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The Times (15/May/1939) - New films in London: Jamaica Inn

(c) The Times (15/May/1939)



Miss Daphne du Maurier's story of wreckers on the Cornish coast, "Jamaica Inn", which appears on the London screen this week, neither adds to nor greatly detracts from the reputations of Mr. Charles Laughton and Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. Mr. Laughton's playing is effective along familiar theatrical lines, and Mr. Hitchcock's production is rather painstaking than inspired. Midnight brings Miss Claudette Colbert in sophisticated comedy, Huckleberry Finn Mr. Mickey Rooney as "Huck," and The Little Princess Miss Shirley Temple as the pathetic child in an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett.


Jamaica Inn. — In the midst of a story which appears to have been made for schoolboys — the film is adapted from a novel by Miss Daphne du Maurier — there appears one curious and picturesque character, the character who is played by Mr. Charles Laughton. For the most part the film is a conventional tale of Cornish wreckers haunting an unnecessarily sinister inn, with a Government man (Mr. Robert Newton) disguised as a member of the gang, and a heroine (Miss Maureen O'Hara) whose business it is to be incessantly kidnapped. The wind blows nearly always, the nights seem to be very long and the scenes in daylight few, the waves are spectacular, and there is a great deal of fighting, riding, hiding, pursuit, and escape. In fact the director, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, seems for the moment to have given up his method of slow and deliberate tension; it is a film of downright and in no way subtle action. But the personage represented by Mr. Laughton is little more than conventionally picturesque ; he is the squire who directs the wreckers, a fantastic and inordinate gentleman of the Regency period, megalomaniac, flighty, and uncontrollable. Even so it is apparently thought necessary to apologize for this curious figure by calling him, quite unnecessarily, a lunatic; Mr. Laughton makes him quite intelligible without going to such extremes and he gives a fascinating sketch of vanity run to seed and of the manners of a dandy changing in exile to hysterical flourishes. But it is surely a mistake to exaggerate the dandy's accent until, as happens continually, he becomes inaudible in the theatre. There are several minor parts very capably played, and Mr. Emlyn Williams is particularly good as a sinister pedlar, Miss Marie Ney as the downtrodden wife of an innkeeper (Mr. Leslie Banks).