Sunday, 26 April 2015

Blockbuster! The General (1926) and One Week (1920) with Carl Davis and Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall


“He seems like a modern visitor to the world of the silent clowns.” Roger Ebert

A big night for Buster as the film buffs and concert crowd gathered together to watch Carl Davis conduct the mighty Philharmonia Orchestra in playing his own scores for two of stone face’s finest. We may have clashed sartorially – and I did have visions of a potential Mods vs Rockers conflagration, though thankfully things didn’t “kick off” – but, ultimately we all grooved to Mr Davis and the band and we all laughed together, out loud and a lot.

Silent films were often shown in large auditoriums and with full orchestral backing so this grand occasion was not unbefitting especially given the scale of Keaton’s comic adventure. I hadn’t watched The General for a long time and here, presented in the recent upgrade, it was indeed re-masterful.

"If you loose the war, don't blame me..."
Having watched or rather, been assaulted by, the new Avengers film earlier in the day with my son, I thought I’d been all punched out but Keaton can still compete with the modern thriller with all of its technological advantages. In the language of that film he’s “augmented”: someone who has super-human qualities that are a special effect all of their own. Allied to this is his creative energy which ensures that not only is there always something happening it’s also funny. Other directors of the time cut very quickly and whilst he and co-director Clyde Bruckman do just that Keaton also has an action-reaction-action loop switched to fast forward.

Amidst all of this chaos, there remains that face: impassive, at peace… absorbing every blow whilst immediately figuring out a way to respond. As David Gill once said to Carl Davis, Keaton is a problem-solver and his stories are a triumph of resolute improvisations against all odds: the comedy of hope.

Buster sets off in lone pursuit
Carl Davis understands this on an orchestral scale and his compositions, which could easily overwhelm the 90 year-old subject matter, are subtle and leverage the power inherent in the film as much as any hyper-produced Danny Elfman or Alan Silvestri score. If anything the modern sonics are over-loud cheats to get a cheap animal response whereas Buster and Carl are so much smarter than that. Together they project in emphatic unison and you are drawn into rather than enveloped.

So it was that The General’s true nature was revealed as an action adventure as much as a comedy. It is a great story based on William Pittenger’s book about actual events in the Civil War and it is superbly filmed. Cinematographers Bert Haines and Devereaux Jennings shot on a parallel line and the narrative is steam-powered by the constant motion of machine, men and horses.

Buster misses the Northern advance and the Southern retreat
At one point Buster is so busy trying to stoke the loco’s fires that he completely missed the mass retreat of the Confederate forces and the thousands of Unionist soldiers in pursuit – a large scale replica of Buster’s persona: calm amongst the chaos.

Then as Buster and his true love Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) try to steam their way to safety, they start rowing as she gets over picky about which bits of wood to use and then starts sweeping the cab. Only Buster would place a domestic quibble in the middle of a war.

Marion Mack
Keaton is an equal-opportunities comedian and he always ensures that his leading ladies carry a fair share of the pratfalls and his southern belle is as daft and brave as he. Meanwhile the generals of the North are sillier still as it takes them ages to work out how to fix the tracks and their engineer a few seconds. Maybe Buster wasn’t so impressed with Generals in general?

By the mid-twenties, Buster could do pretty much what he liked, resulting in this film… one of the most expensive ever made and, at the time, a relative flop that was to curtail his creative freedom. Those guys at the top, they didn’t really have a clue.

Home sweet home...
On the under-card tonight was One Week (1920) Buster’s first solo effort after years of duetting with Roscoe Arbuckle.

Directed and written by Keaton along with Edward F. Cline the film was a smash and began his establishment as a major star in his own right and you can see why as it hurtles along with the same wit and rapid improvisations as the longer, later film.

Sybil and Buster on the swing
The film was a parody of the Ford Motor Company documentary, Home Made (1919), an educational short about prefabricated housing: it all looked far too easy for Buster who set out to show how things could all wrong so very easily…

Again he puts his female lead through her paces, this time a young Sybil Seely, who flies up in the air as their pre-fab wall spins Buster down and gets thrown in the dirt as the storm spins them round. She also gets featured in a bathroom scene so daring the cameraman eventually puts his hand over the lens.

Sybil's impressed with the man at work...
But it’s Buster who takes the big risks as he battles to erect their flat-packed house only to be flattened by the arrival of their piano, dropped from a great height and, famously, almost obliterated by an on-rushing locomotive. There was something about Buster and trains…

Before the green screen, a real train and a big smash!
By the end of the evening the taste of those digitized Avengers was washed away as the real super heroes were revealed: Buster and Carl took flight.

The General is now available complete with Mr Davis’ score on Kino Blu-ray direct or from Amazon whilst One Week is also on a Kino Blu-ray  through Amazon.   

Friday, 24 April 2015

Nice and sleazy… In the Dead of Night, Landor Theatre, London


“Will you marry me?” “No, because trusting is difficult…”

I’ve only occasionally ventured into film noir on this blog but I think the dark and sleazy expressionism of the genre appeals to silent film fans more than most. This was when cinema started dealing with Big Fear in the only way it could: a re-birth of the visual cool with films that were relatively less cluttered by the dialogue explosion of the wise-cracking thirties.

In a reaction to the – literally – Earth-shattering global war and the development of mutually assured socio-political as well as actual destruction – noir confronted the new depths to which mankind could stoop. The enemy was a much within as without as the victors were gifted with a shocked paranoia that lasted well into the fifties and beyond.

Judith Paris and Susannah Allman
Having previously paid splendid tribute to silent film hero William Haines with The Tailor-Made Man, writer and director Claudio Macor shifts forwards to this curious genre and takes it to places it could never have gone in the post-war, post-code world. In his version of the genre, not only are the characters insecure and untrustworthy, they also have more explicit lives and motivations: more shades of grey than the silver screen allowed… with almost all 36 rules of the Hays Code are broken in the play. They should have given us a tick sheet although I spotted the sensual dancing, crime paying and men making passionate love…

The Landor Theatre is an intimate over-pub venue just down the road from Clapham North but you’d be amazed how much dancing can be done on its strictly-limited stage area. At various points there were half a dozen dancers twirling, high-kicking and throwing themselves about with muscular abandon but with immense control. Anthony Whiteman’s choreography (to Paul Boyd’s killer score) pushed the fourth wall to its limits and created a visceral bond between the watchers and the watched – this was theatre in the raw and we were all in way above our heads.

Judith Paris
At the centre of the drama was the extraordinary Judith Paris an actress whose theatrical credits wouldn’t have filled the play’s programme on their own and who has played from the RSC to Broadway and back again via the Tardis and Tom Baker’s Doctor Who (my son recognised her picture instantly). She has great presence and dominated the stage with an energy all of her own as the former femme fatale Elvira who refuses to fade away.

Elvira runs a cat house, the Bar Tangueros, in the nowhere place of La Rocca a shanty-town port you’d think twice about in a storm, somewhere in South America. Her star turns are the strapping Massimo (Jordan Alexander) and the shapely Rita (Susannah Allman) who work hard to provide the hard-working sailors some fleeting comfort.

Ross Harper Millar and Ned Wolfgang Kelly
Elvira is starting to diversify by buying coca leaves from an unkempt freelancer, Martinez (Ross Harper Millar) who is stealing from the drug cartel that runs the area. Martinez is a man of mystery who has obscure motives and knows more than he should… he is loyal to Elvira; steadfast in a way that the majority of the more polished members of humanity are not.

Elvira has more history than the Egyptians and has a hate/hate relationship with local kingpin Falchi (Ned Wolfgang Kelly – now there’s a name to conjure with!) who rode his luck from almost assassin to presidential protector and now works on behalf of the cartel. Elvira pays him protection money but La Rocca’s card has been marked and doom permeates the air.

“Promise me one thing; let me know when you decide to play ghost again…”

Hays Code rules 4 and 36 about to be broken...
The head of the cartel’s son, Leandro (Matt Mella), had a love affair with Massimo and returns to win back his heart after a year away at sea. He manages to rekindle their relationship with the aid of a Tango (fun fact: the Tango was initially a dance between sailors and dockers – hence the battle to take the “lead”?). He and Massimo are soul mates but Leandro’s father wants to make all of La Rocca pay for his son’s life choices… a hard rain is definitely going to fall.

Then an enigmatic Frenchman, Raul (Tristan Robin) arrives and wants to become more than a customer to Rita. Is this a love we can trust for, as Elvira warns, “it takes a long time to capture a heart…” but maybe she is speaking from experience.

Susannah Allman and Tristan Robin
As both couples begin to dream of escape, the noose tightens around the town’s collective neck and the truth between Elvira and Falchi will out…

The leads are all strong with Susannah Allman impressing with her Gene Tierney cool (those dimples!) and Jordan Alexander sleekly intense as the gigolo with a heart of gold. Ross Harper Millar embraces his inner seedy as the messed-up Martinez whilst Mr Wolfgang Kelly makes his Falchi an arch anti-hero: for whom crime pays but also enslaves.

There’s excellent energy from the support including Vanessa Sheffield (who puts the sass in Vanessa), Danny Harris, Daniel James Greenway and  Joshua Clare who all dance and act with equal grace.


"I'd like your blessing..." "I'm not a priest." 

Claudio Macor fills his dialogue with some class and snap; all worthy of the name-checked Bogart and Bacall, Crawford and Gable – clearly this is a labour of love all round and the next time I watch Gilda, Laura or Casablanca it will be through new eyes. The subtext of constrained post-code noir will be that much clearer.

A memorable show and a real privilege to watch in such intimacy; as we left we were already starting to miss La Rocca…

In the Dead of Night is on at Clapham’s Landor Theatre until Saturday 16th May and I would urge anyone with an interest in film and soulful, musical theatre not to miss it!

Book now!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

An Ealing epic… Jane Shore (1915), BFI with Laura Rossi and Orchestra Celeste


Recently the BBC – the BBC – carried a news story noting the centenary of “the first feature film” The Birth of a Nation which is like saying that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first LP… a letter was almost written to the DG.

This multi-reeler is described as Britain’s "answer" to Birth (both were released in March 1915) and so naturally we were expecting large-scale invention, historical flim-flam and a healthy dollop of deluded white men on horseback wearing sheets. But what we saw was closer to the Italian classical dramas of the time, which is unsurprising considering the film’s origins in Nicholas Rowe's 1714 play The Tragedy of Jane Shore.

An eighteenth century portrait of Jane Shore, National Trust, Penrhyn Castle
Jane Shore was the mistress of King Edward IV, who reigned on and off from 1461 until his mysterious death in 1483 – “not my period” as we historians always say but I’ll give it a go.

Jane Shore – originally Elizabeth Lambert (the Jane was added by another Seventeenth Century playwright after her given name was temporarily mislaid) – lived a long and eventful life. Many years after Edward’s passing and the defeat of his recently re-buried brother, Richard III by Henry VII, Thomas More, declared that even in her old age an attentive observer might discern traces of her former beauty.

But Jane Shore is by no means a Mantell-esque forensic historical docu-drama: it’s a romp and pure entertainment from start to finish!

Blanche Forsythe walks through the thousand extras...
Richard – here merely Duke of Gloucester (Rolf Leslie) – is a Dastardly Dick who is seemingly older than his elder brother Edward IV (Roy Travers), whilst the conniving Margaret (Dora De Winton) seems to exist purely to add more spite to proceedings forever trying to come between/revenge herself on noble Matthew Shore (Robert Purdie) and his true love Jane Shore nee Winstead (Blanche Forsythe).

It opens in grand style as many hundreds of defeated Lancastrian soldiers retreat through massive steep valleys having been routed by the army of the White Rose led by Edward. It’s a stunning shot and crystal clear in the BFI’s new restoration marking the film’s centenary. The sequence is so fine that it’s repeated later as the Yorkists taste defeat and there is a wonderful shot showing the men almost rolling down the steep hill with cinematographer Will Barker’s camera angled almost above them – take that Mr Griffith!

On the Ealing backlot
Directed by Bert Haldane and F. Martin Thornton, Jane Shore was filmed in part at Ealing Studios and produced by Will Barker, who founded the original studio in God’s own commuter-county, Hertfordshire.

The story is a truncated version of “Jane’s” life focusing on the Edward years and beefing up her relationship with Shore who it is suggested she sacrificed herself to Edward’s lust in order to protect: Laura Rossi explained that in reality she divorced him on the grounds of impotency.
Shore’s brother William (Nelson Phillips) is a Lancastrian hero and his brother comes to his rescue after he is imprisoned in the Tower.  As elsewhere in the film, Haldane and Thornton frame their static shots dynamically, creating tight-angled tension from the walls and battlements. There’s a close-up blur of battle as the rebels overcome the drunken Yorkist guards and climb down the walls to freedom.

Matthew and Jane wed as Edward looks on in disguise...
The action shifts to the domestic as the overwrought Margaret tries to turn Matthew’s head but he’s set himself on young Jane and ignores her flailing arms and over-eager elbows. But two masked playboys from the royal court come to town and one of them takes a shine to Jane before revealing himself to be Edward! Malicious Madge squeals in delight as Matthew makes one of many grabs for his blade…

Jane calms his anger by agreeing to marry him but in steps Marge again to inform on him as a Lancastrian spy. Matthew fights of dozens of royal guards and escapes to his brother’s troop leaving Jane to accept her fate as a mistress of the court.

Rolf Leslie's vicious Richard
Enter Richard hobbling with intent, stage right… After trying it on with Jane himself and being shooed away by Lord Hastings (Thomas H. MacDonald) he tells the Queen (Maud Yates) of the King’s affair (in reality Edward was rather active in this respect although he retained respect for Jane right up to his untimely death).

From now on it’s Dick’s tricks that drive the narrative and with such a villain smiling at the heart of great misfortune, you have to hope for some kind of happy ending…

Jane greets the sunrise in this risque moment...
Laura Rossi’s score was expertly judged and one of the best ensemble accompaniments I’ve seen for some time. She played piano alongside an electronic backdrop and was accompanied by a top-notch trio: Sophie Langdon (Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony etc) on electric violin, Bozidar Vukotic (Tippett Quartet, English Chamber Orchestra and more) and Mike Outram on guitars who in addition to being a professor at The Royal Academy has also played with Steven Wilson and the great Robert Fripp.

Together they produced an engaging sonic narrative of some depth and invention. It was a Friday evening after a long working week and this was instantaneously engaging, welcoming music which greatly enhanced the cinematic experience. A true soundtrack that was melded to the century-old “text” and which helped the audience connect…

Laura Rossi and Orchestra Celeste
In her introduction Laura explained how her composition tracked Blanche Forsythe emotional shifts and the music was such a disciplined servant to the action throughout. In one scene after a confrontation between the King and Matthew the monarch stomps through a crowded room followed by the angry insurgent: the music builds with the rhythm of the extras’ movement as they hoard towards the centre of the screen crushing round Matthew to prevent his taking the matter further. Such diligence rewards with a seamlessly-sympathetic score.

There’s more about Laura’s extraordinary music on her site and don’t miss this show if you can: a precious example of early British cinematic sophistication. Not quite up there with Griffith or the most advanced Europeans but brilliantly British all the same!

The Jane Shore tour continues into May - details are on Laura's site here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The importance of being earnest… Where Are My Children? (1916)

 
Lois Weber’s work is always an interpretive challenge for the modern viewer but her films are precious primary evidence: gobbets of accepted wisdom and contemporary morality frozen in celluloid as surely as mosquitoes captured in amber. Our mission, should we chose to accept it, is to understand the reasons why by examining the historical context rather than taking a quick look through the prism of hind-sight.

Having read a number of reviews and comments many, for example, cannot avoid mentioning Eugenics and then making a direct link to its interpretation and implementation in Germany in the late 20’s and beyond.

Admiring a product of eugenics
There were different strands to this line of thought and many liberal-minded people, Sydney and Beatrix Webb and other members of the early UK Fabian Society included, felt that controlled breeding could help to improve society and lessen the level of suffering amongst the poor. That doesn’t make them right nor does it make them signed up members of a fascist movement that was not fully formed for over twenty-thirty years in another culture. Socially interventionist, “negative” eugenics, is abhorrent to most modern minds but you can see its origins in the context of the morals, medicine and poverty of the day.

Souls await the birthing call behind the pearly gates
Also, in an age of more fragile mortality there were many, many more who believed in Christianity in a literal sense and for whom the idea of pearly gates was very real. For these people a film that starts with the unborn souls of children descending from heaven was reassuringly-believable and not a source of mirth. Weber’s use of this device is especially effective when contrasted to the very modern attitudes of the self-serving socialites who spend the film avoiding responsibility in order to extend their leisure time… Not very “sisterly” you might think but these people were being dishonest and Miss Weber had a low tolerance for hypocrisy as established in one of her previous films.


This film is pro-choice but of a different kind. Amazingly abortion wasn’t outlawed in the USA until the 1860s and two generations down the line back-street terminations came with no guarantee of medical competence. Weber’s film is firmly against these practices preferring instead the kind of education about and practice of birth control as espoused by Margaret Sanger who was her inspiration here and specifically for one of the film’s two court room scenes.

The slums and their consequences
Sanger was a member of the Women's Committee of the New York Socialist party who took part in strikes and social activism in addition to her work as a visiting nurse in the slums of New York City’s lower East Side. She saw the impact of unwanted pregnancies on women who could barely feed themselves and yet information on contraception was prohibited on the grounds of obscenity by the federal Comstock law of 1873 as well as state law. Sanger vowed to change the laws and in 1914 launched The Woman Rebel newsletter to promote contraception using the slogan "No Gods, No Masters". She popularized the term "birth control" and proclaimed that each woman should be "the absolute mistress of her own body." In 1914 she was indicted before fleeing to Canada whilst her estranged husband was jailed for 30 days for passing on copies of her Family Limitation… which brings us back to the film…

Dr Homer tries to make his case
The campaigner is represented in the film by a man, Dr Homer (C. Norman Hammond), who is being prosecuted for the indecency of distributing a book on contraception. As our nominal hero, District Attorney Richard Walton (Tyrone Power Snr) reads out more from the book the more he can see the connections between birth control and eugenics. For himself he has always longer for children and yet to his great regret his wife (Helen Riaume, Mrs Power at the time) has yet to be blessed… He cannot understand why anyone would not want to have a family whilst at the same time believing that society would be better served if not everyone who can do should do.

Mrs Walton and her dog
He hears compelling evidence from Dr Homer about his heart-breaking experiences in the slums: families at war with themselves in a nightmare of poverty and alcoholism with violence and crime driven by the need to provide for more mouths than can be afforded and children who are malnourished and genetically disadvantaged…

Richard’s sister (Marjorie Blynn) has contracted an “eugenics marriage” and her off-spring will be inevitably fit, healthy and well-provided for. Cursed be those who pass up this opportunity and Weber is relentless in her disapproving view of the lounging classes, one dog for every aborted child and a relentless round of coffee mornings at each other’s opulent abodes.

Dr. Malfit's malpractice
Mrs Walton arranges a quickie abortion for her best friend Mrs. William Carlo (Marie Walcamp) with one Dr. Herman Malfit (Juan de la Cruz). She seems totally at ease in his forbidding surgery smiling knowingly at another woman who tries to hide her face in shame and yawning at the everyday inconvenience of having to be there.

"...bold methods..." in action
But such complacency cannot last as her brother Roger (A.D. Blake) comes to stay and takes an immediate shine to the housekeeper’s daughter Lillian (Rena Rogers). Weber is no less forgiving of his attitude as a title card sneers: “Practice teaches men of this class, the bold methods that sweep in-experienced girls off their feet”. And so he does but not without consequences that will have a devastating impact on all concerned.

No spoilers: The film is still hard-hitting and the final sequence is a poignant one… dear reader, a handkerchief may well be required.

The souls of the newly-conceived appear on their mothers' shoulders...
Weber marshals her cast well and Power is especially impressive as the man with the firmest of backbones. The story flows well and you can see why Weber was so well regarded – it is a fact universally utilized that she was the highest paid director of the day.

The film caused some controversy but broke records in such places as New York and Atlantic City (was that you Nucky?I). A comparison could be drawn with Birth of a Nation which was banned in Boston on the grounds of its depiction of the races whilst Pennsylvania banned this film on the grounds that it was “filth”… things were obviously moving too fast for the Quaker State but these issues remain controversial in some sections of society.

Marie Walcamp and Tyrone Power
I watched the 2000 renovation on the Treasures From American Film Archives 3 box set which comes with Martin Marks' marvelous modern score skilfully orchestrated by Allen Feinstein. It's a bit collectable I'm afraid but still good value. More details on the NFPF site.

Postscript: The film was *almost* shown in London recently but cancelled the day before screening… does controversy linger still over Lois Webster’s work? Hopefully it can be re-scheduled...

Helen Riaume

Friday, 10 April 2015

The three-year itch... Fascination (1931)


Madeleine Carroll is indeed fascinating... not only was she the highest paid actress in the world in 1938 she was also awarded the the American Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honour for her tireless efforts during and after the Second World War. Her sister was killed in the Blitz and she headed off into the war-zone working with the Red Cross in Italy whilst after the war she made films to promote human understanding abandoning her Hollywood career completely by 1949.

In this early British talkie, made when she was just 26, Carroll is re-united with her director and co-star from The First Born, Miles Mander. Watching this largely inferior film I marvel at the "commercial interests" that have, so far, prevented any release of the restored version that so impressed at the 2011 British Film Festival gala screening. But,so it goes...

Dorothy Bartlam and Carl Harbord
We should be thankful for small mercies and we are lucky to have this film which has survived in a much-viewed single 35mm nitrate print. Restored by Network and the BFI the images are clearer than the soundtrack with subtitles essential to follow sections of dialogue. Mander was a pioneer in sound and had considered adding a soundtrack to The First Born so what we hear now is nowhere near what was first produced.

Visually Fascination is more interesting than you might expect from an early talkie. Whilst not as fluid as its silent precursor the film does have some interesting touches the central couple are tracked chasing each other through their house to arrive on a couch, a cow looks on as they enjoy a chaste roll in the hay and the camera follows the man into the glamour as he encounters the actress Gwenda Farrell (Carroll).
   
Dorothy Bartlam takes the plunge
The film is based on Eliot Crawshay-Williams' play and Mander does his best to overcome the static restrictions of source material and sonics with these outdoor sequences and sparkling performances from his female leads.

The story starts with a toy train crash as three children play and the young Vera (Allison Van Dyke) and Larry (John Kove) fall out and make up to be unofficially married by the third (a young Freddie Bartholomew converting his chance with aplomb) using a telephone directory as a bible.

Marriage isn't child's play...
Skip forward a decade and a half and we find Vera (now Dorothy Bartlam) and Larry (Carl Harbord) in the haystack making plans for when he leaves Oxford to become an architect.They rush back to her home and start drawing up their Ten Commandments of Marriage to encode their love and respect for each other: a relationship built to last?

Switch forward three years and Vera is seen reading the list almost as a relic of a bygone age. Larry laughs at their youthful earnest but "remembers" their joint promises. They seem happy and his business is progressing as he chases down a potential client for his interior design.

Vera re-reads the commandments
He makes numerous phone calls but no one is picking up and the scene shifts to show just why as his client, Miss Farrell, is in the middle of being dumped by her caddish lover Ronnie (Roland Culver). Ronnie departs and dippy pal Kay (a super turn from Kay Hammond) arrives to cheer things up by slipping on The Wedding March 78 and then muting the sound by sitting on the record player.

Kay Hammond silences Mendelssohn's march
Eventually Larry goes to meet the actress after one of her shows and, as she emerges through the curtains of her dressing room it's trouble at first sight: Larry's jaw hits the floor and you know his work-love balance is about to be seriously disturbed.

The architect meets the actress
Larry starts seeing more of Gwenda and the lies become larger as Vera is left in the dark. There's little overt love-making (Britain was always "post-code"...) but Larry's betrayal is made a potent one by Vera's innocent trust and her simple reliance on his love: she doesn't need to re-read the commandments...

For her part, Gwenda develops her own passion for this bright-but-dull young man and grasps at her chance for happiness without thinking of the others' potential sadness. As for Larry... he's in mid-twenties crisis and the seven year itch has come four years early.

The choice is yours Larry. Or is it?
No spoilers... such stories can only resolves themselves with someone being sacrificed in the struggle but the way Mander deals with this is actually surprising and sophisticated.

Dorothy Bartlam gives a splendid performance as the loyal wife who remains resolute even when her dreams begin to crumble and out-powers Carl Harbord who is rather too callow to believably attract the experienced actress (in reality only two years his senior).

Dorothy Bartlam
Madeleine Carroll is a natural as the actress isolated by her own success: a nuanced mix of the world-weary and luminous. Larry may not be charismatic but his everyday charm is a welcome reality in her world. Carroll's greatest success and sacrifce were to follow and she clearly avoided the pitfalls of fame: you can take the girl out of West Bromwich but...

Fascination is available on Network DVD, either direct or from Movie Mail or Amazon: it is very reasonably priced! Now - please - can we have The First Born?