D.A. Yerrill | “On Charts and Horses,” Sight and Sound | 1947

restoration still from BFI.com

Stills showing BFI restoration.

Below is an excerpt from D.A. Yerrill writing in 1947 Sight and Sound. He diagnoses a failure of leadership in British cinema, and paraphrases Robert Newton’s call for “bloody revolution” in Yellow Sands. Note that Newton mentions “bloody revolution” in This Happy Breed, and in the editing process the word “bloody” is carefully muted. Note also the discussion of censoring wicked lines.

Yerrill:

Of course, the new era of the British cinema has produced films that are good– a lot of them are very good– very good in the tradition they have just created. But the tradition is bad. In this connection it might be interesting to quote Allan A. Michie, writing in “The Minneapolis Sunday Times”:–

“Rank is genuinely upset when the elements of indecency or crudeness get into his films. Take the case of The Wicked Lady, a shoddy Restoration costume drama which he has publicly regretting making. He had carefully deleted lines and scenes he considered offensive. Even then he approved the production only on condition that the movie, as distinct from the book from which it was taken, introduce a “good lady” to counterbalance the wicked one.

It was completed while Rank was in the United States, and on his return he was shocked to find that crude lines had slipped into the film. He was inclined to suppress it, but he had spent more than $1,000,000 on his production and the business-man in him triumphed. The fact that The Wicked Lady broke many box office records in Britain and elsewhere only strengthened Rank’s determination to give movie-goers the uplift they may not know they need.”

Here is a tear-jerking portrait of an idealist…

The film world woefully lacks a sound and courageous leadership; a leadership based on ideals that will stand up before normally intelligent  audiences composed of human beings. Generations bred on wars and technical advances cannot be fooled by artistic humbug and synthetics.

Cinema is the art form of our age. It was born of our age; it looks as though we are struck with it. Leaving aside for the moment the undeniable achievements of the documentary school, it is submitted that the citadel is in the hand of worse than Huns. For the sake of the twenty-to-thirty-year-olds of 1955, there has got to be a couple of deposings and a usurpation or two. As Robert Newton said in Yellow Sands, “What we want is a bloody revolution.”

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