Originally the Whitehill Studios, latterly owned by the Rank Organisation, situated in filmland at Elstree (phone 2080). Two sound stages were available. It opened in 1928 and closed in 1954 after the last film, John Wesley,see below, was completed.
LILLI MARLENE (1950 directed byArthur Crabtree, Gate Studios Elstree, 2*)- American journalist Steve (Hugh McDermott) and his British mates volunteer to capture a Nazi who has come to North Africa to gain a propaganda victory by using the pinup girl who inspired the song Lilli Marlene. Unfortunately this Nazi reminded me too much of Frank Randle, and Lisa Daniely in the title role, though appealing, is no pinup and terribly exaggerates her face in singing the famous song. She becomes a tug of war twixt the Allies and the Nazis, who almost succeed in snatching her during an overlong ENSA concert. So Steve moves her to the relative safety of Cairo, romance follows, before she is captured by the enemy, tortured, brainwashed` and made to broadcast Nazi propaganda, to the dismay of Steve and his buddies, "the end of a dream." In a final scene, after the war, Lilli is vindicated though it stretches ones credulity more than a little
WOMEN OF TWILIGHT (1952, directed by Gordon Parry, Gate Studios Boreham Wood, 5*)- After no-good Jerry is convicted of murder, his pregnant girlfriend Vivianne (Rene Ray) finds herself homeless until she takes refuge in a home for unmarried mothers. "Most of us had something better once." Presiding over it is Mrs Allistair, a typical role for Freda Jackson. At first she appears motivated by kindness, but her veneer soon fades. All the characters are well drawn, particularly Vida Hope as Jess, Allistair's loyal helper, and Christine (Lois Maxwell) who befriends Viv. Dora Bryan is there too, naturally. This is soap opera, dreary but well observed. The main drama is Chris' baby dying, strangely understated. But the death hides a grizzlier tale as the matriarch's empire thankfully crumbles
STREET CORNER (1953, directed by Muriel Box, Gate Studios Elstree, 5*)-
What starts as a semi documentary portrait of London's policewomen ends with a less satisfactory focus on the flighty Bridget (Peggy Cummins) who falls in with a jewel thief and general all round bad egg (Terence Morgan). The mistake the film makes is that although the sub plots are well done, the original focus on women's police work is almost lost and we get no deep character studies of them. The policemen seem mere also rans, though I liked the final chase in which no human catches the thief, but a dog. The best of several good scenes is early on, when an innocent but neglected baby is rescued from a narrow ledge atop an old block of flats. And there are plenty of small character roles to please, mostly female and typecast, such as Thora Hird as a nagging mother, Marjorie Rhodes as the brusque landlady, Joyce Carey as a nervous lady being stalked, and Dora Bryan (who else?), "if I have to be pinched, I want to be pinched by a man"
INNOCENTS IN PARIS (1953, directed by Gordon Parry, Gate Studios, 3*)- A disparate collection of passengers on a weekend flight to Paris include: Ronald Shiner as a Cockney bandsman, Alastair Sim as a cold politician, Jimmy Edwards as a know-all English gent, a kilted Scotsman- cue numerous jokes, Claire Bloom as an English Rose picked up by an older Frenchman, all very naive and only faintly believable, plus one old dear of an artist, played by Margaret Rutherford. A host of smaller parts include uncredited Christoper Lee, Kenneth Williams and Sam Kydd. Frankly, most of the montage is wearingly dull, but with a certain, yes innocent charm, with pleasant moments such as Sim plied with vodka. But it's all too obvious, a waste of many talents
(1953, directed by Norman Walker, Gate Studios Elstree, 4*)-
The young boy's early experience is dominated by a fire at his home, Epworth vicarage, as he's rescued from the flames like "a brand plucked from the burning." This rather episodic but well written picture of the "idealist" (Leonard Sachs) is never very profound, but shows how Wesley finds a real personal faith when talking earnestly with a condemned criminal (John Slater), confirmed as he listens in Aldersgate to a Luther sermon. "The enthusiast" gathers to him the "riff raff," to the horror of the established church, and in Bristol begins open air preaching and, with his brother Charles' hymns, opens the first Meeting House. Despite opposition, for example in Bath from Beau Nash (Philip Leaver), soon the first building is opened in London, one follower (Patrick Holt) being the first unlicensed preacher. Soon all over the country there is "a new hope, the joy of knowing God," bringing the Good News "into the hearts and homes of ordinary folk." Very dated now, but sadly that is the spirit of our age. John Wesley concludes happily, "how the tide has turned!" An ironic comment today!
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