Bosley Crowther | “‘Odd Man Out,’ British Film in Which James Mason Again is the Chief Menace, Has Its Premier at Loew’s Criterion” | 1947

Robert Newton in Odd Man Out (1947)

Robert Newton in Odd Man Out (1947)

April 24, 2007 New York Times review of Odd Man Out.

“Allowance must be made for specious writing in the performance which Robert Newton gives as the wild-eyed and drunken painter.”


Stephen M. Miller | “Duty or Crime? Defining Acceptable Behavior in the British Army in South Africa, 1899-1902” | 2010

Herbert Kitchener

Kitchener on horseback in The Queenslander Pictorial in 1910.

Crime committed in South Africa by British army during Anglo-Boer conflict kept hidden from public. Comments by Daily Mail’s Edgar Wallace were typical: “Whatever may be said of the Anglo-Boer War or 1899-1902, it must be confessed that never was war waged where so much humanity was displayed on both sides as in that war!” Notion reinforced three decades later, J.F.C. Fuller, The Last of the Gentleman’s Wars.

One subject that remains virtually untouched by historians of the South African War is the subject of discipline and punishment in the British army. This study shows that the army defined crime and punishment not simply to produce obedience but also to satisfy the moral conventions of Victorian society wherever it was transmitted.

Recidivism was a universal problem and drunkenness often was a gateway to more disturbing crimes. [See Alan Ramsay Skelley’s groundbreaking work in the 1970s, including The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. Kitchener Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Grant | “‘The Fit and Unfit’: Suitable Settlers for Britain’s Mid-Nineteenth-Century Colonial Possessions” | 2005

New Zealand Illustrated. The Story of New Zealand and Descriptions of its Cities and Towns. 1889.

New Zealand Illustrated. The Story of New Zealand and Descriptions of its Cities and Towns. 1889.

Robert Grant’s paper investigates 19th century British colonial literature urging certain British subjects to emigrate to the colonies.


1. The Colonial Condition: Arcadian or Degenerate? Discussion of what sort of person was deemed fit to go to the colonies.

2. Footsteps “Marked by a Trail of Light.” British women’s role in the colonies.

3. Landscapes of Opportunity. Imaginative, rural tropes used to entice British subjects to the colonies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Whiskey Galore! | dir. Alexander Mackendrick | 1949


Ealing Studios comedy. Produced by Michael Balcon, Monja Danischewsky.

Worse than the Germans. Doesn’t he know there’s a war on. Clock strike – overhead dots scurrying. Drink – tells off mother – bagpipes. [‘One of few movies where you hear Gaelic’]. The passwords whiskey. Cast divided into the English & the islander.

Elof Axel Carlson | cont. | The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea | 2001

French convicts, late 19th century.

Degeneracy Theory: Identifying the Innately Depraved and the Victims of Vicious Upbringing. Alongside masturbation criticism was moral degeneracy discourse. 1st scholarly proposal of degeneracy: Treatise on Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Degeneration in Humans and the Conditions Producing these Detrimental States, 1857, Benedict Augustin Morel. Morel’s Theory of Degeneration. “the clearest notion we can form of degeneracy is to regard it as a morbid deviation from an original type. This deviation, even if, at the outset, it was ever so slight, contained transmissible elements of such a nature that anyone bearing in him the germs becomes more and more incapable of fulfilling his function in the world and mental progress, already checked in his own person, finds itself menaced also in his descendants.” Inferior and superior degenerates, BOTH pathological. Morel’s theory adopted by social thinkers and physicians in 2nd half 19th century. Til 1890s, near universal agreement that damaging environment leads to defective offspring.

Environmental Theories of Degeneracy. Non-biological theories of degeneracies: Jean Esquirol, insanity from social conditions; Pierre Proudhon, founder of anarchism, poverty -> stupification and criminality.

Lombroso’s Theory of Innate Criminality. Biological theory of degeneracy. Army surgeon classifying soldiers, sought affective model. Skull-type correlation, atavistic Homo delinguens, borrowing from Darwin Descent of Man 1871. 1876 L’uomo dilenquent. Subtypes = “epileptoid” who are like epileptics, “mattoid” who are mentally imbalanced but functional and hide their pathology. Genius as a Pathology. Lombroso investigated “man of genius.” Epileptoid – Caesar, St. Paul, Mohammed, Petrarch, Swift, Peter the Great, Richelieu, Napoleon, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky. “Vertigo” – Marlborough, Faraday, Dickens. Very popular. Latter 19th century critics disputed: criminals were products of environments.

Nordau’s Theory of Degeneracy and Culture. Born Budapest, moved to Paris, physician, cultural critic. Conventional Lies of Our Civilization, 1884. Modeled on Morel and Lombroso, Degeneration 1895. Specified “pseudogeniuses,” writers of degenerate works [How could the WORKS be degenerate? How does he move from degenerate authors to degenerate WORKS?] – Ibsen, Nietzche, Wagner, Rodin, Verlaine, Mallarme. Like Morel, Nordau believed degeneracy worsened / generally was self-eliminating.

Zola’s Theory of Familial Degeneracy. 20 novels re degenerate families.

Degeneracy and Social Class. By beginning 20th century, consensus that unfit = products of environment that BROUGHT ABOUT hereditary degeneracy. 3 social classes were products of generations of neglect and abuse – tramps, paupers, criminals. 2 types could appear as degenerate offshoots anytime – feebleminded, insane. Consensus text, Dr. G. Frank Lydston, Diseases of Society and Degeneracy (1905), identified 20 causes of degeneracy, including alcohol: heredity and habit, defective physique, neglect of children, acquired diseases, brain injuries, alcohol, herding of criminals resulting in vicious examples to the naive, defective moral training, lack of education, unjust dispensation of laws, marriage among criminals, menopause, sexual perversions, anarchy, poverty, idleness, gambling, high cost of living, the stress of urban living, and the immigration of the ‘criminal refuse of the old world.'”

Elof Axel Carlson | “Self Pollution and Declining Health” | The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea | 2001

1. Who are the unfit? Positive vs. negative eugenics. Positive eugenics – Francis Galton – termed, 1883, in England. Change through moral suasion. Positive eugenics in Great Britain, not in the U.S. U.S. had negative eugenics. Negative eugenics popular in United States, Germany, Scandinavia. Idea of unfit people as old as the bible. BIOLOGICALLY unfit begins in 1710, onanism/compulsive masturbation. Affected descendants. World’s first compulsory sterilization law, 1907, Indiana, promoted by physician Henry Clay Sharp.

2. Unfit in Biblical Times.

3. Self Pollution and Declining Health. Long before Galton introduced term eugenics, 18th and 19th century concern of DEGENERACY. Physiological (alcoholism, masturbation, occupational exposure). Moral (innate criminality). Mental (feeblemindedness/insanity). Economic (pauper cannot rise). Cause and effect confused.

This chapter: masturbation, 1st type of degeneracy associated with physiological mechanism. Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution and All Its Frightful Consequences in Both Sexes Considered, 1710. Cure = repentance, and lean diet, moderate exercise, tinctures prepared by author and sold at a price. Not til 1830s that religious aspect down, from medical lit. Clitorectomy for women, for men – cold treatments – enemas, cold douches. Boarding schools specifically designed to prevent masturbation: open sleeping areas, coarse linens, doorless privys, cold showers. Exercise -> sleep from exhaustion. English public schools still like this, but now it is said to toughen body and soul, develop manly character.

Masturbation as disease in U.S., see Joseph Howe, Excessive Venery, Masturbation, and Continence 1883. Included recommendations: for men over 18, compulsive: “castration without delay.” For women: “female masturbators can only be cured by marriage.” Acknowledged dogs, cats, and monkeys masturbated, attributed to mimicry of “depraved beings of the human species.”

Treatment of masturbation as disease: castration (1843 1st in U.S.), marriage, camphor as local repellent 1815, potassium bromide 1869, blister foreskin, electrical stimulation of spine, infibulation (sew metal ring into foreskin to prevent erection), ligature of vas deferens 1883, hypnotism 1887, mechanical appliances described 1888, clitorectomy 1858, revival late 19th c w belief that sewing machine treadle stimulated clitoris, nonreligious circumcision 1890 – source of today’s widespread non-religious circumcision. By 1920s, physicians wrote about it as habit, rather than disease.

Kevin Brownlow / David Lean: A Biography / 1996

David Lean directs Robert Newton and Stanley Holloway in This Happy Breed, 1944.

This post excerpts from David Lean’s biography, mostly re Robert Newton movies. Discussed below: Major Barbara 1941, This Happy Breed 1944, Brief Encounter 1945, Oliver Twist 1948. Things that, according to his biographer, David Lean refused to talk about [EDITING]: aborted project about Mutiny on the Bounty, marriages, love affairs, Ann Todd. Son Peter: David walked out on him when little more than a baby. Lean, re the war: “I remember Vera Campbell, who has been my assistant and was now a cutter herself […] You would hear the whistle of the bomb, and then bang, and at every bang she took a little hop. I said to her one night, ‘Vera, you’ve got to stop hopping.’ I was frightened enough myself. You heard those sticks of bombs exploding and you knew they were coming in a line towards you. I never went to the air-raid shelters. Never wanted to. I regarded it as a sort of moral collapse, I suppose, which is rather stupid. ‘Now, come on, pull yourself together, face it out, don’t go down the rat-hole.'” [Lean says he saw acknowledging the war as moral collapse.]

David Lean directs Robert Newton, This Happy Breed, 1944.

MAJOR BARBARA, 1941. Producer Pascal had wanted to do business with Zaharoff, arms dealer. Now, Major Barbara’s father = arms dealer. George Bernard Shaw play. Harold French hired as co-director. But, Lean claims to have directed it. Pascal arranged for shooting at Denham Studios. Because of war, empty. 2 stages taken over by government as food storage depots. When Pascal finished, Denham requisitioned by Lord Beaverbrook’s Ministry. Gabriel Pascal refused to speak with Robert Morley, who played Undershaft, when Morley couldn’t properly enjoy and smoke a cigar. Pascal refused to talk to Morley. “Tell Mr. Morley to stop being a homosexual.” Harold French: “David took my into the cutting room […] It was Shaw’s dialogue, but the camera wasn’t on Morley as Undershaft. David had cut it so brilliantly that he’d given the scene to somebody else. Undershaft hardly appeared at all. You heard his dialogue but the whole thing was switched around.” [Showing/Not showing, Presence/Absence.] Major Barbara made at height of Blitz. Denham studios, NW of London, close to Northolt Aerodrome, which was heavily defended as fighter airfield. And close to Denham airfield, where pilots trained. Korda had used Denham to make air force propaganda film, The Lion Has Wings, and Germans threatened to “bomb Denham out of existence.” Luftwaffe destroyed office block and a screening room. Every time air-raid warning -> stop shooting -> take cover underground. Sirens infuriated Lean. “Bloody air-raid.” Film falling behind schedule. Scheme: spotters put on studio roof, protected by sandbags. Siren would ruin sound. Ronald Neame: “When the normal siren went it ruined the sound if we happened to be shooting but that was all. David would say, ‘cut’ and we’d wait until the air-raid had stopped. But we did not go to the shelters because we had our own people on the roof, and their instructions were the moment they sighted a German plane they should ring the firebell where we were shooting and we went straight to the shelter. For two or three weeks we continued shooting and the firebells never went off. We just cut when the sirens went off, waited thirty seconds and carried on. The Electrical Trades Union complained bitterly. They said, ‘it’s all very well for you lot on the ground, but we’re up here in the gantry. By the time we get down to the bloody shelter the bomb may have dropped.’ So we way we sorted that out was that every electrician had a rope, fastened to the spot rails. The plan was that if the bell went, they would come down the rope. We were in the middle of this scene with Rex and Wendy when for the first time this bell goes off. For a moment, everyone freezes, because it hadn’t happened before, then everybody started running. The first to run were me, David and the camera crew; we all ran leaving the camera running. The next day on rushes there is this great set, there’s Rex and Wendy in the foreground. Dialogue. The bell goes, everybody freezes. Rex looks round, Wendy looks round, then into the top of the picture drops all these ropes and down the ropes come all the electricians. Everybody is running, and running faster than all the rest when he realized what was happening was Rex Harrison. Wendy had not been told about the bell because she had not been on call the day it had been arranged, so she didn’t know what had happened. So she stood there looking around. It provided enormous hilarity in the rushes the next day.” Lean directed scenes of Robert Newton and Donald Calthrop in Salvation Army shelter on his own. When alarm went off, everyone raced to shelter, Calthrop and Newton would get their bottles, settle down on the property furniture for a solid period of self-indulgence until the company reemerged. Wilfred Lawson. Calthrop died during filming. His manner changed alarmingly when he had too many whiskies. During film, he was told two of his sons had been killed (one in fact survived), began drinking bout, died of heart attack. Neame: “Gabby was very dramatic about this. There was a two-minute silence on the set the day after Donald died.” Charles Frend, editor, nervous breakdown. In editing room, struck his head on wall three times and collapsed. Lean: “You can all too easily find yourself in this state in the cutting room, because editing is a highly complicated process.” [This is a big claim. Was David Lean really this nervous, this close to breaking down during the editing process? Could all of Frend’s stress really be attributed to editing? In any case, it is interesting that Lean identifies the complicated editing process as the reason.] Vera Campbell left editing room to help bombed-out friends find digs in Denham. Lean livid. Campbell: “I burst into tears and I said, ‘Well, there is a war on, you know, David.’ He didn’t care. The war didn’t seem to affect him.” [PRESENCE and ABSENCE of WAR, p 143. And yet, Lean’s crying bouts, etc.] David Lean married Kay Walsh, November 23, 1940, one week after shooting’s end. The two moved to Melgan Cottage in Denham Village, where Lean practiced gardening, which he came to love. [See THIS HAPPY BREED garden shot.] Read the rest of this entry »