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Submitted by Mark Fuller

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

By C.A. Lejeune

From: The Observer
13 June 1943

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Odeon), by which, we are solemnly assured in an advertisement, "All entertainment, past, present and future, will be judged", doesn't really deserve such a tough ordeal. It isn't as mediocre as all that. In fact, compared with most of the entertainment we get to-day, its standard is remarkably high. From the craftsman's point of view, it is a crisp, clean, workmanlike job. The dialogue is sensible; the Technicolor is unobtrusive; there are moments of acute imaginative perception; and the acting by Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook and Deborah Kerr is good. You may not like it, but you must respect it as a work of quality.

     "Blimp's" worst fault - apart from its title and its length, which is two-and-three-quarter hours and quite absurd - is an unclarity of purpose. It is a handsome piece. It is frequently a moving piece. But what is it about? Oh, I know what it is ostensibly about. During a Home Guard exercise a zealous young N.C.O., anticipating the scheduled war by six hours, captures the opposing brigadier in his Turkish bath. He insults the brigadier, his stomach, and his moustache. The brigadier promptly replies by pushing him into the swimming-pool. During the time they spend under water (2 1/2 hours) the brigadier's life story is recalled. You see him as a young V.C., a Guards officer of the 90's. You see his impetuous journey to Berlin, to scotch rumours of British atrocities against the Boers. You see him duel with a young Uhlan officer, who wins his sweetheart but becomes his friend. You see their friendship broken and restored after the first World War. You see it renewed in the present war, when the Uhlan is a fugitive from the Nazi regime and the brigadier is retired for his reactionary views. You see the old man widowed, bombed out, and left alone, save for his M.T.C driver and his Uhlan friend; he makes, it is true, the cover of "Picture Post", but his B.B.C. Postscript is cancelled in favour of Mr. Priestley.

     As the story of a forty years friendship, as the case history of two men who love the same feminine type wherever she appears (for Miss Deborah Kerr trebles the parts of the M.T.C. driver, Mr Walbrook's and Mr Livesey's wife), Blimp is clean-cut, sympathetic and true. But what is it really about? Don't tell me this colossal, considered affair is just a lovely romance. The enormous care taken with the film indicates that it has something much bigger to say. Three theories present themselves. Blimp indicates (a) that dear old sentimental Britain will always muddle through: (b) that an

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sensibly combined. "A" has nothing to support it except Roger Livesey's winning acting. "B" seems to have the script on its side. "C" is my own idea, and I'm still all for "C". But A,B,C or X,Y,Z, clarity is surely the thing. "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" will have to profess itself much more openly before it becomes a measuring stick for Shakespeare.

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