The Movie, The Maggie

This is a great, small movie which until now had passed me by despite my affection for British Ealing Studios’ 1950’s black and white comedies.


The plot involves the captain of a small, steam transport ship outsmarting a wealthy American businessman. The ship is of a class that was rapidly going out of use at that time, called “Puffers” by an affectionate public. As you may have gathered by now, I love both the David versus Goliath and tradition versus progress themes in literature and movies, but only if, unlike real life, David and tradition win. In general, these black and white comedies seem to share that vision.

The puffer’s captain has finagled a contract to carry the businessman’s goods for £300, the amount he needs to keep the puffer afloat. The businessman, discovering this, is appalled and is desperately trying to get the goods off of the puffer and on to a reliable ship. Continue reading


The Movie, I Know Where I’m Going

I Know Where I’m Going

Another of the wonderful Archers films.  The character Joan Webster, intent on marrying an older, wealthy businessman, in large part because he is wealthy, tries unsuccessfully to reach the island in the Hebrides where their marriage is to take place.  She is unable to reach the island as there is a major storm battering the area.    Along the way, she keeps running into, and depending on, the local laird, Torquil MacNeil of Kiloran. 

It is funny how many old films and plays depend on the encounter of the urban sophisticate with the natives of a more rural, traditional area, where generally the sophisticate learns something essential about life to their own benefit.  “I Know Where I’m Going,” fits into this mold. 

The title, “I Know Where I’m Going,” comes from a folk song with the refrain, “I know where I’m going, and I know who’s going with me, I know who I love, but the day knows who I’ll marry,” a variation on the “Man proposes, but God disposes,” theme, which gets played out in the movie. Continue reading

The Awful Truth

The Awful Truth


The Awful Truth has dialogue that can only be described as sparkling (dialogue I wish I could write) and situations that are awkward and embarrassing for the characters, but very funny for the rest of us.


The truth of the title is the movie’s central concern, and is contrasted again and again by the falsity which with the two main characters, a couple on the brink of divorce, are attempting to live their lives.  Awful it is, because the truth hits them at every turn no matter how hard they try to avoid it.  We and the characters may not see it right off, if at all, but clearly the director Leo McCarey has the more profound meaning of awful, i.e. “inspiring awe,” in mind as well.


I know I’m making it sound dreadful, like an Ida Lupino or Joan Crawford tearjerker, and nothing could be further from the truth, that word again.  No, this is the quintessential screwball comedy with every scene evoking laughter, and both of the main actors, Irene Dunn and Cary Grant, at the top of their comedic form. Continue reading

The Movie: The Smallest Show on Earth


Who with a love for movies, hasn’t had the dream of owning their own theater, where on a Thursday night, say, they could show the classics, or perhaps on a Saturday afternoon revive the old adventure serials for the neighborhood youngsters?

In this film, a young couple, played by Bill Travers and the incomparably beautiful Virginia McKenna (having the Carole Lombard quality of looks and comic ability) have that dream thrust upon them. The husband learns that his great uncle has left him his entire estate. We first meet the couple in their small apartment when they discover their good fortune from a letter, speculate as to what this estate may consist of, and, as all of us would, have the money spent in their minds in very creative ways before they get it. Only later do they learn that the estate consists of a movie theater. Not too bad, they realize, when they get to the industrial town with the glue factory smell, at least this theater is huge, modern, and well run—“The Grand.”

Alas, the cab driver who told them “The Grand,” was the only theater in town, had misspoke. There is another theater, “The Bijou,” and everything the Grand was, the Bijou is not. Continue reading