Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Loves of Joanna Godden ( 1947 )

"I'll run the farm myself....A farm can't have two masters"

Joanna Godden ( Googie Withers ) is a determined woman. After the death of her father, the townsfolk of Romney Marsh assumed that she would marry her childhood friend and neighbor-farmer Arthur ( John McCallum ), joining her father's farm with his to make it one of the largest in the county. Instead, she boldly declares that she does not wish to marry Arthur and, defying the conventions of the time, wants to run the farm by herself. Her farmhands are none too pleased with the notion of a single woman taking charge of the farm and Arthur is certainly disappointed to hear that she does not wish to marry him. If this wasn't news enough, she announces that she will take her father's pedigree sheep and crossbreed them. "She's a filly that's never been properly broke in, that's what she is!" the farmers exclaim. 

The Loves of Joanna Godden may seem like just another British film about farming and shepherding but it is much more than that. It is the profile of a headstrong young Edwardian woman and the decisions - mainly regrettable ones - that she makes within a several-year span that leads to her growth as a woman. Joanna does indeed take control of the farm as she wanted, but she stubbornly refuses to listen to the admonitions of her neighbor farmers who warn her against crossbreeding sheep and soon regrets not heeding their warning. The new breed of sheep has a coat much too thin to brave the cold wind that blows on the marsh and many of them die. When she does choose to marry a man ( Derek Bond ) that turns out tragic as well. 

Director Charles Frend does an admirable job of creating a unique Edwardian English-country atmosphere for The Loves of Joanna Godden. The only other film that comes close to capturing this setting is 20th Century Fox's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was released the same year. Both films are similarly themed and focus on a two-year period in the life of a strong-willed Edwardian woman. Widow Mrs. Muir ( Gene Tierney ) wishes to be independent of her in-laws and make her own life in the seaside town of Whitecliff-by-the-sea. 

In The Loves of Joanna Godden, Joanna is content to stay at her childhood home but wants the freedom to run it as she pleases without taking orders from a man. Eventually, both characters regret not having a husband to "take the helm". If these films were made today, their directors would probably take a more feminist approach and show audiences that a woman can be independent and happy as well, but these old classics reflected Edwardian sentiments and personally, I like that. 

H.E. Bates' screenplay condenses Sheila Kaye-Smith's 1921 novel into a concise 90-minute film without losing any of the major plot points or its biting dialogue. The Loves of Joanna Godden also features a sweeping score by Ralph Vaughn Williams and beautiful cinematography. Oscar-nominated cinematographer Douglas Slocombe ( Dead of Night, The Great Gatsby ) is often considered to be one of the best in the industry. Through his lens, we get to travel to Kent and see the beauty of Romney Marsh throughout the seasons. 

Googie Withers gives a wonderful performance as the headstrong Joanna. She's a stubborn character and she could easily have been a dislikable woman but Googie lets the audience know that beneath Joanna's hard exterior is a soft and vulnerable woman. Arthur knows this already and that makes it painful for him to stand by and witness Joanna shun all help in her attempt to stand on her own feet when he would willingly work beside her. 

John McCallum was a popular and extremely capable actor who made many British films in the 1940s. He and Googie wed shortly after filming was completed on this picture. McCallum later turned to producing ( the Australian children's series Skippy was one of his productions ) and Googie went on to have a long career on stage and television, notably as Governess Fay Boswell in Within These Walls.  

Jean Kent, another popular leading lady in British films, has a supporting role as Joanna's sister Ellen. At first, Ellen is quite a charming young lady but she quickly becomes a conniving and spoiled brat and the cause of ruination for Arthur. Derek Bond gives a good performance as the young aristocrat Martin who sweeps Joanna off her feet, and Australian legend Chips Raffery has a small part as Joanna's looker ( shepherd ). Also in the cast are character actors Henry Mollison and Edward Rigby. 

The Loves of Joanna Godden is available on DVD as one of four films on Network's "Ealing Studios Rarities Collection, Volume 4".

This post is our contribution to the 8th Annual Rule, Britannia blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. This is a jolly good event that allows bloggers to review British films from all eras, so if you want to explore some new-to-you titles, be sure to head on over to the event for a full listing of entries. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Sinister Man ( 1961 ) - An Edgar Wallace Mystery

The body of an Oxford professor is found floating in the Thames and Scotland Yard investigator Superindentant Wells ( John Bentley ) is on the job to solve the mystery. The professor was an archeologist assigned to translate a set of three ancient tablet fragments known as the Kytang Wafers. The professor - and the tablets - disappeared from Oxford weeks previously. Wells deduces that whoever murdered the professor stole the tablets and all the evidence points to one of his colleagues. Could it be his assistant, the young Miss Marlowe ( Jacqueline Ellis )? The nosy Dr. Tarn ( John Glyn-Jones )? His rival Dr. Pollard ( Patrick Allen )? Students Mitch Hallem or Johnny Choto? Or was it an outsider? Wells uses good old-fashioned British investigative techniques to uncover the murderer and locate the missing Wafers. 

The Sinister Man was the 14th film in the Edgar Wallace Mystery film series. This series of British mysteries were produced by Merton Park Studios between 1960 and 1965, with an output of almost one per month. A total of 47 mystery films were made, all of which were loosely based on stories by Edgar Wallace and all running just a little under one hour. This made them suitable B-features and also great films for re-release on television, where they began airing on ITV in 1968 under the title "Tales of Edgar Wallace".

The film is an engaging little whodunnit even though the audience is given very few clues to solve the mystery by themselves. The location scenes around Oxford and the Thames river are nice to look at and, like most of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries, there is a bevy of familiar British character actors to be seen. 

The handsome John Bentley stars as the Scotland Yard investigator Wells. He is probably best known for a supporting role in The Happiest Days of Your Life but I enjoyed him best in another British mystery - Double Exposure ( 1954 ). Patrick Allen was a very familiar face on British television, as was William Gaunt who played one of the crimebusters in The Champions ( 1968-1969 ). And then there are character actors Wilfred Brambell, John Horsley, and Edward Atienza. 

While the mystery itself is not overly mind-engaging, The Sinister Man is still worth a look at if you have an hour to spare. It will pique your interest in exploring the other Edgar Wallace titles, if nothing else. 

This post is our contribution to the 8th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. Be sure to head on over to the site to explore more essays and reviews of films from across the pond. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Soldiers playing toy soldiers...or, as it is officially termed, "strategic planning". Can you recognize these beautiful uniforms and thereby identify the film this screenshot is from? It's a tricky one!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules of the game or the prize, simply click here.


Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this scene featuring some officers of Napolean from MGM's "The Firefly" ( 1937 ) starring Jeannette MacDonald and Alan Jones. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Let's Fall in Love ( 1933 )

Edmund Lowe is a name that is instantly recognizable and yet, even among classic film fans, he is often overlooked as an actor. This gentleman was a leading player in numerous silent films and, after having successfully transitioned to talking pictures, continued to be a big player up until the mid-1930s, when he began to take on more supporting roles. He is best remembered for playing Sergeant Quirt in the 1926 drama What Price Glory? and for his role as Dr. Talbot in Dinner at Eight ( 1933 ). Lowe had great range as an actor and could play romantic parts, dramatic roles, or comedic roles equally well. 

I enjoy him best when he plays a romantic role and one such movie that highlights his light but deft touch as an actor is Let's Fall in Love, a wisp of a musical from Columbia Pictures studio. This film has a simple script that was probably written just to highlight and promote its theme song by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. The tune is quite memorable and very lovely to listen to, especially when it is performed by singer/actress Ann Sothern who had a fine soprano voice ( she sang with Artie Shaw and his Orchestra before becoming an actress ). 

Edmund Lowe plays Kenneth Lane, a director who is anxious to make a film with the Swedish sensation that he had helped mold as a Hollywood star ( sound familiar? ). Unfortunately, stardom went to her head and she becomes so demanding that he fires her from the film. Now, in search of a fresh new face, he puts ads in national papers calling for any and all Swedes to make a screen test. His search comes to an abrupt end when he goes to a traveling carnival and discovers Jean ( Ann Sothern ), a fetching young woman who isn't Swedish at all. He likes her and wants her to be the leading lady in his latest film. But since everyone, including his boss Max ( Gregory Ratoff ) knows he is searching for a Swede he decides to masquerade her as a visiting Swedish model, a plan that backfires on him when his jealous fiancee Lisa ( Betty Furness ) blurts out the truth. 

Let's Fall in Love is just a little over an hour-long but manages to pack in a number of entertaining scenes including some musical numbers. Lowe is wonderful as usual with his expressive features ( carried over from his silent-era days ), Sothern is sweet making googly eyes at him, and Gregory Ratoff is excellent as Max, head of Premier Studios. He later famously played another producer named Max in All About Eve ( 1950 ).  

Also in the cast is Greta Meyer as a jolly Swedish woman, Miriam Jordan, and tenor Arthur Jarrett. The film was remade in 1949 as Slightly French with Don Ameche and Dorothy Lamour playing the leads. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

British Pathé: Globe Making - How the World is Made

If you ever wondered how a world is made, then you have to check out this British Pathé news clip that gives you the scoop on just how one goes about creating a globe. A tabletop globe, that is. 

“While the rest of the mankind does its best to blow the world up, they like building a new one.”

The filmmakers from British Pathé share with us a fascinating look at the inside of a globe factory in 1955. The narrator tells us that these workers are from a North London firm of geographers, so most likely this is the factory of the old firm of George Philip and Son, Ltd. which was located in Willesden Junction in London, England. 

The globe makers start by applying thick brown strips of paper around a wooden ball to create the shell. And then they slather up to nine layers of wet plaster over the shell to smooth out the entire globe. This is prep work for the six-hour process of building the mountains and ridges that will give the globe a realistic texture. Once dry gores of paper are carefully cut out ( be careful! ) and pasted on the globe “The covering process calls for a keen eye and a steady hand,” the narrator says. “A fraction of an inch out will put the world miles out of joint.” 

These talented craftspeople make the work look so simple but one can only imagine what patience it must take to work in a factory like this. It isn't easy building a world. 

Ready to watch Globe Making? Simply click on the link below:

Globe Making - How the World is Made ( 1955 )  

Other similar British Pathé clips: 

Map Making ( 1952 ) - 3:00 minutes

Globe Making ( 1949 ) - 2:49 minutes

Globe Map for the Blind ( 1939 ) - 1:39 minutes

Saturday, September 11, 2021

From the Archives: The Unsinkable Molly Brown ( 1964 )


Debbie Reynolds starred as Molly Brown in one of her favorite films - The Unsinkable Molly Brown ( 1964 ). Her character transformed from a wild country girl into a tough high society dame....and all along the way she had her true love, her husband Johnny Brown ( Harve Presnell ) by her side. In this miniature color lobby card, they are pictured in their youth when he was lernin' her to read and write. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :