TOA/V: The Ealing Comedies

Available on iPlayer* for a while and just over an hour long, The Ealing Comedies (1970) offers a vintage look at the singular success of the tiny studio that could. If you are not a fan of these films, I probably don’t have much to say to you, as they are some of the most delightful bits of celluloid in existence.

Creative folks wondering how to find their way in a culture that rewards the already famous and familiar might also find here a wealth of lessons on how to carve out success with very little — applicable to small presses as well as indie filmmakers and others. Lessons to be learned from this small studio:

Take the lack of capital as a challenge to creativity, i.e. what can you make from what you have?

Multi-skilled people thrive in this kind of environment. What are your skills?

Collegiality is a must. Do you play well with others? Also, as Diana Morgan demonstrates, breaking glass ceilings takes persistence and smarts and sometimes just being the best.

Wishes can be fodder for plans. Example: Henry Cornelius wished for a film that showed a bunch of boys taking over London for a day. Visualising that image, he had to figure out what made it happen: cue Hue & Cry, the first of the Ealing comedies that made use of the wreckage around St. Paul’s.

Don’t disdain a small role: Jack Warden’s first role as a copper ended 20 minutes into the film — but it led to a long string of parts.

Fit yourself to the part available: Ealing had no stars at first, roles were written and actors made them their own.

There are a lot of impossibles: find what is just possible.

Whisky.

The best quote perhaps from Charles Crichton: The comic should not neglect the poetic (alas, most comedies at present do).

See it for yourself and then go watch some of those wonderful films. And be sure to check out the other neglected works at Todd’s blog.

*Non-UK folk may want to get a location masking app like Tunnel Bear to watch things from iPlayer.

TOA/V: Burn, Witch, Burn!

BURN, WITCH, BURN (AKA Night of the Eagle) 1961
Directed by Sidney Hayers
Screenplay by Charles Beaumont/Richard Matheson/George Baxt
Based on Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon

This is a fairly good adaptation of Leiber’s Conjure Wife (a brilliant little novel if you’ve not read it), dramatically retitled for American release complete with exclamation point. Snooty psychology professor studies superstitious beliefs with condescending rationality — until he discovers that his wife Tansy has been working magic to build his career. Well, if there’s one thing a guy like him hates more than magic, it’s the idea that his wife might be responsible for his success.

So he makes her burn all her workings and talismans and what do you know? Things start going badly for them both. Seems there’s a rival whose wife also uses magic…

This is a fun film that didn’t get near enough attention on its release (or since really). I love the mixture of academia and magic — obviously one of the things in the cauldron of my mind that helped conjure Satan’s Sorority.

See all the overlooked gems at Todd’s blog.