Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Review by Jack Karr
Toronto Star, November 27, 1945
"COLONEL BLIMP" - United Artists release of a G.C.F. production, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and presented at the Avenue, Century and Hollywood theatres.
Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorfff ... ... Anton Walbrook Edith Hunter \ Barbara Wayne (sic) | ... Deborah Kerr Johnny Cannon / Clive Candy ... ... Roger Livesey Frau von Kalteneck ... ... Isabel Jeans (sic) President of Tribunal ... ... A.E. Matthews The Bishop ... ... Felix Aylmer Spud Wilson ... ... James McKechnie Aunt Margaret ... ... Muriel Aked Murdoch ... ... John Laurie
After several months of house-hunting, "Colonel Blimp" has finally found a home in Toronto - and as though to make up for the inhospitality he has encountered up to this date, no less than three establishments have thrown out the "welcome" mat. So it's a three-theatre Toronto premiere for this grandiose British technicolor film, produced in England under wartime conditions at a cost of $1,000,000 - and you can sample it at the Avenue, Century or Hollywood theatres.
This film was first reviewed in this column last May after the Canadian premiere in Ottawa. At that time we called it "an unusual film so completely divorced from Hollywood's conception of what screen entertainment should be that it will catch audiences unaware and, if they're not careful, toss them for a loop. This department was quite captivated by it." Now, six months later, we see no reason for changing that opinion.
As nearly everyone is probably aware, "Colonel Blimp" is based rather vaguely perhaps, on the cartoon character created in the London Evening Standard some years ago. The Blimps are the old type of warriors - the gents who found war a sport and thought it should be, but seldom was, conducted under the rules of fair play on both sides, with a handshake between the victor and the vanquished when it was all over.
Such a man as Clive Candy, a handsome, virile soldier, who saw three wars in his day - the Boer, the first world war, and the late world war. He learned, but not without some heartache, that present-day warfare is conducted on a dog-eat-dog basis and that the old idea of good sportsmanship on the battlefield belonged to another generation.
For the most part, this amazing production is a character study of Candy himself. It follows, therefore, that the actor who plays Candy, Roger Livesey, walks away with the picture - and he has done, without much argument from his two co-stars and the lesser players. Through the 40 years that the story covers, Livesey progresses in age from a virey young blade to a bulbous, dodderingly-pompous gentleman, and while some of the illusion may be attributed to the make-up man who took him through these various phases, the fact remains that Livesey has contributed a performance that is likely to be as fine as anything you'll see on the screen this year.
There is another performance of high merit - that of Anton Walbrook, who plays Candy's German friend, a lad who turns up frequently in his life. The script department may have been a bit sentimental about this character and may have treated him with kid gloves too frequently, but that is no detraction from Walbrook's rendering of the part.
But the hardest-working person in the cast is attractive Deborah Kerr - hard-working because she plays three separate and distinct characters. She is the personification of Candy's ideas of the perfect woman - turning up first as his sweetheart Edith, whom he lost to his friend ... then as a first world war nurse whom Candy married because she reminded him of Edith. Finally, she turns up as an M.T.C. driver in the late war, assigned to chauffer the aging warrior in his duties with the home guard.
An expensive production, lavishly staged and enacted by hordes of actors, "Colonel Blimp" is an amusing film although it is not essentially a comedy. It is rather a wistful, touching observation that "the old order changeth," particularly in warfare, and that fortunate is the man who can keep abreast of the times without a fond glance to the past. It is, in fact, an absorbing film and one that shouldn't be overlooked.
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