Thursday, June 11, 2009
THE WINSLOW BOY (1948)
THE WINSLOW BOY (1948). Director: Anthony Asquith. Screenplay by Terence Rattigan, from his play.
Retired for health reasons, Arthur Winslow (Cedric Hardwicke) is disturbed to learn that his 12-year-old son Ronnie (Neil North) has been thrown out of the Royal Naval Cadets on a charge of stealing. Ronnie insists that he is innocent, and his father believes him -- and becomes increasingly angry at the fact that his son was never given a real chance to defend himself in a trial. Enter solicitor Sir Robert Morton (Robert Donat) a heavyweight who decides to take the case-- after grilling the boy intensely, almost savagely -- but the first hurdle will be to get past the fact that it is unheard of to, in effect, sue the Queen. We see the effect all the publicity has on the rest of the family, especially sister Catherine (Margaret Leighton) who may lose her fiance over the brouhaha. Even Ronnie's mother wonders if it's worth the financial cost and everything else to pursue the matter. The film works up quite a bit of suspense in wondering what will happen and what the outcome of the trial -- if there is one -- will be.
The Winslow Boy is the real deal. The characters are real, living, breathing, three-dimensional human beings, not stereotypes (even Morton, who at first does come off as a "type"). The acting by the entire cast is uniformly excellent, with Donat and Hardwicke neck and neck in the competition for most superb performance. And the movie rivets your attention from start to finish. Composer William Alwyn has contributed an almost [Richard] Straussian score. If I have any quibble with the film it's that I wish we were shown more details of the trial, considering the circumstances. NOTE: There was a creditable remake in 1999 as well as at least two television versions.
Verdict: Pounce! ****.