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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by Jack Karr
Toronto Star, May 12, 1945
Notes on a Premiere:
Ottawa has only just recovered from the impact of V-E day celebrations this week when a gang of guys from United Artists moved in to hold the Canadian premiere of the English film "Colonel Blimp." While the colonel didn't rate the confetti and ticker tape that the Big Day did, he got along first rate with some fancy trappings in gthe capital's little Elgin theatre where dinner-jacketed and evening-gowned first nighters congregated, turning over their admission fees to the Women's Naval Aid auxiliary.
What they saw caused a lot of lobby comment, and later, at a reception in the Rockliffe home of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Gordon, the discussion was still going on. "Col Blimp" is undoubtedly going to be a talked-about film when it goes into general release in Canada, and the greater portion of that talk will be in its favor, we hope. This technicolor offering, produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is 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, in spite of its two hours and 20 minutes running time.
Nearly everyone, we suppose, is aquainted to some degree with the Col. Blimp character created by cartoonist David Low during the last war. This picture is suggested by that character, though in many ways it is little more than a suggestion. It is, rather, the story of a British army officer, one Clive Candy, through three wars - Boer, First World and present - and through the intervening years of peace. Its point is that Col Blimps of the old school have been relieved of duty in this war, since the idea of fair play, the observation of sporting rules and the extension of the hand of friendship by the conqueror under which the Blimps operated are no part of the warfare today. Gen. Candy didn't think so and when hostilities broke out he was all for going about the job in the way he went about the last one. But he learned with some shock that present day Britain no longer regards the Germans as "jolly decent chaps at heart, just slightly muddled." Whether Gen. Candy was ever really convinced that war could not be conducted according to the rule book is never fully clarified, and it is over that point that the arguments will arise.
Arguments aside, the film has been given a production unlike any other that has come out of wartime Britain. Magnificent sets, hordes of players, and an overall sumptuousness heightened by its color put it in a class with the most spectacular Hollywood films - but here the spectacle has a good story to back it up.
Being primarily a character study, "Col. Blimp" is largely a one-man picture, belonging to Roger Livesey whose interpretation of Gen Candy is thoroughly gratifying. Added to his own personal qualifications as an actor, the lad who did his make-up, ageing him gradually from a tough and handsome young soldier to a bulbous, elderly general, rates a bow. Anton Walbrook's role of the general's German friend, needed sterner treatment in the script department perhaps, but Walbrook's handling of the role demands plenty of praise. So does Deborah Kerr, the hardest-working member of the trio of stars, for Deborah has to play three different and widely-separated heroines in each of the three major episodes. As a post-script to her performance, Hollywood, on seeing her in this one, signed her immediately to a contract.
There's bountiful good humor and a liberal dose of satire in "Col Blimp," although it is not essentially an amusing film. There's some of the finest acting of the year, though most of its players are unknown over here. But one of its healthiest virtues is that it opens the gates wide to discussion - an angle which the screen overlooks much too frequently in ladling out entertainment.
But you'll have a chance to confirm or deny for yourself when the picture opens here shortly.
See article on the Toronto premiere which didn't happen until 27 November
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