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Thread: Contraband

  1. #1
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    Managed to watch part of this film today on Channel 4. According to Quinlan's British Sound Films Deborah Kerr had an uncredited role in the film but her scene(s) were edited out of the final release print. I certainly didn't spot her. Can anyone shed any light on her role?

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rennie
    Managed to watch part of this film today on Channel 4. According to Quinlan's British Sound Films Deborah Kerr had an uncredited role in the film but her scene(s) were edited out of the final release print. I certainly didn't spot her. Can anyone shed any light on her role?
    You didn't spot her because her scenes were edited out

    She played a cigarette girl in one of the nightclubs they visit while they're searching for the singing banjo player.



    It's not one of the better known P&P films, it was only their 2nd collaboration and the first that Pressburger had written for Powell as an original story. But it is still impressive and has a lot of quirky charm.



    With a lot of it filmed and set in the London blackout at the start of WWII, there is a focus on events after war was declared but before the real shooting war started. With contraband control ports with Eastgate-on-Sea being portrayed by Ramsgate and Nazi spy groups in London being tracked down.



    I've often thought (and said) that Contraband should be nominated as one of the sexiest movies P&P made. Everyone first thinks of BN, TRS (or maybe GTE) when they think of P&P's sexiest movie, but consider ...



    It starts when Andersen (Conrad Veidt) calls Mrs. Sorensen (Valerie Hobson) to his cabin & asks if she wants to be tied up ("clapped in irons")



    When Capt Andersen (Connie) is looking for Mrs Sorenson (Valerie) on board the ship, first he nearly gets ensnared by the young lady doing the exercises on her bed - "You can read the newspaper here."



    In fact she's Mrs. Abo (Olga Edwardes), the young, beautiful wife of Prof. Abo (Eric Berry) who's seen in the dining room with her. She's also his ex-student so the Prof isn't as frail and doddery as he looks.



    Then Capt Andersen goes into Mrs Sorenson's cabin and while he's looking for clues as to where she might be he's fondling the stockings that she's left on the drawer.



    When Andersen tracks Mrs Sorenson to London he nearly follows her into the ladies toilets !!



    When they get to London he follows her in the blackout by keeping his torch shining on her long legs & high heels.



    There's all the "flirty banter" and touching while they play with his watch and sing the song in the restaurant.



    Mrs. Sorensen: Did you ever try being married? That can be quite a big adventure.

    Andersen: [sighs] Why do women always say that? Marriage ends adventure.

    Mrs. Sorensen: [copies sigh] Why do men always say that?



    When Mrs S. is being interrogated she's about to be undressed in front of the assembled company but doesn't seem to mind. Maybe she thinks those MASSIVE shoulder pads will hide her?



    Then when they're captured and tied up she has to "use her long legs" to help get him to free his feet and escape. Another excuse to focus on Valerie's legs.



    Andersen then stands up to free his hands



    Andersen: "I shall have to hurt you"

    Mrs. S: "Go ahead" <winces>



    Then he ties her up again - does she enjoy that a bit too much? He goes off gallivanting leaving the damsel tied up - not the act of a gentleman and what about that "stolen" kiss just before he went?



    After the battle, Andersen rescues her (and Mr Pidgeon) and leads them up to the top floor where he can shine the torch on her legs again as she walks across the beam (or whatever it is).



    Then there's that final scene back in his cabin where they hold each other close. He tells her to drop the lifejacket and it tumbles to the floor - what happens next?



    As I said sexy with a bit of kinkiness thrown in

    All very risqu� for 1940.



    BTW The film also has what I consider to be one of the cleverest lines in a film of the period.



    Mr Pidgeon (Esmond Knight) is a talent scout looking for new variety acts to bring to Britain. When they are all being interviewed by the Royal Navy inspection party they say to him that that must be hard work.



    Mr Pidgeon: Oh, Per Ardua Ad Astra.



    "Per Ardua Ad Astra" is of course, the motto of the Royal Air Force and means "Through adversity to the stars".



    Well I thought it was clever



    Steve

  3. #3
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    I agree - sexy film. This was probably the 5th P&P film I'd seen, and I was chuckling at the innuendos ("No, MY window...") and thinking this was part of the P&P PUNishment Brigade.



    It's listed as Kerr's first film, and I wonder what role her deleted scenes fit into her later P&P projects.

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineCB
    I agree - sexy film. This was probably the 5th P&P film I'd seen, and I was chuckling at the innuendos ("No, MY window...") and thinking this was part of the P&P PUNishment Brigade.



    It's listed as Kerr's first film, and I wonder what role her deleted scenes fit into her later P&P projects.
    When they were looking for a female lead for Colonel Blimp they originally asked Wendy Hiller. She had agreed to do it but then had to back out because she was pregnant. Powell remembered Deborah Kerr giving a good performance in Contraband (even though it was then cut) and invited her to do the triple role of the three women in Clive Candy's life.



    By then, Deborah had had a few other film roles like Jenny Hill in Major Barbara (1941) - with Wendy Hiller, and the female lead in The Day Will Dawn (1942). She handled the triple role in Blimp so well that that brought her to the attention of the American studios and she was signed by MGM.



    There was an echo to Deborah's taking over from Wendy Hiller in Blimp in that P&P wanted Deborah to take the female lead in IKWIG! but her MGM contract wouldn't allow it. So Wendy Hiller replaced her.



    Oh, and Micky Powell had an affair with Deborah - as he did with many of his leading ladies (Kathleen Byron, Pamela Brown etc.) - but not Wendy



    Steve

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    Hiller delivers a perfect performance in IKWIG. She's got a stern face, perfect for the harsh weather that film delivers often, and then she takes it soft at other times. When I think of Kerr's "stern" moments - needing to put on a face capable of those harsh winds and high seas - I just don't see it.



    Kerr is a great choice in other roles, and I wonder how monumental it must be for a filmmaker to find real people to play characters on a page. Finding the right physical presence to take the words and give them flesh and bones on the screen.

  6. #6
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineCB
    Hiller delivers a perfect performance in IKWIG. She's got a stern face, perfect for the harsh weather that film delivers often, and then she takes it soft at other times. When I think of Kerr's "stern" moments - needing to put on a face capable of those harsh winds and high seas - I just don't see it.



    Kerr is a great choice in other roles, and I wonder how monumental it must be for a filmmaker to find real people to play characters on a page. Finding the right physical presence to take the words and give them flesh and bones on the screen.
    One of Powell's many skills was in casting people. He never delegated it to a casting director or anything like that. He knew what he wanted from an actor and he would watch films and go and see shows continually so, with his encyclopedic memory, he could recall someone he'd seen in a performance many years previously and knew they were right for the part. There aren't many roles that are mis-cast in P&P films, even the minor roles. And there aren't even many where you can think of anyone else that could have done it better. Differently possibly, but rarely better.



    Sometimes there was an element of good fortune in the casting where someone was planned for a role but then couldn't do it and the person chosen to take their place did it even better.



    Larry Olivier as Clive Candy in Colonel Blimp?

    Wendy Hiller as Edith/Barbara/Johnny in Colonel Blimp?

    James Mason as Torquil in IKWIG?

    Deborah Kerr as Joan in IKWIG?

    Laurence Harvey as Mark in Peeping Tom?



    There were some very fortunate last minute substitutions



    Steve

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    I hesitate to add a comment to this thread as I have yet to fully appreciate the contribution to British film of Powell and Pressburger. However .... Laurence Harvey would seem to be an ideal candidate for the role of Mark in Peeping Tom. A limited actor but very good at playing the charmer, with a hint of danger lurking beneath the surface.

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joenoir
    I hesitate to add a comment to this thread as I have yet to fully appreciate the contribution to British film of Powell and Pressburger. However .... Laurence Harvey would seem to be an ideal candidate for the role of Mark in Peeping Tom. A limited actor but very good at playing the charmer, with a hint of danger lurking beneath the surface.
    Yes, he would have been good, and different. But would he have been better than Karlheinz B�hm? Would he have made the character as sympathetic and understandable and thus have drawn us in so much?



    Steve

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    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Didn't MP try for Laurence Harvey in PT, but found it was too expensive to buy him from his

    contract with Romulus Films(Woolf Brothers).

    Also considered was Dirk Bogarde, but to expensive to loan from Rank.

    Karlheinz B�hm had the benefit of being available, and cheap, and may have helped to sell PT in Germany (was he a star there at the time, though perhaps not on the Hardy Kruger level ? )

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    So who were Powell's personal choices for Gone to Earth? I'm not convinced that Arthur Lucan wouldn't have made a better job of it than Jennifer Jones.



    Ted

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    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    Didn't MP try for Laurence Harvey in PT, but found it was too expensive to buy him from his contract with Romulus Films (Woolf Brothers).

    Also considered was Dirk Bogarde, but to expensive to loan from Rank.

    Karlheinz B�hm had the benefit of being available, and cheap, and may have helped to sell PT in Germany (was he a star there at the time, though perhaps not on the Hardy Kruger level ? )
    Karlheinz was known in Germany, because of the Sissi films. But I wouldn't have thought that selling PT in Germany would be much of a consideration given the very low and very tight budget. Yes, Laurence Harvey & Dirk Bogarde were both too expensive given the budget which was only �135,000 (about �2m today)



    Steve

  12. #12
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Holmes
    So who were Powell's personal choices for Gone to Earth? I'm not convinced that Arthur Lucan wouldn't have made a better job of it than Jennifer Jones.



    Ted
    It would have made it a scarier film (for me)



    There were no other choices. The whole thing was done as a vehicle for Jennifer Jones. Selznick wanted her to be seen in a quality film along the lines of, and made by the same people as, The Red Shoes.



    Selznick agreed to everything at the production meetings and was kept informed all the way through. But when he saw the final result he didn't like it. Maybe that was because of all the benzadrine he was taking?



    I think Jennifer does a very good job, especially with the accent



    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineCB
    I agree - sexy film. This was probably the 5th P&P film I'd seen, and I was chuckling at the innuendos ("No, MY window...") and thinking this was part of the P&P PUNishment Brigade.
    I'd have to be another one agreeing with Steve. This was the first time I can recall seeing it and I thought it was a very "sexy" film - there certainly seemed to be a chemistry between CV and VH.



    Some unlikely scenarios but very enjoyable.

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    While there is credit laid to Powell's encyclopedic memory, I have to wonder if Em's writing didn't corral certain actors because of weather, scenes, relationships to other characters.



    I do wonder how Hiller's stern face (almost a handsome face, taut, chiseled) might have changed IKWIG's scenery if that face was the softer, fleshier face of Kerr? Would the scenes have been more poignant instead of Hiller's determination? When pauses and reflective camera-moments gave us sweeps to or from Hiller onto the weather or landscape, would the camera have done fades and close-ups of the softer Kerr face?



    Of course, anything's possible with the right control over the set. I just wonder if Em's writing didn't secretly corral certain choices or sets of choices onto Powell, or if inevitable casting changes occurred, did Em write something for those different faces?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    You didn't spot her because her scenes were edited out

    She played a cigarette girl in one of the nightclubs they visit while they're searching for the singing banjo player.

    Steve
    Steve: Thank you for that information. Have you any idea whether or not she had any dialogue.

  16. #16
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rennie
    Steve: Thank you for that information. Have you any idea whether or not she had any dialogue.
    I don't know for certain, but I don't think so.

    She probably just had to silently proffer a pack of cigarettes. Or maybe even just stand there with her tray.



    Steve

  17. #17
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineCB
    While there is credit laid to Powell's encyclopedic memory, I have to wonder if Em's writing didn't corral certain actors because of weather, scenes, relationships to other characters.



    I do wonder how Hiller's stern face (almost a handsome face, taut, chiseled) might have changed IKWIG's scenery if that face was the softer, fleshier face of Kerr? Would the scenes have been more poignant instead of Hiller's determination? When pauses and reflective camera-moments gave us sweeps to or from Hiller onto the weather or landscape, would the camera have done fades and close-ups of the softer Kerr face?



    Of course, anything's possible with the right control over the set. I just wonder if Em's writing didn't secretly corral certain choices or sets of choices onto Powell, or if inevitable casting changes occurred, did Em write something for those different faces?
    One should never underestimate Emeric's contribution. I'm quite sure that in the later films he was writing the script with certain actors in mind. Like Anton Walbrook as Theo in Colonel Blimp. A character that reflects so much of Emeric's own journey.



    In Contraband he knew it was being written for Conrad Veidt & Valerie Hobson. it was a sort of follow-up to their pairing in The Spy in Black.



    But for IKWIG, he thought he was writing it for Deborah, so the initial version at least wouldn't have included much to suit Wendy's more chiseled features. Although they were terrors for modifying things as they went along. The "final shooting script" lodged with the BFI (where such things exist) often varies quite a bit from what is seen on screen.



    It's hard to know exactly where the division was between what Powell & Pressburger each contributed. There was a lot of overlap. In one of the IKWIG documentaries, Wendy describes Emeric's one visit to the Western Isles and how, when he saw the long grass being stirred by the breeze so that it was just like waves on the sea, he apparently commented that that was just what he wanted. So he did have the final appearance in mind although that was ultimately decided by Micky and the cinematographer (Erwin Hillier on IKWIG)



    Steve

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    Does anyone know if Emeric Pressburger was a member of a club called The Chinese Gourmet Club.The reason for this is that i attended a meal organised by this club at a chinese restaurant in Willesden in 1976 and i was seated next to a man of Hungarian origin around his age.He had a season ticket,as Emeric did,at Highbury and we spent the whole evening talking about Arsenal.Now this may just of course be a series of coincidences but there are just so many similarities that fit into place.

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by orpheum
    Does anyone know if Emeric Pressburger was a member of a club called The Chinese Gourmet Club.The reason for this is that i attended a meal organised by this club at a chinese restaurant in Willesden in 1976 and i was seated next to a man of Hungarian origin around his age.He had a season ticket,as Emeric did,at Highbury and we spent the whole evening talking about Arsenal.Now this may just of course be a series of coincidences but there are just so many similarities that fit into place.
    A lot of Hungarians of about that age were fans of Arsenal, many of the emigres that fled the Nazis were. Arsenal were about the only internationally famous team back them and they had fans around the world who had no idea where Highbury was, like the Man United fans around the world now who don't know where Manchester is.



    In 1976 he would have been about 74. He was living in Suffolk by then but made frequent trips to London. He was certainly a gourmet and he probably would have appreciated Chinese food, they way they make use of some of the more obscure parts of animals like chicken feet.



    I can't say for certain, but it could well have been him



    Steve

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    Steve, again you deliver wonderful notes about a film's specifics. Thanks much. "Chiseled features", yes, I was at a loss how to describe her looks - "hard", "handsome", "sharp" - chiseled works very well. It gives the film a dramatic 'edge' that Roger's softer face counters almost perfectly, and the harsh/hard weather turning to softer moments is another feat where cast and scenery seem well-molded by this film and its creators.



    Thank goodness the BFI is storing scripts that can vary from the final product.

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