January 2, 2017


Robert Compton Bennett (1900-1974) b. Tunbridge Wells, England.

Compton Bennett was in turn bandleader and commercial artist at the outset of his career before making some amateur films, one of which got him a job with Alexander Korda‘s London Films in 1932. He became a film editor there and later made instructional and propaganda films for the British armed forces during the early part of World War II. Soberness was in the very backcloths of Compton Bennett‘s films, if it weren’t for the mood of It Started in Paradise (1952), one would suspect a lack of humour, for there is very little evidence of it even in his lighter subjects. But his earlier films were cleverly crafted towards what the public wanted and his first feature, The Seventh Veil (1945), with Ann Todd as the pianist much beset by James Mason in another of his ‘evil cad’ roles, was an immense success at the box office. He was invited to go to Hollywood in 1947, but he could not make his characters spring to life within the American studio environment, and his films were as disappointing as one feared they might be. Even in the successful 1950 version of King Solomon’s Mines (1950), he directed only the static dialogue scenes. After the inevitable return to Britain, Bennett briefly returned to form: all four of the 1952-53 films are good examples of their genres (weepy, war film, melodrama, thriller). He was out of films from 1954, busy in theatre and TV, before a final burst of quality product in 1957, including the skilful, atmospheric and under-valued life story of Vesta Tilley, After the Ball (1957), and a taut and polished little thriller, The Flying Scot (1957). After this, there was nothing of note, and much, on big and small screens, that was not.

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