Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Music Hath Charms (1935)
Warning: This film encourages reckless behaviour!
If I was a Daily Mail journalist, I would be pulling my hair out in fury: Cycling whilst wearing headphones! What a disgrace! You'll be killed and it will be your own fault!
Yes, cycling whilst wearing headphones is dangerous, but back in 1935 the Daily Mail probably had other things to write about (how Oswald Mosley could save Britain and the evils of Communism - but this isn't the place to be discussing that!).
The point is, she wearing headphones because she just can't get enough of the superstars that are Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra!
Henry Hall and Hildegard

It seems strange looking back nearly 80 years, but BBC radio had a power and influence over society that is hard to imagine in this age of immediate access to entertainment from anywhere in the world. However in 1935, the BBC was offering something people couldn't get elsewhere: popular music broadcast straight into their homes. As such, Henry Hall and his band became stars:
Henry Hall
And in the best tradition of the entertainment industry, when someone becomes a star their status needs to be exploited.
In this case, it was decided to take Hall and his band, put them into a film playing some of their most famous numbers and show them off to the world - using an incredibly thin plot to hold the story together. I use the words story and plot in a very loose way. Think Mama Mia or Spiceworld, ridiculous stories that show off the songs of stars. That's what we have here:
The 'story' revolves around the ability of Henry Hall's broadcasts to:
Stop African tribes attacking white settlers ...

... to bring lovers together ...
Billy Milton

Lorna Hubbard
... help stranded mountaineers reach safety ...
Antoinette Cellier & Wallace Douglas
... make judges smile ...
Aubrey Mallalieu
... and make a policeman do some of the most camp dancing I have ever seen on screen:
As an aside, take a look at the picture above. There's something not very 'London' about the buildings. Also the shop in the background has the name 'Antonio' above it. And in this shot ...
... we see 'Sportas Galleries'. This makes me think this scene was filmed on a set that had been built for another film. However, if the shop front above was genuine it must have been one of the most impressive shops in London.
Talking of 1930s style, here's Henry Hall shaving. The mirror is fantastic:
Here's who else to look out for:
W.H. Berry & Gus MacNaughton

Carol Goodner

Edith Sharpe

American singing star Hildegard Loretta Sell

Arthur Margetson

Syd Crossley
Music Hath Charms may not have a complex plot, may not be the world's most exciting and dramatic musical and may not have the best songs you'll ever hear, but it is fun. Simple, light hearted fun. And that's something we all need.
It's currently available on 'British Musicals of the 1930s - Volume 1'

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The House of the Spaniard (1936)
Peter Haddon
This is one of those 1930s British films that it is rather difficult to find something to say about it. The story of an upper class twit (Peter Haddon) who stumbles upon an arms smuggling ring ...
... operated from the home and offices of a Spanish businessman (Allan Jeayes) ...
Allan Jeayes
... who is sending weapons to Spain to be used by a political group he supports.
This obviously has some significance, since the film was released in 1936 just as Spain embarked on its civil war, but the viewer never really gets to grips with which side are supposed to be the good guys. It does appear that Haddon ends up aiding the fascists, simply to win the heart of the Spaniard's daughter (Brigitte Horney):
Brigitte Horney
As a viewer of mid-20th Century British cinema, one of the most interesting things about the film was Peter Haddon and the way he handled his role. As an upper-class twit,  who wins the heart of the girl despite his own foolishness, there is something rather familiar about the portrayal. Well dressed, with a definite eye for the ladies and a carefully preened moustache, Haddon is like a prototype for the characters played by Leslie Phillips throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Peter Haddon
Haddon also wears one of the most stylishly interesting jackets that I have ever seen in British films of the period. During the 1930s the belt-back jacket became a popular fashion item, something which is now a sought after item by collectors of men's vintage clothing. And this example - with its one-button closure, interesting weave, three point scalloped yoke and rear pleats - would certainly find many eager buyers were it to ever appear on E-bay:

Mind you, this suit is also rather eye-catching - but not necessarily in a good way:

Let's have a look at the rest of the cast:
Abraham Sofaer

Fred O'Donovan

Gyles Isham

Jean Galland

Richard Norris & Ivor Barnard

and a rather nice little dog.
The House of the Spaniard is now available on Volume Five of The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection.