Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Clouded Yellow

Made in 1950, The Clouded Yellow is two films in one. Partly it is a Freudian drama involving music, with echoes of The Dream of Olwen or The Seventh Veil. Jean Simmons plays Sophie, the troubled daughter of a musical family whose mental problems are clearly being deliberately worsened by her relations. Sonia Dresdel (Mrs Baines in The Fallen Idol) is a welcome presence in these scenes.

And, more prominently, it is a spy thriller after the style of John Buchan. Trevor Howard plays a disgraced spy who joins the household and goes on the run with Sophie when she is wrongly suspected of murder.

It is an uneasy combination and Noir of the Week is a little kind to count it as a film noir at all. Fellow Lib Dem Mark Pack is another blogger to have written about Clouded Yellow.

One of the pleasures of Buchan's Richard Hannay adventures is the very British locations in which they take place. I remember one car chase where the villains are shaken off in the upper Tyne Valley.

But in Clouded Yellow the landscapes in which the action is played out are urban: notably Newcastle and Liverpool. Which is why the film is a gem for transport enthusiasts. There are trolley buses waiting outside Newcastle Central station and in Liverpool there is wonderful footage of the Liverpool Overhead Railway and of the docks line that ran beneath it at ground level.

Towards the end of the film Howard intends to sail from Liverpool with Simmons (by then his love interest) disguised as a boy. Perhaps he was inspired by Dr Crippen? The film ends with Simmons being menaced and then rescued amid a striking industrial cityscape.

I have issues with Kenneth More, but in this early role his bumptiousness is well used. He plays a secret service enforcer who disguises himself as an amiable upper-class wastrel.

There is also an interesting cinematic parallel. These Liverpool locations saw a real boy being menaced at much the same time - it is a wonder that the two film crews did not collide.

In The Magnet, a minor Ealing Comedy, William Fox played a small boy in peril in the city. Today, more than 60 years later, as James Fox - father of Laurence Fox and father-in-law of Billie Piper and Richard Ayoade - he is still acting.


Mark Pack said...

Curiously, I was thinking about this film just earlier in the week!

callmemadam said...

I've never seen this. Kenneth More as Douglas Bader: you want to smack him. Nor do I like him as Hannay. Probably Genevieve was his finest hour.

Frank Little said...

"The Magnet" was set in Wallasey, over the other side of the Mersey from Liverpool.

Jonathan Calder said...

But the climax takes place over the river in Liverpool.