15 MARCH 1940, Page 17


" The Proud Valley." At the Leicester Square.—" Dead Man's Shoes." At the Regal.

IT is unfortunate for everybody concerned in The Proud Valley that The Stars Look Down preceded it : if that fine film had not set a standard this picture of a Welsh mining village would have seemed a worthy, if rather dim, little pic- ture: one might have been tempted to overpraise it for the sake of a few authentic scenes with a G.P.O. touch—the meeting, for example, of the miners' choir to prepare for the Eistedfodd. No picture of a mining district ever seems to be complete without a disaster (we have two in this picture): the warning syren is becoming as familiar as the pithead gear shot against the sky—and that has joined the Eiffel Tower and the Houses of Parliament among the great platitudes of the screen ; and yet a far worse tragedy in a district like this must be just inaction. This, perhaps, is the theme of the picture—women pretending sickness when the rate collector calls, credit petering out at the general store, but too many red herrings scent the story line beside the disasters: colour prejudice is dragged in for the sake of Mr. Paul Robeson who plays the part of a big black Pollyanna, keeping everybody cheerful and dying nobly at the end (Mr. Robeson's fat senti- mental optimism seemed to me a little revolting); and the theme dies out altogether at the close with patriotic speeches and crisis posters and miners dying for England. The direc- tion of the quiet documentary scenes is good, but Mr. Pen Tennyson, who may have been handicapped by an undis- tinguished cast and a wobbly script, seems ill at ease with drama.

We are getting a lot of retakes these days from the English studios: films are bought from France—not the best ones (these have been forbidden in their own country since the war began), the long shots are cut in to save expense and the script is faithfully copied with hybrid results—the furniture and the faces look wrong and the emotions seem a little odd. Last week Alerte en MeditetTanee was shown as Hell's Cargo, and the theme—international comradeship—was a little altered to meet the political situation. A Russian officer, instead of a German, died nobly beside his English and French comrades of the sea, but history moves too quickly, and it might have been better to make him an Italian. Now Carrefour has been reshot as Dead Man's Shoes: it's about a criminal who lost his memory in the last war and became a great industrialist by mistake, remembering nothing of his past until a black- mailer bobs up to remind him. The English film is very nearly worth seeing for the sake of two fine players who are too seldom seen on the English screen . Mr. Wilfred Lawson as the blackmailer with a commercial background, impudent and pockmarked and tough as hell, and Miss Nancy Price as the ex-criminal's mother who in a scene of quite moving melodrama persuades him that he is not really her son.