James Mason is back in 1944 as the hissable villain that the British public of the day so much enjoyed, relishing being beastly again to Phyllis Calvert – just as he was in The Man in Grey (1943).
The movie is real grand vintage escapist entertainment, and, thanks to a healthy budget and the spirited playing, probably the most prized of the Gainsborough studio’s famous melodramas. It was banned in the US because it transgressed the Hays Purity Code.
In this story from the novel by Michael Sadleir, Calvert plays Fanny, the illegitimate daughter of a member of the government, while Mason plays the lecherous Lord Manderstroke who is after her. Then there is Stewart Granger as Henry Somerford, the parliamentary secretary of Calvert’s father, who loves her, Jean Kent as her friend, Wilfrid Lawson as the innkeeper she stays with, and John Laurie as her real father, well-respected politician William Hopwood.
It starts with young Fanny boarding school and returning to 1870s London and witnessing the death of the man she thinks is her father in a fight with Manderstoke.
Director Anthony Asquith ensures that there is a film of more substance and quality this time. And Mason has got that twinkle in his eye that looks like a man not taking it too seriously.
Also in the cast are Nora Swinburne, Margaretta Scott, Stuart Lindsell, Cathleen Nesbitt, Helen Haye, Amy Veness, Ann Wilton, Guy Le Feuvre, Ann Stephens, Gloria Sydney, Peter Jones and John Turnbull.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 3943
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