2 JUNE 1961, Page 22


Confusion of Interests

By ISABEL QUIGLY Macbeth. (Academy.) — The Secret Partner. (Ritz.) George Schaefer's Macbeth ('U' certificate), made for American television with a partly British cast, doesn't face any of these problems; it just goes ahead photographing performances and falling between all possible stools—between

stage and screen and above all between various sorts of realism. The only possible interest such a film could have (since it seems not to have con- sidered itself as a film at all) would be in its per- formances, in the way that they pickle away any snippets of Duce on film, whatever the film is like, or hoard any gramophone records, however cracked, that have Bernhardt's voice on them. But the main performances here (Maurice Evans, Judith Anderson) are so festooned with tricks from the old acting cupboard that the screen fairly reeks of mothballs. Only Michael Hordern as Banquo, Ian Bannen as Macduff, and Felix Aylmer, impeccable as ever, turning up now and then, make it worth a visit on the score of per- formance.

But even with three good actors, three weighty enough personalities, there is no serious co- ordination of mood and acting. The director seems uncertain when to play for what sort of feeling, and above all just what to do with the poetry. Time and again the visual ordinariness and generally flat-footed direction keep bumping up against some set piece which seems out of place, an excrescence: a literary and rather embarrassing bit of decoration to be disposed of briskly, or else (at the other end of the scale

in this curiously seesaw production) something to be given the works in the hammiest traditions of breast-clutching, eye-rolling and e-nun-ci-a-tion. It depresses me to hear it recommended for schools, as if anything that fails for adults is perfectly all right for children, and wasn't, in fact, just the opposite, for performances can roll right off one's adult soul which in childhood convince and stay with one right on into adult life.

One of the great things about the cinema (this is so obvious that I shuffle my feet in saying it) is visual metaphor; that is, the way things link up visually with other things, expanding, as metaphor does in language and thought, one's awareness of them. Having said this I feel embar- rassed again to say it in connection with a fairly unimportant film, in the context of which it may seem not merely platitudinous but inflated. But after seeing Basil Dearden's The Secret Partner ('A' certificate) I don't think I shall ever be able to look at a hand in a leather glove without remembering the gloved hand which kept appear- ing and looking so much like skin that it sent one of those proper shivers through me, a real physical response: a hand darker than skin, gleaming as if bloodstained. This is just one clever moment in a film with a good many. a British thriller with individuality, pace and sur- prises. It includes Bernard Lee as the policeman, Stewart Granger and Haya Haraheet (heroine of Ben-Hur), and the only criminal change of heart I've ever watched on a film and believed in.