Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lease of Life (1954)

Robert Donat
Lease of Life is an example of one of those films which saw Ealing Studios losing its direction during the mid-1950s. The story of troubled vicar (played by Robert Donat) who knows he is dying, yet wishes to conceal the truth from his family, its one saving grace is the way it conjures up the image of the dour, post-war, post-rationing 1950s that was (according to most interpretations of twentieth century British history) washed away by the arrival of Rock 'n Roll. That may be a glib assessment of the period, but the film could be used as the perfect example to support it. The tones are warm but unexciting, the street scenes lack any life and the weather is constantly dull. That the story follows a vicar as he approaches death was never going to drag audiences out of their equally dull homes to pay to watch it. I doubt if many people would bother to watch if it was on television. The fact that I don't recall it showing on TV as I was growing up probably says a lot about it.

This sense of the dull is perfectly shown by Denholm Elliott's outfit: it's a nice tweed suit but the light brown jumper and plain brown tie are just boring.
Denholm Elliott
That it came from the pen of thriller writer Eric Ambler and was direction by Charles Frend, who was at the helm for The Cruel Sea just one year earlier, comes as a surprise. One might have expected a little bit more excitement than the story of the harsh life of a country parson, with no money, no career prospects, no future on earth and possible doubts about the afterlife.
Here's who appears:
 Adrienne Corri:

Denholm Elliott:

Kay Walsh:

Vida Hope:

Walter Fitzgerald:

Richard Wattis:

Lockwood West:

Edie Martin & Jean Anderson:

Frank Atkinson & Reginald Beckwith:

Fred Piper:

Alan Webb:

Beckett Bould:

Russell Waters:
Richard Leech:

One interesting historical detail: the newspaper reminds us of the period that Wolverhampton Wanderers were a genuine force in English football:
Also look out for Robert Donat referring to the fact that he has been reading John Buchan's The 39 Steps which, of course, was the film role Donat was best remembered for.
Currently available as part of Volume 11 of the Ealing Rarities Collection:

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