Saturday, July 29, 2006

Stuck in a lift with Dora Bryan

Kira Cochrane (who she?) in the Guardian thinks this is her worst nightmare. If I were stuck in a lift with Dora Bryan I would tell her how much I liked her performance in The Fallen Idol.

If you don't know this Carol Reed film you should read David Thomson's splendid article in yesterday's Independent (while you still can for free). He writes:
The picture uses the Belgravia house as a world; the black-and-white is so beautiful it looks like something we might be on the point of inventing - at last, the drab days of colour are surpassed! The kid, Bobby Henrey, was just perfect, and Ralph Richardson seemed as dull and level and ordinary as a butler, but as you watched the film you felt the man's whole sad life.

But all of those things are just items in the larger being. The Fallen Idol tells a story in which everything fits, like the waxed pieces of wood in complicated carpentry - without a squeak or a sign of friction. Films told stories then, and they made pictures that might be modest - The Fallen Idol is a very small story, just a child's view of an adult melodrama - but which were fit for the huge crowds that went to the movie palaces of the 1940s.

Apparently, there are young people who have not heard of Carol Reed and do not know know that in just three years after the war he made three masterpieces in a row, Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. Extraordinary as that moment was for Reed, and those who worked with him, it was a fraction of the story. In the late 1940s, in Britain, we made not just a run of terrific movies - maybe they were the best ones being made anywhere in the world.
Dora Bryan has a wonderful cameo role as a tart with the heart of gold. Yet if you read the review in the Daily Telegraph you would think that Dandy Nicholls played that part. Where do they find these people?

As any fan of the film will tell you, Dandy Nicholls is the comedy charwoman who thinks that "foreigners like a bit of dirt". How dare anyone rob Dora Bryan of her glory? The Telegraph reviewer deserves to be stuck in a lift with Kira Cochrane.

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