|Brian Smith and Michael Redgrave|
Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), a teacher at a boy's school, is having a pretty lousy day. Ill health has necessitated his going to another school with less strenuous duties, but he may not be given a pension. His bitter wife, Millie (Jean Kent), is having an affair with another teacher, Frank (Nigel Patrick). And Andrew is beginning to realize that his attitude towards his students, brought about by his disappointment in life, marriage and career achievements, has turned him into a stuffy, rather unpleasant fellow whose students call "Himmler." Yet there is a young boy named Taplow (Brian Smith) whose compassion for the older man might be his saving grace ... The Browning Film is a rare gem, one of those beautiful movies that gives you hardly anything to quibble about. Although Michael Redgrave [Dead of Night] at first seems to be bordering on caricature, channeling Richard Haydn, he actually gives a wonderful and touching performance. The second best performance is from young Brian Smith, who essays a kindly, decent fellow who is wise beyond his years. Years ago Andrew began a new translation of Agamemnon and Taplow gives him a copy of "The Browning Version," translated by Robert Browning. Patrick and Kent [The Prince and the Showgirl] are also quite good as the dissatisfied lovers, with Frank ultimately ashamed of his actions, and neglected Millie unable to cope with the fact that her husband wanted companionship and she wanted much more. There's also nice work from Ronald Howard [Black Orchid] as Gilbert, who will take over Andrew's teaching duties, and Wilfrid Hyde-White as the headmaster. All aspects of the production are superior. Young Brian Smith, who was 19 but looked much younger, amassed sixty credits after completing this picture. Remade with Albert Finney in 1994.
Verdict: Beautiful and moving classic movie. ****.