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Anthony Asquith and his films


konway87
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Hi Everyone,

What do you think about Anthony Asquith and his films? I think he is very underrated. David Lean praised Anthony Asquith like this "A hell of a good director."

 

I have seen two of Asquith's films - The Browning Version (1951) and The Winslow Boy (1948). I consider both of them as great films. Unfortunately, they are less known. Terrence Rattigan wrote the screenplay for both films. The Browning Version (1951) is a film with no music except beginning credits and end credits. This is very much like Hitchcock's film Lifeboat, Rope (with the exception of the scene Farley Granger plays the piano and the music from the radio), and The Birds.

 

Anthony Asquith also directed other films like The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), French without Tears (1940), The Way to the Stars (1945), the 1938 film Pygmalion (codirector), and silent films like Shooting Stars (1927) and A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929). David Lean worked as an editor on Asquith's film "French without Tears."

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> {quote:title=konway87 wrote:}{quote} What do you think about Anthony Asquith and his films? I think he is very underrated. David Lean praised Anthony Asquith like this "A hell of a good director."

 

In my opinion, he's a fine director. A COTTAGE ON DARTHMOOR is one of my favorite suspense films and I think it can stand up against any film Hitchcock made in that period. You're correct though, Asquith is very underrated, but only on this side of the Atlantic. He's very highly regarded and well respected in the UK. If you want to discuss him with folks over there, there's an excellent online forum site [britmovie.co.uk] which I'm sure you'll enjoy.

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It might be that Asquith was instrumental in establishing David Lean?s career or at least influenced it to a good degree; as well as many others in Britian. Certainly, Asquith must be considered one of the finest British directors of his generation; as a filmmaker, he covered every aspect of the business! The only perplexing problem is that Asquith?s output was limited and not so prolific, when compared to other noted directors of his time working in England. There was this complicated aspect to dividing his career between documentaries and feature films that were mostly adaptations from the stage and literature. Asquith was sometimes accused of being more on the overly converse side to high drama, usually having a vast amount of autocratic dialog; this comes about with his films after the Second World War that although were admired, didn?t exactly become such big box-office hits on our side of the Atlantic. Asquith would for most of his international career as a noted British filmmaker have a limited audience outside of his native England.

 

The big and important turning point for him probably came in 1951 with ?The Browning Version.? This film was certainly critically acclaimed in America. But, again the box-office response was never impressive enough in the U.S. to give Asquith enough clout to acquire a wider audience or interest in the various films he made throughout the early 1950s. It wouldn?t be until the end of the decade that Asquith?s directorial career began to pick up some international momentum with first the romantic drama, ?The Doctor?s Dilemma,? ?Libel? and ?The Millionairess.? His last big ditch effort for any final international recognition came with the 1963 all-star cast drama, ?The V.I.P.?s.? This film, partially funded by MGM and a joint international venture was in technical terms considered a success; probably due to the casting of then superstar Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Richard Burton. But, Asquith sort of failed to size the moment and went back to working on documentaries. Talk was that he hated the way the film industry as a whole was run, in terms of a lack towards sophisticated thinking. He came to feel that the motion picture business relied too much on silly hype and a vast amount of commercialism.

 

His last film of any importance was another all-star cast venture from MGM, ?The Yellow Rolls-Royce? of 1964. This was a pretty good spectacular on both a dramatic and cinematic way of thinking. Some critics felt, it now appeared as if Asquith was sinking into this realm of commercial filmmaking, while trying to stay somewhat fixed towards his cultured nature of presenting motion pictures that were of a high caliber of thinking. His was always a hit and miss issue with the major films he made. He will probably be best remembered on a high profile of thought for three films: ?Pygmalion,? ?The Importance of Being Earnest? and ?The Browning Version.? Asquith will likely remain trapped and focused within this atmosphere of classical dramatic idealism surrounding his motion picture career. He surely had a skill at creating films that could rival the best dramatically produced plays of the ?live? stage. This I think adds something special to his legacy. In cinematic terms, he really wasn?t a great filmmaker, but a director who at times could present a very highly polished sort of wordy film that beautifully amplified the spoken word as well as tremendous, intense dramatic content. Asquith died in 1968 and in his native England, remembered as the son of H. H. Asquith, Britain?s Liberal prime minister from 1908 to 1916. He was a close and trusted friend to such literary giants as H.G. Wells, Julian Huxley and of course, the mighty George Bernard Shaw. He was on all counts an interesting and fascinating pioneer to the British film industry.

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SPOILERS

 

What do you think about The Winslow Boy? I think that The Winslow Boy (1948) is a great film. I thought the scenes where Donat was rapidly cross examining the boy was absolutely brilliant. I thought Robert Donat was great in The Winslow Boy (1948). I believe Hitchcock casted Margaret Leighton and Jack Watling in Under Capricorn after watching them in The Winslow Boy.

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> {quote:title=markfp2 wrote:}{quote}

> In my opinion, he's a fine director. A COTTAGE ON DARTHMOOR is one of my favorite suspense films and I think it can stand up against any film Hitchcock made in that period.

 

You've been watching too many STAR WARS movies; the film's A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR (Dartmoor being an area of moors of about 360 square miles in the English county of Devon. It's particularly famous for the great, forbidding prison built there in the early 19th century).

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> konway87 wrote:

> SPOILERS

>

> What do you think about The Winslow Boy?

 

This is an interesting question, since the story that was originally a successful stage play was actually based on a real, historical event. The story was unsuccessfully remade by David Manet in 1998; this version has since simply faded away. The 1948 version by Asquith, will remain the definitive version. Not much these days is made of the original play by Terence Rattigan, who later adapted the screenplay for Asquith. The important point that Asquith?s version has is that his father was in the government during the time of this actual event. Asquith had first hand knowledge on this subject that while he didn?t write the script, he certainly must have added something to the project on what he knew. The 1998 remake wasn?t all that bad, but unlike the original 1948 version had by now become somewhat dated or out of fashion, despite the wonderful performance by Nigel Hawthorne, who was still fresh from his big international triumph in ?The Madness of King George.? Since the 1998 version has been practically forgotten, Asquith?s version will remain the one most film buffs and fans will look upon. The whole remarkable way Asquith related to the real story is what is so fascinating about the motion picture. The film was released the same year of David Lean?s even bigger success, ?Oliver Twist.? ?The Winslow Boy? is certainly a movie that warrants good and serious attention and must be considered one of the finest films of its era.

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MovieProfessor, thank you for an enlightening and beautifully written account of Anthony Asquith. You really do live up to your name. I especially l liked the way you put Asquith's preference for drama:

 

*"In cinematic terms, he really wasn?t a great filmmaker, but a director who at times could present a very highly polished sort of wordy film that beautifully amplified the spoken word as well as tremendous, intense dramatic content. "* That's it, so many of his films were based on plays. He liked to turn plays into films.

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a little thread about Mother's Day and the films our mother liked. I don't know how I could have forgotten Mr. Asquith. My mother absolutely loves Asquith's version of The Importance of Being Earnest, and one of her favourite films of all time is The Browning Version .

 

I guess it's a question of rights again, but I do wish Turner Classic Movies would try to show more British films. (yes, I know they have had British film festivals etc., but it's a rarity when they do.)

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> I guess it's a question of rights again, but I do wish Turner Classic Movies would try to show more British films. (yes, I know they have had British film festivals etc., but it's a rarity when they do.)

 

Same here - though I think they have shown quite a few of Asquith's best-known movies over the years. I seem to remember especially Pygmalion and The Yellow Rolls-Royce being shown regularly, maybe also The Winslow Boy but I'm not so sure about that one.

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A Great Post, MovieProfessor. I also read on Imdb that Asquith is also called an actor's director.

We see such great performances from everyone from The Browning Version and The Winslow Boy. I heard that Michael Denison was brilliant in The Importance of Being Earnest. I haven't seen it. But I will see it soon. What do you think about it?

 

What is so great about The Browning Version is that there is not even a single note of music (except for the song at Church) throughout the movie. And it still brilliantly grabs the attention of the audience.

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If you haven't seen THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, you're in for a treat. Edith Evans is sublime. You'll cherish the way she says, "In a handbag??" So is Joan Greenwood, with that delicious low voice of hers. The tragic spin she gives to the line, "I asked for bread and butter, and you have given me cake" is priceless.

 

THE BROWNING VERSION is simply a great film. Based on a play, yet completely satisfying as a movie. Movieprofessor mentioned THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA, another Shaw play, which fans of Dirk Bogarde and Robert Morley won't want to miss. Leslie Caron is fine, too.

 

Konway, thanks for starting this thread, and Movieprofessor, thanks for another great post. Seems that quite a few of us would be willing to check out more of Asquith's films. His nickname, by the way, was Puffin.

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> konway87 wrote:

> I also read on Imdb that Asquith is also called an actor's director.

> We see such great performances from everyone from The Browning Version and The Winslow Boy. I heard that Michael Denison was brilliant in The Importance of Being Earnest. I haven't seen it. But I will see it soon. What do you think about it?

 

 

 

?The Importance of Being Earnest.? Once again, in 1952 Asquith stuck gold with what is often considered the definitive film version of the Oscar Wilde play; the other gold strike was obviously Asquith?s work with George Bernard Shaw for ?Pygmalion.? The great Michael Redgrave was fresh from his work with Asquith in ?The Browning Version? the previous year. Both the noted actor and director were on an artistic roll with two successive hit films on their hands. The Oscar Wilde comedy was actually quite a reasonable box-office success in the U.S. There has never been any doubt that the film expended upon the witty lighter than air, devil may care style and manner of rendering what was essentially an expanded version of the stage play. Asquith solely adapted the entire script, allowing just about everything Wilde had written remain intact and without much in the way of revisions or changes to suit the contemporary mood of the day. It was amazing how this film seems to capture (by way of the script) the whole aura and soul of the late 19th Century; it?s almost as if you?re watching an old antiquated painting come to life! I disagree with those who say this was nothing more than a piece of filmed theater. While some scholars, critics and film fans might feel the whole situation is dated and out of fashion, the film succeeds to be interesting, simply because the characters themselves are easily connected to or identified with in any category or time frame! So, don?t be misled by comments that Asquith?s film is too stuffy or parlor room boredom. This is an adaptation of a classic literary work for the motion picture that stays strongly devoted to its original content.

 

Without any question, this was one of Dane Edith Evans most cherished and honored performances of her illustrious career. She is absolutely outstanding and nearly steals the movie in every scene she is in! Wonderful and loveable Margaret Rutherford also has some grand moments in the film. Michael Denison as the romantic lead is one of these British film stars that never had much exposure outside of his native land. Denison will probably be more or less remembered for his role in this Oscar Wilde comedy than any other film he appeared in and his film work is actually rather sparse. His great rival at the time was actor Dennis Price, who had a more noted career and unlike Denison, managed to have some degree of international exposure. The problem for numerous British actors getting discovered on a wider basis to American audiences was not acquiring something of a break through film that could somehow reach enough notoriety. Even when an unknown British actor might get some coverage in the entertainment news, most films from Britain had a limited run or showings in the U.S. So, if you didn?t live in a large metropolitan city, the chances were not good to see a film like those of Asquith.

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>konway87 wrote:

> Has anyone seen Asquith's film The Way to the Stars?

 

?THE WAY TO THE STARS.? Well, this was another script written by Terence Rattigan of ?The Browning Version.? It was originally a play Rattigan had written entitled, ?Flare Path,? based around his own experiences as a pilot during the war. After the film was released, there was an alternate title, ?Johnny in the Clouds.? At least in Britain, the original title has stuck with fans and critics. The film was released at around the time the Second World War was nearly over. There has always been something of a technical ploy surrounding the way Asquith shot this film. Once again, Asquith turned towards a more ?live? theatrical atmosphere that was somewhat reminiscent to the original play. Most fans never notice that despite the movie focusing around the 8th USA Air Force taking over an RAF airdrome, there is never any sort of direct aerial association of the main characters of the story piloting planes! All the main characters are grounded. All you ever see are quick shots of squadrons of planes in the background. It becomes all too apparent that Rattigan was centering the script on an essential character study of the principal roles. Most notable are Michael Redgrave (Asquith?s favorite grand actor!), John Millis and Douglass Montgomery. Actress Rosamund John, probably not so well known in the U.S., gave a terrific performance, holding her own up against the various mighty and popular British male stars that were showcased throughout the movie! John was one of these wonderful Brits who had a respectable career in her native land, but was never able to make the transition towards an international standing. I was rather impressed years ago when I heard Deborah Kerr once comment, she was influenced by Rosamund John and was a fan. John was like Kerr, mostly seen in movies as a redhead.

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konway87 wrote:

 

*What is so great about The Browning Version is that there is not even a single note of music (except for the song at Church) throughout the movie*

 

I could be wrong about this, it's a long time since I saw The Browning Version , but it seems to me at the end of the film you hear Beethoven's Egmont Overture. It's a most inspiring, even triumphant piece of music. Can anyone tell me if I'm right about this?

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> {quote:title=Mogul-o-maniac wrote:}{quote} You've been watching too many STAR WARS movies; the film's A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR

 

May the force be with you for pointing out that typo. Thank you. I've always wanted to see Dartmoor, but haven't gotten there yet.

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This is driving me crazy: I know at the end of Anthony Asquith's The Browning Version

-the very end, just before the credits -some music is played, very noble sounding music. I know it's by Beethoven, but I can't identify it. Google and Youtube were useless.

 

Can anybody out there, Asquith fans, classical music fans, tell me what that Beethoven piece is?

 

Edited by: misswonderly on May 24, 2010 3:00 PM

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Thank you, konway87. I feel I should have known this, as I like to think that I am not unfamiliar with Beethoven's symphonies. Especially the 5th, which is so famous! Ah, well, a humbling experience,

I need to brush up on my classical music listening.

 

Thanks again.

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