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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Who was David Farrar?
I was asked to write a few notes to summarise David Farrar, especially the latter years of his career which aren't covered in his autobiography No Royal Road which was written in 1947. For what they're worth, here they are:
After he did The Small Back Room and then Gone to Earth for Powell and Pressburger he thought he'd done all he could in Britain and Europe so he went to Hollywood. But the roles he got there were usually "friend of hero" or occasionally a role as the villain - you know how American film-makers like to cast Brits as the villains, 'twas ever thus. So poor old David wasn't really all that happy with his career in Hollywood either. He came back to the UK but by then he was getting roles as the father or the uncle where he still saw himself as the leading man.
He did a good father of the heroine in Beat Girl (1960) and his last film was the sword and sandal epic The 300 Spartans (1962) where he played Xerxes, leader of the Persians - a decent villain role
His wife Irene died in 1976 and he thought that would be a good time to retire so he moved to South Africa where his daughter Barbara was living and he stayed there living in a quiet retirement until he died in 1995, aged 87.
He had some poor roles in some quite bad films, like The Black Shield of Falworth (1964). That's the one where Tony Curtis is an English knight in armour and has the memorable line, in his best Bronx accent, "Yonder lies da castle of my fadda". David played "friend of the hero".
But we should remember him for his great performances, like as the detective Sexton Blake in a couple of detective thrillers; as the Englishman in the Himalayas flaunting his bare torso and short shorts in front of the nuns in Black Narcissus (1947); as the RAF pilot who comes back to post-war England with the German girl who helped him escape in Frieda (1947); as the physically and spiritually damaged bomb disposal expert Sammy Rice in The Small Back Room (1949); and as the classic "wicked squire" Jack Reddin in Gone to Earth (1950).
His career may not have been all he thought it should have been or could have been, but he did all right, much better than many. And once again, like with Roger Livesey and a few others, it's someone who was mainly a stage actor but who did quite a few films as well. But the only time he gave really great performances on film was in the films of Powell & Pressburger. They knew how to get the best out of people.
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