Robert Tanitch reviews 4 four 1930’s British films on a double-disc DVD set
LOYALTIES (1933). Basil Dean had directed John Galsworthy’s play in 1922 and his film gives a very good idea of what acting was like on the West End stage then. A Jewish parvenu, invited to spend a Christian weekend in the country, is robbed of nearly a thousand pounds and since he is only valued for his money, he wants it back.
He accuses one of the guests and is taken to court for libel. The English aristocrats close ranks. Anti-Semitism is rife; and in the law courts, too. Basil Rathbone does not hide the essential unpleasantness of the man and plays him as a sort of 20th century Shylock, taking revenge on a society which does not accept his race and does not treat him as a gentleman.
THREE MEN IN A BOAT (1933). There have been at least seven versions of Jerome K Jerome’s droll novel and this adaptation must surely be the worst ever. The novel, published in 1889, made boating on the Thames extremely popular. The script is not droll and William Austin and Edmond Breon are extremely unfunny. Billy Milton (playing the juvenile lead in smart 1930’s male swimwear) has the considerable advantage of not having to be funny
LABURNUM GROVE (1936).
A paper-manufacturer, the epitome of suburban respectability, confesses to his shocked family that he is actually an international crook who is engaged in counterfeiting bank notes and Treasury bonds. J B Priestley dedicated his immoral comedy to Edmund Gwenn, who had created the forger on the West End stage in 1933 and Gwenn’s genial performance is preserved in this film. One of his best scenes is his sparring with the Scotland Yard detective (David Hawthorne) who wants to arrest him. Ethel Coleridge is perfect casting for the mean sponging sister-in-law. Cedric Hardwicke as her obnoxious husband overdoes the caricature.
THE BAILIFFS (1932) is a short 25 minute film and interesting because of what it is: a record of a series of traditional music hall sketches by one of the most popular double-acts before they joined up with the Crazy Gang. Bud Flanagan (in raccoon coat and boater) and Chesney Allen (in top hat and spats) are the bailiffs. There’s broad humour, simple slapstick and word-play. They also sing their signature song, Underneath the Arches, over the credit titles.