5 DECEMBER 1952, Page 14

CINEMA Folly to be Wise. (Odeon, Marble Arch.)--The Narrow Margin.

(London Pavilion.)—The Road to Bali. (Plaza and Carlton.) FUTURE historians may find it curious that Mr. Alistair Sim should, in this emotional day and age, be Britain's favourite filin-star, topping the polls again and again to the extinction of younger more romantic figures. Possibly it is because his humour is such a subtle weaving of kindliness, humbug and eccentricity that he seems, to a people sated with lush and somewhat enigmatic Americans, the epitome of the typical ancient Briton. He is the savoury after the meringue. He is home after journeyings. He js a relief after Mr. Marian Brando, a rest, a refreshment and a proper caution. In Folly to be Wise, adapted from one of Mr. James Bridie's plays and directed by Mr. Frank Launder, Mr. Sim plays the part of a padre, or rather I should say he is a padre, for there is no word or gesture to betray a different career, so mellow, jovial and diffident is he by turns as he attempts to gather suitable material for a camp-concert. Mr. Bridie serves him royally, seeing to it that he is funny obliquely so to speak, via fluster rather than wit. Unintentionally, and with a complete lack of awareness, he is splendidly absurd, and, as he struggles to keep control of a brains trust which has gone off the rails to an alarming degree, he appeals to our sympathy as much as to our sense of the ridiculous.

The brains-trust sequences are a trifle too long and, of course, as far as the camera is concerned, rigidly confined to a table's length, but, with Messrs. Roland Culver, Miles Malleson, Colin Gordon, Edward Chapman and the Misses Martita Hunt and Elizabeth Allan making fools of themselves witll polished artistry, one gets only a passing sensation of claustrophobia. Miss Janet Brown is charming as the W.R.A.C. who fires the lethal question, " Is marriage a good idea ? '" and Mr. Peter Martyn as the padre's batman adds further to the film's humorous refinements. But it is Mr. Sim's benefit match, and he bats from first to last in faultless style and never drops a single catch, bless him. • No week, of course, goes by without its ration of violence, and in The Narrow Margin we have a very taut and well-directed train- melodrama, with Mr. Charles McGraw as a police officer who is trying his best to escort a star witness from Chicago to Los Angeles without getting her bumped off. You might suppose that the simplest way would be to lock her in a compartment and keep her there ; but you would be wrong. Implausible as this film appears to the backward glance, at the time it seems perfectly sensible and extremely exciting, well acted by Mr. McGraw, Miss Marie Windsor and Miss Jacqueline White, and built up by a series of tensions into a pleasantly nerve-wracking experience by Mr. Richard Fleischer. In the same programme is A Girl in Every Port starring Mr. Groucho Marx, a picture I have not had the opportunity of seeing.

It is with genuine grief that I feel obliged to report adversely on the latest Crosby-Hope-Lamour frolic. Though the ingredients for a series of souffles are at hand, the mysterious East, magic, deep- sea diving with an octopus, gorillas and girls, all potential sources of delight, the souffles recurrently turn into remarkably stodgy pancakes, a lot of which are frankly inedible. The Road to Bali has definitely taken the wrong turning, and along the way reveals little that is not obvious, little that cannot be foreseen a mile off. True, there are a half-dozen happy wisecracks, and Mr. Hope lying under a train being fed by Mr. Crosby from the restaurant-car with doughnuts on the end of a stick is a thing of joy, but these precious moments are linked bY yards of not very funny material stretched to breaking-point. Even the songs seem to be trying too hard. This is grave news, and I as much as anyone am a despairing mourner. VIRGINIA GRAHAM.