21 JANUARY 1949, Page 14



" Marriage in the Shadow." (Curzon.)---" Whispering City." (New Gallery and Tivoli.)—" My Own True Love." (Carlton.) IT is natural that Germany should be obsessed with her past, and it is right and proper that her persecuted sons should now have their say, yet the tragic story that is being told at the Curzon— a story that should wring the heart with pity—fails in some way that is hard to define to evoke anything but profound depression. It may be that certain artificialities in the text, particularly the finale which is over-dramatised, break the emotional continuity ; and these Are not helped by the production which is as jumpy as a grasshopper. If, however, one is not stabbed with grief, one is made ashamed of being a member of the human race. The film is based on the life of the actor Joachim Gottschalk, who married the Jewish actress Meta Wolff, and we follow them from their engagement to their suicide through all the dangers and privations of a " mixed marriage " to the last cup of poisoned coffee. Paul Klinger and Ilse Steppat play the two main parts, and they play them well, but perhaps more than anything else one is caught and held by the atmosphere of stifled terror—the feverish plotting and planning whether to run away or to stay, the constant threat of deportation, the fear of the unknown step on the stair, the queuing up for ration cards that may be withheld, and always the waiting, waiting, day after day, for inevitable tragedy. What will they do next ? When will it be my turn ? Who will help me ? In a dull- miserable way it is terribly painful to watch the slow mental torture of these tormented prisoners in their unpredictable cage, but it should, I feel, be unbearable.

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Much as I would love to commend a film made in Canada, in all honesty I am compelled to say that Whispering City is by far the most boring film I have seen for years. It is so slow, and the camera lingers so long on the objects of its affection, that at moments I thought it had got stuck. Not only is the telling of this tale, which concerns a young composer, a blackmailing lawyer, a suicidal wife and an inquisitive lady reporter, as volatile as a tortoise with sciatica, but it is also told in the dark and very softly, so that the atmosphere soon becomes charged with soporific influences which are hard to withstand. Miss Mary Anderson, Mr. Paul Lukas and Mr. Helmut Dantine do their utmost to pierce the veil of sleep, but their faint cries, for help probably, do but brush the drowsing consciousness like dreamy echoes.

* * * * My Own True Love on the other hand commands attention. This is a placid reasonable film revolving round a middle-aged man, Mr. Melvyn Douglas, who falls in love with a young A.T.S. girl, Miss Phyllis Calvert, just after the war and whose romance is upset by the return of his long-lost son, Mr. Philip Friend, from a Malayan prison camp. Although the young man inevitably falls in love with Miss Calvert, the film lays more stress on the barrier that divides those who have and those who have not seen war at cruelly close quarters than on the barrier that divides youth from age. Mr. Douglas gives an excellent performance of a man who, in love with a younger girl, is baffled and even shocked by the callous gay way she and her friends joke about their war experiences, about executions and prison camps, etc., and who is equally baffled by the bitter unyielding silence of the son he adores. For him it is a lonely thing to be a normal man. Mr.- Friend is admirable as the boy, and I am becoming more and more reconciled to Miss Calvert who seems, in each successive film, to act better and more often. What I find increasingly attractive about her is that she has a healthy and unnatural distaste for glamour. When she scrubs a floor her face and hair suffer as do the faces and hairs of all mortal women engaged in this labour, and when she wakes up in the morning she does not appear, as do most film stars, to have been transported, in a state of rigor mortis, straight from a beauty parlour to her bed. She is good in this picture, really good.