Robert Tanitch reviews four British films from the 1930s on a two DVD disc set

Robert Tanitch reviews four British films from the 1930s on a two DVD disc set


SECRET LIVES (aka I Married a Spy, 1937). A German woman, living in France, is interned at the outbreak of World War 1 and forced by French Intelligence to become a spy and marry a French officer.

The film, which has been ignored for far too long, has such cinematic flair in its filming and framing of individual shots that it feels like a foreign art house movie.

The French director Edmond Greville was and the Czech-born photographer Otto Heller are a classy sophisticated act.

The lead roles are played by German actress Birgitte Horney and American actor Neil Hamilton. Horney does an imitation of Marlene Dietrich when she sings. Ivor Barnard is perfect as an Intelligence chief.

AUTUMN CROCUS (1934). Dodi Smith’s wistful play, a big West End success in 1931, was made into a dull film in 1934. A very immature 35-year-old teacher (Fay Compton) on holiday falls in love with a Tyrolean innkeeper (Ivor Novello in lederhosen, please don’t laugh) only to discover he is married and has a little girl.

He suggests she stays on permanently and they have an affair. Will she? Can you imagine Novello and Compton having an affair?


IT HAPPENED IN PARIS (1935).  Paris was never like this, except, of course, in the movies. The film, even in its title, attempts to do what Hollywood does best and produce an aimable screwball comedy.

An impoverished painter falls in love (“I love you crazy”) with an impoverished would-be fashion designer (“I love you mad”). He turns out to be a millionaire. He would, wouldn’t he? John Loder stars.

DICTATOR (aka For the Love of a Queen, 1935). Superficial history drama: Doctor Struensee, who was physician and political adviser to the mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark in the late 18th century, was a great social reformer.

He also had an affair with the queen. It was his reforms which outraged the court. An enormous amount of money was spent on the lavish costumes and sets. Clive Brook and Madeleine Carroll are fatally dull and unmoving.

Emlyn Williams as the king overacts as usual. You would be better off with the 2012 film version, A Royal Affair, with Mads Mikkelson.

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