A British Chorus Line: A Girl Must Live (1939)


Unlike Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz, A Girl Must Live is far from being 1939’s most well-known film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing. I’m reviewing this film for the Fourth Annual British Invaders Blogathon, hosted by Terrence from A Shroud of Thoughts. As I’m always willing to promote some Margaret Lockwood’s film, this certainly is for me the best occasion for me to discuss this film.


A Girl Must Live reunites Margaret Lockwood and notorious director Carol Reed for the fourth time after Midshipman Easy (1935), Who’s Your Lady Friend? (1937) and Bank Holiday (1938). The film also stars German actress Lili Palmer, Renée Houston, Hugh Sinclair, Naunton Wayne, George Robey, Mary Clare and more. The film was based on the 1937’s novel by Emery Bonnett.

Margaret Lockwood plays a young woman who aspires to become a stage star. She runs away from her finish school is Switzerland and, under the suggestion of her friends, chooses a new identity in order to increase her chances. She is now Leslie James, daughter of the famous Leslie James. In the boarding house ruled by the lively Mrs. Wallis (Mary Clare), she meets Gloria (Renée Houston) and Clytie (Lilli Palmer), two chorus girls who fight constantly and who are both attracted to wealthy men. Not long after Leslie, Gloria and Clytie manage to join a chorus line, the rich (and single) Earl of Pangborough (Hugh Sinclair) comes to town accompanied by Gloria’s cousin, Hugo Smythe (Nauton Wayne). Obviously, Gloria, and Clytie will each tempt to seduce the Earl, being more attracted by his money than by his personality. This only increases their usual rivalry. However, when the Earl meets Leslie, he seems to find her much more interesting than the two crazy blond girls (because yes, they are crazy!).

A Girl Must Live mixes drama, comedy, and music. We can really call it a musical as the moments where the girls dance and sing are rare, but it gives us a lovely preview of how Margaret Lockwood could manage to be the star of a musical. After her successes with Bank Holiday and The Lady Vanishes, it is obvious that Margaret was an increasing star (and would become UK’s most popular actress in the 40s). 1939 was a year of self-research for Margaret as she tempted to start a career in Hollywood. That was not a success and, uncomfortable in the city of angels, she preferred to go back to England and that’s where she did her best work anyway. A Girl Must Live will never be considered a “masterpiece”, but it’s much better than Susannah of the Mounties.

The comic essence of the film is established from the beginning when Margaret Lockwood escapes from the school. Martita Hunt plays the principal. She is proud, but it’s hard to take her seriously as her manners are rather amusing. After falling on her poor butt, “Leslie James” is now ready to conquer the world. This scene is also an emotional one as the young lady also has to say goodbye to her school friends, whom she will probably not see before a long time.


We never really heard Margaret singing in this film, but there’s this scene where she is part of the chorus line stage number. In her solo, she talks more than she sings, but, nevertheless, she remains lovely.

There’s also this scene where she practices her tap dance. She’s so cute and amusing. Unfortunately, the scene lasts about 10 seconds. In 1945’s, Margaret starred in Val Guest’s historical musical I’ll Be Your Sweetheart, where we could see much more of her singing. However, her singing voice was dubbed by Maudie Edwards. Despite that, both A Girl Must Live and I’ll Be Your Sweetheart proves us that Margaret could have the perfect acting skills to rock a musical. Because, let’s not forget that she was, first of all, an actress and not a singer.


Margaret Lockwood’s chemistry with Hugh Sinclair is a convincing one. I love the fact that they always meet each other in awkward situations where the poor lady is rarely properly dressed.



You want some catfights? Well, Renée Houston and Lilli Palmer will offer you plenty of that. At one point, they even fight like knights using pokers as swords. In one of their greatest battles, a man delivers flowers for one of them. The flowers come from the rich Horace Blount ( George Robey). He’s waiting outside in his car. But he hasn’t chosen a good moment for his delivery as the flowers are thrown by the window during the fight and they fall around Mr. Blount’s neck. Even if the two girls are always fighting, there also is an unhealthy chemistry between the two. Somehow, they make me think a little bit of Bette Cooper and Veronica Lodge who always fight over Archie Andrews. Their moments of peace are rare, though.

Except for the amusing story truffled with numerous gags and the colourful characters, what I always liked about A Girl Must Live are the costumes. Those are simply lovely and suit perfectly the personality of each character.

A Girl Must Live is not really Carol Reed’s most well-known film, but it is the proof that he was able to direct comedies as much as he was able to direct films noir (Odd Man Out, The Third Man), war movies (Night Train to Munich) or dramas (The Stars Look Down, Trapeze). He chose Margaret Lockwood as his fetish actress and was always able to give her roles that suited her perfectly.


If you haven’t seen A Girl Must Live yet, I highly encourage you to do so. The film has nothing to envy to Busby Berkeley’s musicals of the 30s, but it’s a great entertainment and will only increase your knowledge of classic British films.

And here is a link for you to watch it. 🙂


A big thanks to Terence for hosting this always fun blogathon. Don’t forget to check the other entries!

The Fourth Annual British Invaders Blogathon

See you!



ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #7: The Innocents (1961)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My seventh review was for the 1961’s classic The Innocents directed by Jack Clayton. Enjoy!



In my past reviews for this column, I’ve primarily reviewed comedies or films that weren’t comedic, but that weren’t completely dramatic. This time, I’m going to explore a totally different genre, because I want to show that young people might also like heavy dramas. This is the reason why I’ve chosen to review The Innocents. This movie is not only a drama, but a horror-drama. The Innocents is a British film directed by Jack Clayton in 1961, starring Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Megs Jenkins and Michael Redgrave in a minor role.

The Innocents takes place in England during the 19th-century. An uncle (Michael Redgrave) who can’t take care of his nephew, Miles (Martin Stephens) and his niece, Flora (Pamela Franklin) hires a governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to care for them. Their last governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) died about a year ago. Miss Giddens accepts, despite her lack of experience, and moves to the family’s place in the country where the two orphan children live. It’s a big manor located in the beautiful English countryside. When she arrives, Miss Giddens hears a voice calling Flora, but she can’t tell where this voice is coming from. She then meets Flora, who hasn’t heard the voice, and they become good friends. A few minutes later, Miss Giddens meets Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. Flora’s brother, Miles, is at school, but it won’t take long before he’ll be back home, because he has been, to everybody’s surprise, expelled from school. Miss Giddens tries to understand why, but Miles doesn’t want to talk about it.


If the life in this castle started in a quiet and peaceful way, it won’t take long before changing. Progressively, Miss Giddens notices Flora and Miles’ strange behavior. She has terrifying visions of a man and a woman who are not supposed to be part of the house, that of Miss Jessel and Quint (Peter Wyngarde), the ancient gardener, both of whom are now dead. Miss Giddens becomes obsessed by these hallucinations (although she thinks they are real), and is convinced Miss Jessel and Quint’s spirits possess the children. What else will explain their strange behavior? Miss Giddens will try to save them, but being crazier herself, she brings them to a fatal ending.


I had never been a fan of horror movies, but there are some exceptions and The Innocents is one of them. The movie itself is not that scary, but creepy. However, when you watch it and tell to yourself “what if this happened to me,” then, it becomes one of the most horrifying things ever. Of course, The Innocents is not like today’s horror films. Unlike today’s 21st-century horror movies, it is more refined. There is something poetic about The Innocents which makes the film beautiful. The Innocents is actually one of the most visually beautiful films I had ever seen. This is mainly due to the fine black and white cinematography created by Freddie Francis. The lights, the shadows, the white flowers, all make for a delightful spectacle for the eyes. The cinematography also adds certain strangeness to the film, especially during the visually mysterious hallucination scenes.


Deborah Kerr is definitely a model of acting in this film, able to change her emotions very easily. It’s actually her performance in this film that made her a favorite of mine. The role of Miss Giddens is one of her best performances. Her clear and pretty British accent is delightful to hear. Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the children are also perfect. There is something lovely, but also disturbing about them, which is just what we need for this kind of film. Martin Stephens is a kid, but very mature at the same time. He actually looks and acts more like a little man then a child. (Stephens also played a creepy child in Village of the Damned.) Megs Jenkins is also an appreciated actress starring in this film. She is warm and brings a lot to the movie. However, it’s too bad Michael Redgrave only has a small part, because he really is one of a kind.

What is also appreciated about this film is it doesn’t need a ton of scary scenes to scare us. Everything goes progressively. You can follow the story without necessarily having to hide behind your pillow every time someone opens a door or climbs the stairs. Of course, there is a worrying atmosphere, but this one is more suspenseful than terrifying. The movie takes place in a home with many secrets and things to discover (or not), which makes us think of Manderley, the famous De Winter manor in Rebecca. But there are some frightening scenes that teens will appreciate. For example the moment when Miss Giddens first “sees” Quint when she is playing hide and seek with the children.


Finally, we have to talk about the music, or more precisely the sound, which is a major element in this film. There isn’t really a soundtrack. As a matter of fact, the music is created by Flora humming “O Willow Waly” (which we also hear at the beginning of the film), by Miss Jessel voice calling Flora like an echo, and by the sounds of nature: the birds, the wind, the insects, etc. The work of the sound is remarkable and also adds poetry to the film. This only proves ambient sounds can be as affective as music to create a certain atmosphere.

It’s Halloween soon, so instead of watching something like The Exorcist, teens should watch The Innocents. It’s a film they’ll never forget and gives them the chance to see one of the greatest horror movies ever made.


Back to School Blogathon: The Browning Version

Yes, I’ll soon be back to school after about four months and a half of vacations (well, not complete vacations as I was also working). Anyway, back to the routine, the lectures, the work, etc. Luckily, university starts late and ends early so I’m not starting until September 6. And fortunately, as I’m studying cinema, I’ll also be watching many movies in class just like I like to do it at home.
To celebrate the return of classes, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie has decided to host the Back-to-School Blogathon. Of course, for someone who still is studying, this is quite an appealing event as it allows me to already be in the “mood” for it. As for those who have already finished school (a long or short time ago), I guess it will bring you back some memories, good ones I hope. You see, school movies are ones that can reach many people, but unfortunately, it’s not everybody in the world who has this chance to have a fair access to studies.
School is a very general word that can include many levels of studies. After all, we all start going to school when we are about 5 and we can sort of finish quite late if we decide to do a Ph.D. Anyway, school is an important part of life and has an immense influence on our future. For this blogathon, I’ve decided to travel to a public boarding school in England and discuss The Browning Version, an Anthony Asquith movie released in 1951. The film stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Kent, Nigel Patrick, Ronald Howard and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It was based on a play by Terence Rattigan and the movie script was also written by him.
The Browning Version can be called a masterpiece and was released on Criterion. However, it seems that it doesn’t have the popularity and the recognition it totally deserves. When you think of “school movies” it’s the first one that comes to peoples’ mind.
The Browning Version focuses on the last days of Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), a classic studies teacher, in an English public school for men (boys). Due to his health problems, he is to be transferred to another school where the responsibilities are less exhausting. He is about to be replaced by the young Mr. Gilbert (Ronald Howard). But those last days are difficult as “the Crock”, as he is called, begins to realise that, during all his 18 years of teaching at this school, he wasn’t only not liked, but positively disliked by his students. His wedding is also a failure and his economic position is not announced to be good after his transfer in the new school. To his students, Mr. Crocker-Harris is a boring teacher with no emotions and n0 recognition. However, one of them, Taplow, sizes the sensibility that is hidden in this man and believes that he is, after all, not such a bad person, but only a lonely one.
We need more people like this little boy in our world. The Browning Version indeed makes us understand that we can’t really judge a person before really know her. After all,  what do we really know about our teachers? I mean, in their life out of school? Taplow is the only student of Mr. Crocker-Harris’s class to have witnessed more of his life at home as he sometimes goes to work at his place. He is a sensible little boy who sees behind the first image projected by someone. Indeed, it shows us that someone might not always express what he really feel. After all, we are all different.
But in a way, it’s normal not to like all our teachers. And that can be so for many different reasons: a boring teacher, a teacher with whom you learn nothing, a teacher who has humiliated you, a teacher who is incomprehensible, etc. That can be the most wonderful profession as you get to know different young souls and transmit your knowledge to them. But it can also be a hard task if you add the different challenges and if you have a lack of motivation. Ok, I’m talking as if I were a teacher, but I’m not. I’m only writing this according to my good judgement.
Mr. Crooked-Harris as the motivation. It’s clear to us that he is passionate by what he’s teaching. The only problem is that he doesn’t success to transmit this love of classic studies to his student in the right way. Has many of them suggest, he seems to have no emotion, but we’ll discover, thanks to Taplow, that he a sensibility is hidden in him.
Michael Redgrave gives a brilliant performance in a role that was meant to be difficult. In an interview, available on the Criterion DVD of this film, the actor indeed explains that he likes to choose roles that don’t have an easy approach. I think that the challenge here was to play a man who first seems neutral, but who is in reality, highly tormented. It’s a role that makes us forget the sympathetic Gilbert from The Lady Vanishes or the refined Ernest from The Importance of Being Earnest, but in a good way. It simply proves us that Michael Redgrave was capable of playing many different kinds of roles. At the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, the British actor won the Best Actor Award for his performance as Andrew Crocker-Harris.
Margaret Lockwood, who had previously starred in The Lady Vanishes and The Stars Look Down alongside Redgrave, was first considered for the role of Millie, Mr. Crocker-Harris’s wife, but the role went to Jean Kent. I’m sure Margaret would have been great too, but Mrs. Kent seems to have been meant for this role. With her ravaging beauty, she was perfectly able to play the seducing and passionate bad girls and she proves it right. The opposition between her character and Michael Redgrave’s one is fascinating, just like the way she will behave in society versus how she’ll behave when she is alone with her husband. Those situations seem to create two completely different women and Jean Kent was able to adapt herself to both of them like a chameleon.
The role of Frank Hunter, Andrew’s fellow schoolmaster, was given to Nigel Patrick, an actor I didn’t really know, but who turns out to be quite intriguing. Brian Smith plays the little Taplow and his devotion as a young actor makes us having high hopes for him. The Headmaster was played by Wilfrid Hyde-White, who is great and appreciable without stealing the show from Redgrave. Finally, Ronald Howard (who was Leslie Howard’s son – I didn’t know that) plays the role of Crooked-Harris successor. His acting game is very simple, but convincing and he gives to his character a beautiful humility.

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At the 1951’s film Cannes Film Festival, The Browning Version also won the Best Screenplay Award and was also nominated for the Golden Palm. The script was indeed brilliant has it creates a justifiable evolution of the story and its characters. It helps us to understand the motivations and certain actions. The Crock’s vulnerability touches us as it touches Taplow. As a matter of fact, Taplow is the eyes of the spectator and, the more we are watching the film, the more we begin to understand Crocker-Harris just like Taplow does. The film also contains some well-thought lines who makes us having a reflection on the situation, one of them being:
 Andrew Crocker-Harris: I may have been a brilliant scholar, but I was woefully ignorant of the facts of life.
And of course, there is the final speech, a moment of emotion that I won’t reveal to you in case you haven’t seen the film yet.
For those who wonder, the movie title refers to English poet, Robert Browning’s translation of the Greek tragedy  Agamemnon, which plays an important role in the film.
Robert Browning
Robert Browning
Aside from his Cannes Festival wins and nominations, The Browning Version also won the Bronze Berlin Bear (drama) and the Small Bronze Plate at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It’s no surprise that the film won those international Awards, not only because it’s a clever one, but also because it’s one that can reach everybody across the world. It is English, yes, and we feel the British world and culture, but it’s a story that could happen everywhere at any time.
In 1994, a remake of the film was made with Albert Finney in the leading role. The movie was also nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, which proves that it is, after all, probably not a bad remake. But I still have to see it.
I would like to thank gladly Robin from Pop Culture Reverie for hosting this wonderful blogathon, which was a good opportunity for me to go back in the “school” mood after such long summer vacations.
To read the other lovely entries, please click here.
Well, the bell just rang. I have to go now!