Two in One
The World of Henry Orient. (Odeon,Leicester
Square, 'A' certificate). SELLERS'S virtuosity is one of the facts of film-making and it would come as no surprise to find him play- ing the Hatter, the Mock Turtle, the Cheshire Cat and Alice all at once. Nationally, even racially, he is interchangeable; and the ageless, unplaceable, passionless face can adapt itself to any atmosphere or occasion, any hat, hairstyle or moustache: from farce to pathos, from high to lowbrow, from genius to idiocy, from anything to everything. But one thing he cannot convincingly be, and that is the object of romantic passion. It isn't so much that you don't believe him capable of fluttering any hearts, as that everything about him, style and temperament and the bland chameleon per- sonality, is anti-romantic. Put him in a romantic situation and the film falls apart.
The World of Henry Orient (director: George Roy Hill) falls neatly into two: one side is a slight and occasionally (with Sellers around, in- evitably) funny comedy involving Sellers as a lady-killing smoothie who wears a hair-net in bed and has somehow managed, in spite of his busy life as an amorist, to get as far as Carnegie Hall as a pianist; the other is a socio-sentimental piece in a completely different key, about a poor little rich girl who needs someone to love so badly she fastens on Sellers. The plot makes the
two stories, and so the two styles, occasionally overlap—disastrously. So we have Sellers wooing Angela Lansbury,in a few moments of glorious high farce by telling her she's perfect Renoir, 'all golden'; and then the- 'real,' quite unfarcical moment when her young daughter sees them to- gether, obviously lovers at their first meeting. Or we have lots of schoolgirl clowning and lumps- in-throat and leapfrog over rubbish-bins in a mink coat on the one hand, and on the other a parallel and wholly heartless tale about Sellers's pursuit of a woman who's convinced her hus- band, even when he's fifty miles away playing golf, must be peeping round the corner. Funny much of the time, on both sides; but not funny
together, or the same way, and not at all funny when one side comments on the other.
What makes the film about ten times better than it sounds is its cast. I never expected to see Sellers acted off the screen, and by a pair Of unknown fourteen-year-olds at that; but he its and it's they who carry the film—at least Its socio-sentimental two-thirds. I suppose there are few harder things to try playing in public than schoolgirls of fourteen, as Shirley Temple proved; but Tippy Walker, a teenage version of Ingrid Bergman and almost too handsome for prettiness, and Merrie Spaeth, the best 'nice girl' to come along for ages, get away with it. It all goes 00 too long, there's a joke about Chinamen that's
plugged to screaming point, and the ending s rather too predictably cosy to escape being called corny. But the two girls, Sellers as a sort of bonus, and the absolute and uncompromising Angela Lansbury, memorable whatever she's tIP to, make it much more than it might have been-