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  1. #1
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    There's a new book about Thorold Dickinson, director of The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1940), Gaslight (1940) [the good version], The Prime Minister (1941), The Next of Kin (1942), The Queen of Spades (1949) and others.



    See The Times



    Thorold Dickinson: A World of Film by Philip Horne and Peter Swaab will be published on Sept 24 by Manchester University Press. The Queen of Spades, Secret People, Gaslight and The Arsenal Stadium Mystery will be screened at the Barbican (020-7638 8891) on Oct 5, 6 2008



    Steve

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
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    I strongly recommend "The Queen Of Spades"- a very undervalued picture and "The Arsenal Stadium Mystery" a must for anyone interested in pre WW2 football or the Gooners. 'Gaslight" can fend for itself, but not certain I've ever seen "Secret People".

  3. #3
    Senior Member dpgmel's Avatar
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    I watched " Secret People " quite recently, an interesting tale of European anarchists in London, well worth seeking out.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    Overdue - as would be a box-set retrospective. I'm particularly interested in his own writings - he was the first to teach film-making in this country - and if he discusses his apprenticeship with George Pearson, one of the greats of British Silent cinema.

    The Prime Minister is fairly standard, but above average biopic-cum-propaganda, similar to Young Mr Pitt, but the earlier The High Command is excellent, and deserves to be better known - and gave an early break to James Mason.

    His body of work isn't as large as it could have been - he was high up in the Army film units, so was taken sideways into admin rather than filmmaking, until well after the war - and then there was the teaching.

    Definitely a book I'll be buying.

  5. #5
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    A funny thing first.the Prime Minister is probably the only Warners Teddington film shown on TCMUK>Why?It is dreadful.It falls in to the Paul Muni school of dramatic acting whereby if you put on lots of makeup and wigs,talk with a croaky voice well you must be a good actor.John Gielgud was useless in the role.The film twists facts and the most awful ommission given that it was a war time propoaganda film was that it did not mention once that Disraeli was born a Jew.This travesty was directed by Thorold Dickenson.Having said that he made enough fine films,not least the Arsenal Stadium Mystery to make up for it.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    Quote Originally Posted by orpheum
    The film twists facts and the most awful ommission given that it was a war time propoaganda film was that it did not mention once that Disraeli was born a Jew
    As he was baptised an Anglican at 13 years of age, it may have been thought irrelevant; if it conveyed the impression that the only way for Jews to get on in Britain was for them to renounce their faith, it may have been deemed the precisely wrong message at that precise time....

  7. #7
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    I believe that in the 19th Century it was a requirement of being a govenment minister that they be a member of the C of E.Whatever the reason for the ommission it in my view was a basic flaw.

    Quite frankly i found the film almost unwatchable.Gielgud's performance was grotesque to say the least.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK Mr Sloane's Avatar
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    I must recommend Gaslight it is a different league to the awful Hollywood version its a much more atmospheric film and Diana Wynward totally outclasses Ingrid Bergman as the tormented wife.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Turning up the wick on the Gaslight man

    With films such as Gaslight and The Queen of Spades, the director Thorold Dickinson was an unassuming giant of British cinema. Why have his achievements been overlooked?



    In 1954 the British film-maker Thorold Dickinson was up in a helicopter, hovering over the Israeli landscape in search of a soaring final shot for his film Hill 24 Doesn�t Answer. The helicopter�s tail smashed against a rock, sending it into a spin and an emergency landing. The director, who was roped in behind the camera, later recalled that the helicopter came to rest a few feet from the edge of a precipice. �We had to rewrite the ending,� he said, with archetypal English sangfroid.



    This may not have been the finale of Dickinson�s long and adventurous life (he was 80 when he died, in 1984) , but it was his last feature film. He went on to a post in charge of film production at the United Nations in the late 1950s and in the 1960s set up Britain�s first university course in cinema. But he is best-known for his nine feature-length films, above all his great collaborations with the actor Anton Walbrook on Gaslight (1940) and The Queen of Spades (1948).



    He served a long apprenticeship before he started directing. He left Oxford to assist George Pearson making silent films in Paris in the mid1920s. Then, after a stint in New York researching the new sound technology, he became a virtuoso editor in British silent cinema and the early talkies. He became the vice-president of the Association of Cine-Technicians in 1936 and it was as an ACT delegate that he went to the USSR in 1937 to report on the Soviet film system. The next year he went to Spain to make two short films for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.



    This was enough to put him under suspicion as �a premature antifascist� by the powers that were, but Dickinson's antitotalitarianism was always strong, and he was eventually given official clearance to become a central figure in the wartime flourishing of British cinema. His films from that era include powerful moments of outrage and shock: the uncut version of The Next of Kin (1942), for instance, had so much impact that the military cinema manager had to indent for a case of brandy for shaken viewers.



    Gaslight, too, with its conception of a man cold-heartedly setting out to destroy another human being for money, is intensely disturbing, and its opening scenes, with their detailing of marital cruelty carried to an extraordinary extreme, can still have the power to shock.



    Dickinson has sometimes been thought of in terms of his nationality � he has been called �a quintessentially British figure� and �an English moralist� but he filmed far and wide, from Spain to Russia to West and East Africa. Some are concerned with governance and the affairs of state of other states: the documentary short Spanish ABC (1938), for instance, is a sober advocacy of the educational policy of Republican Spain, while Hill 24 Doesn�t Answer dramatises the founding of the state of Israel as a triumph of international cooperation.



    When the stories do have an English setting, they show a country looking outward, not turning inward. The wartime biopic The Prime Minister (1941) gives us a Benjamin Disraeli preoccupied, in Churchillian style, with international conflicts involving Europe and Asia. Two other films show London dealing with the incursions of foreign violence, pathological in Gaslight, ideological in Secret People (1952).



    For all that he is relatively unsung, Dickinson has an impressive lineup of admirers. Martin Scorsese calls him �a uniquely intelligent and passionate artist� belonging �in the first rank of British film-makers�. John Boorman says that Dickinson �had Michael Powell�s daring, David Lean�s taut editing and Carol Reed�s emotional tension�.



    Philip Horne and I are Dickinson fans and our new book Thorold Dickinson: a World of Film is a collection of essays, memoirs and interviews concerning him, as well as a 100-page dossier of his own articulate and interesting writings on cinema. We hope the book and the season of his films at the Barbican next month will go some way towards reviving the reputation of this great but neglected figure.



    Thorold Dickinson: A World of Film will be published on Sept 24 by Manchester University Press. The Queen of Spades, Secret People, Gaslight and The Arsenal Stadium Mystery will be screened at the Barbican (020-7638 8891) on Oct 5, 6 2008

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