18 AUGUST 1939, Page 16


.4 March of Time " and " Shipyard Sally." At the Gaumont. —" Blind Alley." At the London Pavilion.—" There Ain't No Justice." At the Paramount.

THE new March of Time includes a quick summary of screen history which in fifteen minutes gives a better idea of cinema changes (one cannot with confidence talk of advance) than Cochran's rather ignorant and inefficient Flashbacks. True, the Continental cinema is excluded, but here we have selected shots from a range of American pictures beginning with The Great Train Robbery (1903), and ending with All Quiet (1930). We see William S. Hart in The Fugitive as he detects a cheat in a Mexican dive under the starry eyes of his bushy girl ; Theda Bara offers her plump importunate lips to a nervous man with a little revolver in A Fool There Was ; Chaplin and his dicky reel into fame in Tilly's Punctured Romance; here's Valentino in The Four Horsemen, his lustrous almond eyes and his legendary insolence ; Mary Pickford, young, lovely, undated. How little has dated in many of these pictures, except the dresses and the jerky movements! The battle scenes in The Birth of a Nation have never been sur- passed ; Garbo in Flesh and the Devil is far lovelier and more expressive than the gaunt inhibited great actress of today, and from The Big Parade (1926) we have the advance of the American troops through the French wood, the camera wheel- ing and retreating before the bayonets and the anxious faces —one of the finest movements of the screen.

We come heavily to earth in 1939 with Miss Gracie Fields' new film—about a variety singer with an improvident father who saves Clydebank from ruin by forcing her way into the house of an old peer and presenting a petition from the workers ; at the end a large close-up of Miss Fields singing " Land of Hope and Glory " is transposed over the launching of a new liner by the Queen—values are confused : the liner is the background to the face. All Miss Fields' pictures seem designed to show a sympathy for the working-class and an ability to appeal to the best circles: unemployment can always be wiped out by a sentimental song, industrial unrest is calmed by a Victorian ballad, and dividends are made safe for demo- cracy. This picture has the embarrassment of a charade where you don't know the performers well. People shouldn't make fools of themselves before strangers. What is Mr. Sydney Howard doing in this household?

Blind Alley has crept rather silently into the West End. Survive a sticky ten minutes and you have a thriller of quite unusual merit. A killer (Mr. Chester Morris) escapes from gaol, eliminates the warden and arrives with his girl and body- guard at the lakeside house of a university psychiatrist. He expects to be picked up by a motor-boat which doesn't come: he is jittery, shoots down a young student of the professor's who shows fight, tries to sleep. Time passes—a gunman watches from the nursery window among the juvenile junk— the killer tosses in nightmare. One bad dream has haunted him since childhood—a dream of rain dripping through an umbre:la, bars all round ; two fingers of his gun hand are paralysed: he fears insanity. The professor, with the intention of destroying his motive power, offers to rid him of the dream. We watch the neurotic damned-to-violence creature struggle against the analysis. Everything, of course, is simplified and speeded up, but that's legitimate. There's nothing false about the analysis itself, and the camera is magnificently used to express the selected distorted facts of memory as it returns ; the lens is transformed to a child's eye. seeing the hated father sitting far off at the bar-room table, swinging round to the group of police following across the street to the scene of betrayal, the underside of a table, the legs of policemen closing round, while blood drips through a crack. This is the old Ufa touch. The analysis is completed, the police arrive, the killer hesitates, and is shot down. The end, like the beginning, falters, but that doesn't harm the central situation and the superb acting of Mr. Chester Morris, sweating, badgered, disintegrating.

There Ain't No Yustice is intended to be an English tough film, but somebody's nerve failed—and the rather winsome personality of Mr. Jimmy Handley. The etceteras—settings of bar rooms and coffee stalls—are admirable, but the whole pic- ture breathes timidity and refinement. GRAHAM GREENE.