January 2, 2017


Leslie Arliss (1901-1987) b. London, England.

Leslie Arliss

Leslie Arliss was a journalist and critic who became involved with writing for the British film industry from the early 1930s. A decade later, Arliss became the director responsible for some of the most flamboyant and successful films of World War Two. In post-war years, he left his home studio, Gainsborough, and was unable to find fresh inspiration elsewhere. Throughout the 1930s, Arliss was busy as screenplay writer, mostly in collaboration with others, on high-profile subjects in both comedy and drama. His first steps into direction, from 1941, came with Associated British, but a move to Gainsborough along with the star of his last film, James Mason, catapulted him into the public eye. Mason insisted in his biography that he and Arliss couldn’t get along, so it’s surprising they made three films together, two of them sensationally successful. Their first Gainsborough collaboration was The Man in Grey (1943), whose period histrionics – audiences cheered as evil Mason thrashes equally wicked Margaret Lockwood to death at the end proved just the ticket at the wartime box-office. So did Arliss’s next film, the lachrymose Love Story (1944), again with Lockwood. And he had Lockwood and Mason together for the most successful of all, The Wicked Lady (1945), which gained valuable publicity with its low-cut costumes, and turned out to be Britain’s top money-making film of 1946. Arliss’s style in all these films is a brisk, no-nonsense one, encouraging his actors to emote positively. Arliss chose the inviting arms of Alexander Korda’s London Films/British Lion organisation, but he was never the same force there. There were rows between Arliss and Korda and, although Arliss made three fairly unmemorable movies there, he was dropped from at least one, Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948), a costume drama his touch might have enlivened. The Korda connection ended, there was a three-year wait to Arliss’s next film, The Woman’s Angle (1952), which found him making films to a formula that no longer worked. But it was his last of any stature. There followed two poor comedies, some amusing Peter Sellers shorts, and a great deal of TV work.

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