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|
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 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...|
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|
|Kay Hammond silences Mendelssohn's march|
|The architect meets the actress|
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?|
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).
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?