumont Film Company
Actuality footage from Gallipoli during the 1915 campaign including scenes in camp, with British, Indian and Australian troops, a panorama taken from the deck of the River Clyde, men playing a rough and ready football match, a French field, kitchen, carrying the wounded to the ‘English Hospital’, wounded officers, Turkish prisoners and warships moored in Gallipoli Bay.
PATROL IN THE DESERT
Scenes of the Australian army training in the desert in Egypt.
HEROES OF GALLIPOLI
Australian War memorial 1920 IWM
British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was originally sent to Gallipoli by the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association. At the behest of Sir Alfred Butt, the theatrical entrepreneur, he took a film camera on his return to Gallipoli in July 1915. At Gallipoli Ashmead-Bartlett met Ernest Brooks, the official Royal Navy still photographer, who helped him take his film – notably the scene in which Ashmead-Bartlett appears. The film was subsequently given to Butt, who showed it in London. In 1919 Butt was approached by the Australian War Records Section, who obtained a copy of the print for the planned Australian War Memorial; this was edited by Dr C E W Bean, the Australian Official Historian, into its present form.
Sunday 13 September – 11.30am
Directors: Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas
Producer: H. Bruce Woolfe
Screenplay: Anthony Asquith, A. P. Herbert, from the novel by Ernest Raymond
Photography: Jack Parker, Stanley Rodwell, James Rogers
Editor: Mary Field
Art director: Arthur B. Woods
Sound direction: Victor A. Peers
Sound recordist: A. F. Birch
Sound system: Klangfilm
Location shooting: Malta
Studio: Welwyn Studios
Trade show: 2 March 1931
Running time: 88 minutes
Cast: Carl Harbord – Edgar Doe, Tony Bruce – Rupert Ray, Fay Compton- Mrs Doe, Dennis Hoey – the padre, C.M. Hallard – the colonel, Frederick Lloyd – Captain Hardy, Gerald Rawlinson – Lieutenant Doon,, Lionel Hedges- Sims, Sam Wilkinson – Private Booth, Wally Patch – instruction sergeant, Hubert Harben – Mr Ray, Mike Johnson- Private Moody, John Boulting,- Roy Boulting schoolboys
Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas directed this adaptation of a 1922 novel by Ernest Raymond in which two friends find themselves in the middle of the terrible events at Gallipoli. Despite the compromised quality of the 1931 soundtrack this is a beautifully made film – the beach landings sequence is one of the finest action sequences of early British cinema. If the story rings a bell it’s because it was the inspiration for Peter Weir’s celebrated Gallipoli (1981). Asquith’s older brother fought at Gallipoli burying his friend Rupert Brooke who died on the way there.
The Times, 3 March 1931, p 12:
This film, which was shown privately yesterday evening, cannot be coldly discussed as an entertainment or as an exercise in cinematography. Parts of it are profoundly, almost intolerably, moving; the audience, knowing the event, is yet held in a tension higher than the tension of excitement; no man of imagination can witness it without suffering. All this is plain. But he would be a bold critic who declared that he could with assurance distinguish between the emotions proper to the film itself and those springing from his own memory and sentiment.
The story is of the Gallipoli landings and evacuation – a story which, when told with the screen’s approach to naturalism, cannot yet be considered with detachment. It is remarkable that the illusion created by the film is always most powerful where Mr. Asquith and Mr. Barkas have either abstained from dialogue or have used it, not to convey information or to illustrate character, but impressionistically in a form of supplementary sound. Partly for this reason, the opening is very weak. The two men, Ray and Doe, who are afterwards to serve in the same company in Gallipoli, are here shown as senior schoolboys in the spring and early summer of 1914. The intention is to emphasize their friendship and their youth, to offer a peaceful contrast with the scenes that are to follow, and, we are afraid, to provide a part for Miss Fay Compton as the mother of one of them. Some of this may be necessary, but how much better it would be if these scenes of swimming and delight were run together in a swift sequence, a unified impression, instead of being treated as a formal narrative in which, after all, Miss Compton, whose voice is very harshly and gustily reproduced, can produce little effect.
Not until her son has gone and she, herself silent, hears with her ears the vain chatter of a visitor but with her mind the music, the cheering, the blasts of sirens that accompanied his going, does Miss Compton influence her audience and Mr. Asquith enter into the true use of his medium. The strength of this little scene is a comment on what has preceded it.
It is a relief to be away to the Mediterranean. The personal story of Ray and Doe is skillfully interwoven with the general movement. After an illustration of the Anzac landing and the attack by the 29th Division, the action is localized to a section of trench occupied by Ray’s men, with Doe as second-in-command. It is threatened by a trench mortar which, after many weeks, the company is ordered to take. Doe succeeds in his particular duty, but is mortally wounded. The Peninsula is evacuated, and the last scene is an inspection by German and Turkish officers of his crave. The course of events – the failure of one man’s nerve and a raid in which he redeems himself and dies – is not unfamiliar in fiction of the War, but this story is told with an exceptional discretion and is backed by scenes of attack that have been admirably produced and selected. Mr. Tony Bruce represents with persuasive care a young officer not deeply imaginative but quietly determined to do his job; Mr. Carl Harbord points a contrast in nervous, highly strung idealism; and there is a shrewd sketch of a Company Commander by Mr. Frederick Lloyd.
The cutting leaves an impression of having been sometimes less skillful than the production. Not only the English scenes but those in which Doe is dying need reorganization, and there are passages in the trenches which lack fluidity. But the film, as a whole, has an outstanding merit that distinguishes it from many of its own kind – that its austerities are deliberate and do not spring from fear of sentiment. Though it does not shirk the terror of war, it is never a whine of defeatists. It recognizes heroism as a thing of beauty which, even when frustrate, is not vain. But we could wish that it were not described as a “Great Romance of Glorious Youth.” It is well able to speak for itself.
Mark Forrest, ‘Tell England – But Not Too Loudly’, The Saturday Review, 4 April 1931, p. 7:
[…] The landing of the Australians, the bombardment of ‘V’ beach and the holocaust on the ‘River Clyde’ contained ‘shots’ which are as well conceived as those in any other picture, and the accompanying sound effects, especially those of the naval barrage, are highly effective. So good is this part of the film that the remainder appears weaker, by contrast, than it probably is. […]
Where dialogue has been employed, it has not been used with enough restraint – more suggestion, if not trite, and less talk would have heightened many of the later scenes, especially since what the characters say is not of much account. The medium of sound is a difficult one to use rightly, and very often its use, far from heightening a situation, has the opposite effect. This is borne out in the film by the faithful recording of the groans of the dying; they had much better have “one by one crept silently to rest.” A groan might have been effective, but when nearly every time someone is stuck with a bayonet, he is directed to make a noise, the realism goes out of the ‘shot’. The uneven recording to a certain extent mars an appreciation of the acting; but Carl Harbord, as Edgar Doe, manages to convey the nervous temperament of the overstrung young man. […]
Programme note compiled by Geoff Brown
RAGENS RIKE (THE KINGDOM OF RYE)
Sunday 13 September – 3.15pm
Producer: Maja Engelbrektson
Camera: Carl Halling
Title des: Alva Lundin
Cast: Mathias Taube (Mattias Spangar), Eric Laurent – Markus, il suo bracciante/his farmhand, Märtha Lindlöf – la vedova del vecchio bracciante/the widow of the old farm, Margit Manstad – Klara, sua figlia/her daughter
35mm, 2625 m., 128′ (18 fps)
Print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm
Rågens rike (literal translation, “The Kingdom of Rye”), was released in December 1929, right at the end of the silent era. And though the film is set in rural northern Sweden, and includes familiar motifs such as farm-hand fights, depictions of Man’s dependence on Nature, light Nordic summer nights, and even a daredevil ride on a rushing river, the film looks like no other Swedish silent film that had come before. Situations and characters are often presented by highlighting 42 details, often from unexpected camera angles, and there are several extreme close-ups of immobile faces in rapid succession, similar to the style of contemporary Soviet cinema. In fact, debutant director Ivar Johansson’s previous cinema experience included editing Swedish versions of Soviet silent films.
Spangar, the owner of vast swathes of farm-land, regarded as the titular ruler of “the kingdom of rye”, is played by Mathias Taube (the husband in Stiller’s 1921 Johan). The first time he is introduced in the film we see only his feet, and the dark shadows he casts. In the final reel of the film an angry mob is seen walking on a country road, framed in such a way that only their marching legs are visible, which suddenly turn and head in the other direction, to encounter Spangar at his mansion. Other memorable sequences include the eerie atmosphere of the somnambulist night-time walks of Spangar’s unhappily newly-wed wife Klara, and the drinking duel between Spangar and a rival farmer, when the lyrics of the songs sung are superimposed over the images.
The film is based on a poem by the Finnish writer Jarl Hemmer, and was partly produced by a private sponsor, Maja Engelbrektson, who died before the film was released. Director Ivar Johansson (1889- 1963) became a prolific director of comedies and rural dramas in the sound era, which included a remake of Rågens rike in 1950, but he would never again reach the artistic heights of this, his first feature film.
In the opening credits there is a reference to the film’s musical accompaniment, but it was never released with pre-recorded sound. The composer and orchestrator of the music listed in the credits were, however, specifically mentioned in all contemporary reviews of the film after its opening at the Röda Kvarn theatre in Stockholm on 26 December 1929.
Jon Wengström – Reprinted from the 32nd Le Giornate Del cinema 2013 catalogue
Sunday 13 September – 6.30pm
Directed by Oleksandr Dovzhenko
Written by Oleksandr Dovzhenko
Cinematography – Danylo Demutskyi
Design – Volodymyr Muller, Yosyp Shpinel
Cast: Semen Svashenko, Amvrosii Buchma, Dmytro Erdman, Sergii Petrov, Mykola Kuchynskii, Mykola Nademskii
The second of Ukrainian director, Dovzhenko trilogy is set in the bleak aftermath of WWI and during the 1918 Russian Civil War. Timosh, a demobbed soldier, survives a devastating train crash on his return home from the War to find that Ukrainian freedom is being prematurely celebrated. Timosh becomes increasingly disenfranchised with the governance of the munitions factory in which he works and calls for the adoption of the new Soviet Collectivism. Dovzhenko was commissioned by Stalin to make Arsenal in order to win the Ukrainian people over to the Soviet cause. The film’s ultimate failure to do so, is possibly a reflection of Dovzhenko’s own divided loyalties.
Philip French – The Guardian – February 13, 2011
Alexander Dovzhenko (1894-1956), a Ukrainian of peasant stock, first became a schoolteacher and then, after joining the Communist party, turned to diplomacy, working at the Soviet embassies in Poland and Germany. He then became a newspaper cartoonist back in the Ukraine before finding his metier as a film-maker and becoming the most acclaimed poet of the Russian silent cinema. His most celebrated movie, Earth (released by Mr Bongo last year), is a tough, lyrical, unsentimental evocation of rural life, which provoked Soviet censors through its alleged pessimism. Earth completed an informal trilogy of silent classics about Ukraine that began with Zvenigora and continued with Arsenal.
Arsenal, the second of Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s War trilogy (along with ‘Zvenigora’, and ‘Earth’), further explores the process that the Ukraine underwent in its journey from egalitarian agricultural idyll towards industrialisation and Stalinist rule. Much more artistically shot than Zvenigora, Arsenal has a more focused composition and is also less chaotic than the former film. It’s relatively sedate tone lends it less of an air of polemicism than the rampant, raging Zvenigora, which absolutely works in its favour.
Arsenal uses the same seven episode structure employed by Zvenigora, to show elliptical narratives that, when combined, give an impression of a certain time and place. The very first episode sets up the tone of the film, that of quiet but definite rage, as a soldier molests a woman who, with head bowed, allows him to carry on. This cuts to shots of a mother and a peasant both patiently, seemingly, coping with a crying child and an unwilling horse respectively, until they both break and start beating their respective dependent. The episode ends with scenes of German soldiers driven mad by laughing gas.
What is it all supposed to mean? The imagery is certainly less peculiarly Ukrainian, and as such it’s pretty easy to understand what’s going on – the film is about a country losing its temper, reaching breaking point, paralysed for the moment before breaking into a fit of rage. Presumably this is what Dovshenko wished would happen in his beloved Ukraine and its Stalinist overlords. While he seemed to have supported the taking back of Ukraine, he suggests in one oft referred-to moment – soldiers charging on an empty trench and asking where the enemy is – that war is rife with absurdity, prefiguring the pacifist sentiments of Kubrick with his films Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket et al. The fact that he does all of this while paying lip-service to those same Communists makes his skill as a film-maker all the more impressive.
The film moves on, through different times and places, like Zvenigora before it mixing brutality and banality as facets of everyday life. The more universal imagery used in this film allows modern viewers to become absorbed much more easily into the film, to empathise with the events on-screen.
Arsenal is much more impressively composed than Zvenigora. While it is less chaotic, it is more militaristically-minded than the former film, and more concerned with violence and its effects on the society of the time; how it destroys friendships, families (countries?) and so forth. It might just be that Arsenal seems more impressive because it is shot in a more “modern” style, with lots of static cameras and tracking shots. Zvenigora applied much more handheld footage (or as handheld as the times would allow, with their giant moon-sized cameras) and more amateurish framing, while Arsenal is more classically framed. It is truly, truly phenomenal, and genuinely affecting.
Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s 1928 classic film Arsenal has recently been restored by the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre (ODNC) in Kyiv. The British Council and ODNC commissioned Bristol-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Guy Bartell (Bronnt Industries Kapital), to compose a new soundtrack for the film. The restored version was screened (and the new soundtrack performed live by Bartell) on 22 April 2015 at Kyiv’s Fifth International Book Fair, at Mystetksyi Arsenal. The project is part of the British Council Ukraine’s annual film programme and ODNC’s Kolo Dzigo series (where recently restored Ukrainian silent films are premiered with a new soundtrack composed by contemporary musicians).
The American National Board of Review chose Arsenal in its list of top 5 films of 1929 (Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Joan of Arc was also on the list).
Guy Bartell is a UK-based composer working in the fields of film soundtrack, electronic and electro-acoustic music. His previous soundtracks include the cult Swedish silent film Häxan, and the Soviet documentary Turksib, commissioned and released by the British Film Institute. His soundtracks have been performed at numerous international film festivals and venues. He has also released four albums as Bronnt Industries Kapital, on Static Caravan, Get Physical and I Own You Records.