Saturday, 16 May 2015

Autumn Crocus (1934)
Ivor Novello & Fay Compton
When I sat down to watch this film I recall that I uttered the words 'Oh no, 80 minutes on Ivor Novello in a Tyrolean Inn'. Now, having watched it I feel slightly differently about the film: 'Hmm, 80 minutes of Ivor Novello in a Tyrolean Inn. Oh well, at least I witnessed Jack Hawkins wearing lederhosen'.
Diana Beaumont and Jack Hawkins
This is one of those early offering from Network DVD's 'Ealing Rarities' series, covering the period when Ealing Studios was simply a physical location rather than a brand. When, under the guiding hand of Basil Dean, the studios was home to Associated Talking Pictures.
Autumn Crocus was based on a long-running stage play by Dodie Smith (author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians) which had been produced by Basil Dean. As noted in Network DVD's publicity for the DVD release, it was "a kind of forerunner to 'Shirley Valentine' as the story of an Englishwoman finding holiday romance in Europe." That's as may be, but I didn't like Shirley Valentine and certainly struggled to find anything of interest here either.
My immediate hurdle was that, for the modern viewer, Ivor Novello is very difficult to believe as a romantic lead. He may not have been viewed as camp by audiences in 1934 but, in 2015, he really isn't convincing as an Austrian hotelier who falls in love with a British schoolteacher on holiday (Fay Compton).
Ivor Novello

Fay Compton
The choice of Compton was a good one, she is the right age to be convincing as a sexually and romantically frustrated schoolteacher who realises that she missed the opportunity to fall in love. That she lives and works with another woman who appears to be somewhat butch (Esme Church), can hardly be helping her chances:
Esme Church, Ivor Novello and Fay Compton.
Far more interesting is the subplot concerning young unmarried British couple (Diana Beaumont and Jack Hawkins) who are staying in Novello's hotel. They are unconventional, something we realise as soon as we see the clothes Hawkins wears: belted Tweed jacket and lederhosen:
Diana Beaumont and Jack Hawkins

Their unmarried status is revealed in Beaumont's words about a fellow guest who openly disapproves of their behaviour: "She makes me feel like a chorus girl instead of a respectable woman living in freedom."
The unconventional lifestyle is compounded when we see them together in the room one morning whilst Beaumont is still getting dressed:
Diana Beaumont and Jack Hawkins
This subplot provides a gently comic atmosphere that contrasts with the main storyline. Hawking and Beaumont are pitted against George Zucco and Muriel Aked as a British vicar and his spinster sister.
George Zucco

Muriel Aked
The banter between Zucco and Hawkins is lively, especially since Zucco admits he should be admonishing them for their lifestyle. However, he just can't seem to bring himself to do it, despite the open contempt his sister has for them. It's little wonder that Zucco feels this way after all, he's the type of man who combines shorts with tweed jacket, waistcoat and dog-collar and has an interseting choice of holiday reading, as Hawkins rightly points out: "vicars on holiday always read Edgar Wallace."
However, rather than allowing them more screen time, the audience is offered long scenes of Tyrolean scenery and village scenes. Yes, it's nicely shot by assistant director Carol Reed, but it's strictly travelog stuff. Throw in seemingly endless Austrian folk songs and you are even left waiting for Ivor Novello to return and camp it up again ... which of course he does.
Maybe if they'd left out the Austrian travelog material, given the comedy couples more screen times and reduced the running time to one hour it could have been good ... but they didn't!
You have been warned!


  1. Really enjoyed reading it and feel well prepared for watching Autumn Crocus now:)

  2. This sounds very interesting - I like Jack Hawkins and enjoyed seeing Ivor Novello in The Lodger, so would like to see this.