Monday, 29 August 2011

Review: Graham Greene, 1936

 Hugh Sinclair and Nils Asther in The Marriage of Corbal, 1936
Graham Greene writing in The Spectator 5 June 1936:
What is an English film? There are times when one cannot help brooding with acute distress on the cheap silly international pictures exported under that label. The Marriage of Corbal is a fairly harmless example. It is incredibly silly and incredibly badly written but there is a kind of wide-eyed innocence about this story of the French revolution which is almost endearing. But an English film? Is that a fair description of a picture derived from a novel by Rafael Sabatini, directed by Karl Grune and F Brunn, photographed by Otto Kanturek, and edited by E Stokvis [sic] with a cast which includes Nils Asther, Ernst Deutsch and the American, Noah Berry? The result is appalling... England, of course, has always been the home of the exiled; but one may at least express a wich that émigrés would set up trades in which their ignorance of our language and our culture was less of a handicap; it would not grieve me to see Mr Alexander Korda seated before a cottage loom in an Eastern country, following an older and a better tradition. The Quota Act has played into foreign hands, and as far as I know, there is nothing to prevent an English film unit being completely staffed by technicians of foreign blood. We have saved the British film industry from American competition only to surrender it to a far more alien control.

Nils Asther: to Graham Greene's eyes in 1936, a distressing alien in the British film industry

The Cinematograph Films Act (1927) was introduced to stem the flood of American films into British cinemas. This protective legislation obliged exhibitors to programme a certain percentage of home-produced film. Intended to encourage quality filmmaking, the actual result of the Act was a plethora of short, cheap, quickly shot supporting features - 'quota quickies' - derided by critics at the time as a disgrace to British cinema. In retrospect, it can be seen that the 'quickies' provided a valuable training ground for filmmakers, technicians and actors who would later go on to greater things in 'quality' British cinema (including such notable figures as Michael Powell and David Lean). New legislation was introduced in 1938.

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