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The Times (12/Nov/1923) - Films of the Week

(c) The Times (12/Nov/1923)




The Prince of Wales on Wednesday is attending a luncheon, arranged by the British National Film League, to call attention to the neglect of British films in this country. Proof of the need for such a reminder is furnished by the productions that are released for public exhibition this week. Apart from two films, there is hardly a British production of importance to be seen in London. There are films from America and films from the Continent, but the exhibitor is still very shy of "home-made" commodities. It is possible that the attention that for the next few months is to be focussed on British films may give the exhibitors a new point of view.

It is fortunate, therefore, that at least one British film to be shown this week can be confidently recommended both to the public and to the exhibitors. Woman to Woman, a "Graham Cutts" production, based on Mr. Michael Morton's play, is very much above the average. It opens a short season at the Marble Arch Pavilion to-night, and should be visited by all those who affect to deplore the condition of the British film industry. In some ways it is a "spectacular" production, but the producer never sets out to give spectacles for their own sake. In every case they are an intrinsic part of the story. In some "spectacular" productions the spectacle shoulders the story quite out of sight, but in this film it is the story that is the thing and that is why it is such an unusually good film.

The plot is both logical and inevitable. Given the circumstances with which the story begins, there could have been no other issue than actually comes to pass. The tragedy is unavoidable, and is brought about not by man, but by Fate. One is bound to sympathize with the misfortunes that fall on the heads of all three of the protagonists, because, although they are all in some way deserved, yet it is always obvious that Fate is treating them with a harshness which is rather excessive, even it it is logical. In this way we have a tragedy in which there is no villain (except an impersonal one -- Fate), and in which the tragic ending is by far the happiest that could have been conceived. The heroine, a French dancer, falls in love with a young English officer during the war, only to lose him in a few days. He goes back to the firing line, suffers from shell shock, and so far forgets his past that he marries another woman at the end of the war. The dancer waits for him, but does not meet him again until they recognize each other in London many years afterwards, when she presents him to his son -- a boy of some five years old. It is a difficult position : they take the only way out by agreeing that the boy shall be adopted into his home, and the Muse is served in that the dancer's self-sacrifice soon leads to her death.

This story is admirably told, and its finer points are never underlined. The acting, too, is excellent. Miss Betty Compson (an American artist in a British film) plays the part of the dancer with emotion, and Mr. Clive Brooke acts better than he has ever done before as the lover. Miss Josephine Earle, as his lawful wife, is good. The photography is excellent throughout and the spectacular scenes are gorgeous without being oppressive.