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Director: Fergus McDonell
Producer: Donald B. Wilson
Screenplay: Robert Westerby
Additional Dialogue: Bridget Boland
Based on the story 'Young Archimedes'
by: Aldous Huxley
Director of Photography: George Stretton
Editor: Sid Hayers
Art Director: Fred Pusey
Director of Music: Muir Mathieson
Guy Rolfe (John Morell)
Kathleen Byron (Signora Bondini)
Kathleen Ryan (Catherine Morell)
Jeremy Spenser (Guido)
Henry Oscar (Signor Bondini)
John Slater (Dr Lorenzo)
James Robertson Justice
(Sir Arthur Harold)
Rosalie Crutchley (Carlotta)
Hugo Schuster (DrFreihaus)
Robert Rietty (Giuseppe)
Ferdy Mayne (Carlo)
Robin Dowel] (Nick)
Michael Balfour (Lucio)
(leader of orchestra, Albert Hall)
Dora Hyde (leader of orchestra, Naples)
Barry MacGregor *
Production Company: Two Cities Films
Executive Producer: Earl St. John
Production Planner: John Defries
Production Manager: Denis Holt
Assistant Director: Dicky Leeman
2ndAssistant Director: Ted Holliday
3rd Assistant Director: Douglas Hickox
Continuity: Yvonne Axworthy
Assistant Continuity: Barbara Stanton
Casting: Weston Drury Jr *
Transparencies Photographer: Kenneth Danvers
Cameras: Bill Allan, Ray Sturgess
Focus Puller: Alan Hume *
Clapper Loader: Peter Hall
Stills: Harry Gillard *
Transparency Projections: Charles Staffell
Special Effects: Francis Carver
Assembly Editor: John Shirley *
Associate At Director: David Morrison
Set Dresser: Vernon Dickson
Prop Master: Bert Gaiters *
Stage Controller: Geoffrey Woodward
Construction Manager: Percy Snow *
Miss Byron's Gowns: Molyneux et Cie
Wardrobe: M. Berman
Women's Wardrobe: Dorothy Edwards
Men's Wardrobe: Bob Raynor
Make-up: George Blackler
Hairdresser: Biddy Chrystal
Music Played by:
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Leader:
Music Performer on Soundtrack:
Orchestra of the San Carlo Theatre Naples
Assistant [Director of Music]: Marcus Dods
Music Recorder: Ted Drake
Sound: Reg Barnes Heath, Gordon McCallum
Sound Camera Operator: H. Rowland *
Sound Maintenance: Fred Hughesdon
Boom Operator: Jack Locke *
Assistant Boom Operator: E.G. Daniels
Dubbing Editor: Winston Ryder
Publicity: Ken Green *
Unit Publicist: Anna Matthews
United Kingdom 1950© 88 mins
Close-up: Kathleen Byron
Prelude to Fame
SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.
The film is based on a story by Aldous Huxley called Young Archimedes . It is about a small boy, an Italian farmer's son, who turns out to be a musical prodigy. But for that light chance that touches off the direction of an artist from his earliest years, he might have been a poet. He is not a creator, but an interpreter. His ear picks out the concert of everyday sounds, and correlates the beat of a passing train with the rhythmic crowing of cocks and the whisper of wind in the grass. There is nothing fancy about this idea. Test it for yourself. Sit quite still for a moment, and listen. You will find the inner ear is filled with layer upon layer of sound. I am writing, for instance, beside a gas stove in a room with a wide open window. I can hear, at one and the same time, the faint hiss of gas, the bark of a dog, the mad song of innumerable birds, the distant drone of an aeroplane, a man crying rag-and-bones, a motor-car changing gear: my subconscious mind is bothered with a half-remembered tune, and my conscious mind is trying to compose words into some sort of dominant theme. By nature, we are all living in the heart of a vast orchestral score. But only a few of us, by special gift or training, can hope to make musical order out of it.
The small hero of Prelude to Fame has this natural gift. Rich patrons give him the training to develop it. He becomes the most celebrated child conductor in the world, but suddenly the strain gets too much for him, and he wants either to kill himself or go home. He goes home, leaving the nastiest of his rich patrons fulminating.
The child and the music are the main things, and in all that concerns them I cannot find a fault. A small boy called Jeremy Spenser plays the musical prodigy and manages to be wholly convincing without being in any way a blot. All children are natural mimics, but it is an unusually talented or receptive child who can simulate an intellectual passion. This child does just that. It is highly improbable that Jeremy Spenser could actually conduct the Royal Philharmonic or the San Carlo Theatre Orchestra with success. The impression of the film is that he could and that is all that matters.
Muir Mathieson, the best man of music that British films have permanently employed, makes sure that the musical basis is sound. It is very clear indeed that the score of Prelude to Fame has been built up, deliberately, by a man who knows what's what. He doesn't believe in the fiction of musical groundings. He doesn't kow-tow to the foibles of musical highbrows. He contrives his film music-plot, from Neapolitan love-songs to Weber to Bach to Beethoven to Borodin, with a truly magnificent sense of drama. His best job, and the picture's is to grant a good orchestra the courtesy of allowing them to play the 'Oberon' overture without interruption. This passage of Prelude to Fame, wonderfully cut, beautifully played, with the child conducting in an apparent glory of possession, is so right that I should like to see it carved out of the heart of an inconspicuous picture and kept for posterity.
C.A. Lejeune, The Observer, 7 May 1950
Director: Peter Todd
Production Company: Peter Todd
Producer: Peter Todd
Script: Peter Todd
Photography: Roger Schindier
Editor: Anthea Kennedy
Sound: Francis Baker
United Kingdom 1990
'Words are the thread I hold on to you by'. The phrase is repeated in turn by the women in Peter Todd's Out, each of them re-enacting the experience of some kind of personal loss. In this thoughtful and beautifully observed short film, the same monologue is spoken by three different actresses in three different situations, the interpretation and hence the meaning changing in each case.
Circumstances are never directly referred to but become clearer as each interpretation progresses. The words of Kathleen Byron, for example, evoke the anger, incomprehension and loneliness of the recently bereaved and fall movingly into the empty silence of what must have been a comfortably shared home; Maggie Steed, on the other hand, is discovered overwhelmed by ironing and traffic in her inner city flat. Here there is no anger, more a sense of weariness and a feeling that perhaps the failure of the relationship was outside her control. 1 Wait, I'm not ready', is spoken with a quiet desperation, and the camera pans around the flat, coming to rest on artefacts and shared memories, while the sound of traffic rises to a crescendo.
Dona Croll, initially, glimpsed crouching on the floor, suggests more a woman in control. Fighting back from behind her desk (a typewriter is heard in the background), her clear, business-like enunciation seems to be trying to influence events and hold back the tide. Does the male figure seen almost subliminally in a doorway suggest a reconciliation, or is life just going on as before?
The film yields other incidental pleasures, not least being the return of Kathleen Byron to the screen after some years. But what is fascinating is to discover the extent to which our understanding of words is challenged not just b), the way in which they are spoken, but also our perception of the speaker and situation, and although we are affected by the shared sense of loss expressed by the monologue, the film in fact presents a moving testimony to the inadequacy of words alone as the thread by which we hold on to each other.
Robert Phillips, Glasgow Film Theatre Programme, March 1993
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London SE1 8XT
Box Office 0171 928 3232
Programme notes and credits compiled by Filmographic Services, bfi National Library.
Notes may be edited or abridged. Questions / comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org