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Western Mail (Perth) (11/Sep/1930) - British Films: Growing Popularity





Growing Popularity

We have been accustomed to regard the label "English" on a film as a synonym for inferiority and to accept English pictures as a necessary evil (writes Peter Burnup). But we should not forget that little more than a year ago "Blackmail" astonished not only England but also Hollywood with its excellence, and that film directors all over the world have since adopted the technique which Mr. Alfred Hitchcock devised for that picture.

England is undoubtedly in the mood to take to English pictures. That tendency is reflected -- though perhaps crudely -- in box-office receipts. The other day I attended a conference of provincial salesmen called by British International Pictures. Salesmen are notoriously optimistic about the goods they have to sell, but here man after man had facts to report. They all told me that they were selling at least twice as many pictures as they had disposed of last year.

You see the mood reflected, too, in the growing aversion of film-goers from the less reputable of American "programme pictures." These have lately sunk to an abysmal depth of commonness and banality.

At a London kinema recently the principal feature was the excellent silent picture, "The White Hell of Pitz Palu." Hundreds of people visited the kinema, and many took their children with them. One result has been a sheaf of complaints that the programme included a vulgar American picture called "The Painted Angel."

This film is almost incredibly vulgar; not immoral, perhaps, but supremely tedious and unedifying. Its characters have the flat, nasal voices characteristic of only a tiny section of New York's population. Not only are their voices ugly, but their slang is incomprehensible.

Film-goers object to having productions like these in the same programme with a decent picture. Most people go to the kinema to be taken out of themselves with comedy, some stirring recital of heroism, or a tale of conflict with misfortune. They resent being offered instead mere stupid vulgarity.

Every one of the crop of new English pictures to which I have referred is a thing of distinction. England is steadily consolidating a most heartening lead in films of quality.

One department of film production in which Elstree is already ahead is that of talking pictures with foreign dialogue.

Hollywood experimented widely at the outset of the vogue for sound with what is known as "dubbing." Its producers took their ordinary English (or American) speaking pictures, deleted the original dialogue and substituted French or Spanish. The consequence was ludicrous The actors were plainly mouthing English words, while the sounds were in another tongue. I saw a French audience whistle one such effort off the screen.

The leading British pictures, on the other hand, are nowadays made in at least two, and occasionally three, versions. The same "sets" are used, but there are separate companies of actors for each.

The wisdom of this course has been adequately proved. The British films "Atlantic" and "The Flame of Love" have been easily the most popular pictures of the year in Germany. Not even Herr Emil Janning's talker, "The Blue Angel," has done such business as "Atlantic" attracted in its opening week in Berlin.