Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Olivia de Havilland and Dirk Bogarde
LIBEL (1959). Director: Anthony Asquith.

Sir Mark Loddon (Dirk Bogarde), a wealthy baronet who escaped from a POW camp during the war, lives on a huge estate with his wife, Margaret (Olivia de Havilland), and their young son. One afternoon there arrives Jeffrey Buckenham (Paul Massie), who served with Mark and was also in the POW camp. Jeffrey insists to everyone that "Sir Mark" is actually Frank Welney, another man who was also a prisoner in the camp and who looked enough like Mark to be his twin. When Jeffrey writes to the newspapers, Margaret importunes Mark to file a libel suit against the paper, leading to a highly dramatic trial and many revelations. Libel is a highly suspenseful picture that keeps throwing twists and turns at the viewer and keeps one going back and forth as to whether Mark is really Welney or not. Although you would think Bogarde [Doctor at Sea] and de Havilland [The Heiress] would mix together like oil and water, they play nicely together anyway, and both give very good performances in their different styles; Bogarde successfully etches dual roles as well. Robert Morley and Wilfred Hyde-White are also excellent as opposing council, and Massie [The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll] gives one of the most notable performances of his career as Buckenham. One of the most beautifully-played scenes is between Massie and de Havilland when Margaret confronts the compassionate (towards her) Jeffrey outside the courtroom, but their disquieting conversation doesn't quell her fears as she'd hoped. Robert Shaw has a small role as a photographer.

Verdict: Almost perfect on all accounts. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - how could I have missed this one, with two of my favorite stars? Of course, I have read about it, and your review makes me put it on the must-see list. Hail Olivia, entering her 101st year!!

William said...

Apparently, she is still lucid, and still hates her sister, Joan!

Libel is worth seeking out. It is streaming on Amazon for 3 or 4 dollars.