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.”


P. Jacobs | “An Interesting Experiment Described,” Sight and Sound | 1945

this happy breed

Celia Johnson in This Happy Breed (1944)

G.T.C. Film Group, Sight and Sound, 14:54 (1945: July), p. 59.

P. Jacobs describes the result of his experiment. He took groups of teenage girl cadets to the movies, and discussed with them whether or not they gained anything from the cinema. Note his summary of the girls’ evaluation of This Happy Breed, especially how it relates to war, and Robert Newton. In particular, the girls see the description of the car accident as not properly belonging to the movie. [war and the garden] Additionally, they see the movie as specifically being apart from the many war films produced around the same time.


“I started the Rickmansworth G.T.C. Film Group, because I wanted to find out whether the girls gained anything from going to the cinema, or if they merely went as an escapist pastime without using their sense of judgment. The majority of the 30 cadets all between 15 1/2 and 18 1/2, I discovered visit the cinema once a week, quite a number twice a week, and a few even more frequently. […] The following films were selected: This Happy Breed, Going My Way, Song of Bernadette and Rebecca. […]

The Discussion. General: It was generally considered a very good English film. The acting was marvellous, and the technicolour such that you could look at the film without getting eye-ache.

The voting on the film was as follows:– Outstanding – no votes; Very Good – 21 votes; Good – 4 votes; Fair – 1 vote. Read the rest of this entry »

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

restoration still from

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.


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. Read the rest of this entry »

David Lean | Bridge on the River Kwai | 1957

Gun moves along like a camera on a dolly would. Digging graves scene looks like a garden. [Lean and gardening. This Happy Breed.] Flag / fan / hat with flap sequence.

Screen shot 2013-01-07 at 8.44.19 PM

Soldier steps to attention into waterspout. Principle and the metal box Alec Guinness gets inside. The buzzard / the bird kite. Sessue Hayakawa pretends to work before Guinness enters. In the background, men dive and play in the water.
Alec Guinness Bridge on the River Kwai David Lean

In the foreground, in a floating wooden box, Guinness instructs the officers. Read the rest of this entry »

“In Brief” Sight & Sound Robert Newton acting review | “Androcles and the Lion” | 1953

Robert Newton Androcles and the Lion Gabriel Pascal

Robert Newton as Ferrovius in Androcles and the Lion, 1952.

Excerpt, regarding Newton’s performance:

The adaptation by Chester Erskine is quite faithful, though the first half hour is awkwardly constructed, but he gives it very pedestrian direction; mounted against an ugly theatrical reconstruction of Rome, the film itself can appeal only through the performances, most of which are competent, a few distinguished. Alan Young, a television comedian with a style something like Danny Kaye’s, makes an engaging figure of Androcles, and one’s only regret is that the director seems to encourage a genuine characterisation to make itself into a comic turn. Robert Newton’s Ferrovius, the wild CHristian warrior, has a bizarre quality which– partly, one feels, by natural accident– is effective.

“Better Books Offers Brief Pointers to Current Films” | Robert Newton selections, Sight & Sound unindexed front matter | 1950-1955

Sight & Sound, March 1950.

Sight & Sound, March 1950.

Selections from British Film Institute publication, Sight & Sound. “Brief Pointers” series regarding Robert Newton’s films.

1950: Aug, 19:6. p. 226. Waterfront (G.F.D.). British melodrama with a Liverpool docks setting. Not good. (Robert Newton, Susan Shaw, Kathleen Harrison: director, Michael Anderson.)

1951: May, 20:1. p. 2. Tom Brown’s Schooldays (Renown). New screen version of famous novel. Bullying, sentiment, the reforms of Dr. Arnold, some boisterous schoolboy scenes, all quite competently if unadventurously done. (Robert Newton, John Howard Davies: director, Gordon Parry.)

1951: June, 20:2. p. 34. Soldiers Three (M.G.M.). Old-fashioned army frolic, based on Kipling. (Stewart Granger, Robert Newton, Walter Pidgeon, David Niven: director, Tay Garnett.)

1952: Oct/Dec, 22:2. Miserables, Les (Fox). Heavy and jaded version of Hugo’s interminably filmed novel. (Michael Rennie, Robert Newton, Debra Paget: director, Lewis Milestone.)

1953: Apr/June, 22:4. p. 0. Androcles and the Lion (R.K.O.). A minor Shaw comedy, over-dressed with extravagant lack of taste in a Pascal production, but partially redeemed by most of the acting and a respect for the text. (Victor Mature, Jean Simmons, Robert Newton, Maurice Evans: director, Chester Erskine.)

1954: Oct/Dec, 24:2. p. 0. Beachcomber, The (G.F.D.). The second screen adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Vessel of Wrath proves a good deal less lively than the CHarles Laughton-Elsa Lanchester version. (Robert Newton, Glynis Johns, Paul ROgers: director, Muriel Box.).

Philip Hope-Wallace | “Acting” | Sight & Sound | 1950

Robert Newton Treasure Island Philip Hope-Wallace

“He at least put on a display of “acting” which none could fail to notice. But how expressive was it? Not very, I thought. Mr. Newton rolled his eyes and leered and mouthed, but one often did not understand very clearly what was being expressed.” – Philip Hope-Wallace, 1950

One-page article arguing that acting is an expression of national temperament. British context. Robert Newton discussed.


Whatever has been said of internationalism in the last fifty years, nations and their characteristics die hard. Acting must always be largely an affair of national temperament; grief as depicted by, say, Miss Fay Bainter, might not be intelligible to a hottentot or vice versa.

Generally in your English types of a certain sensitivity (or breeding, if the word is allowed) all effort tends towards the cultivation of a perfectly blank expression; this is merely a convention, though horrid foreigners have insisted on regarding it as evidence of a phlegmatic disposition.

English acting of the latterday naturalistic school has taken stock of this; rigidity, silence, a finger traced along a collar, a cigarette tapped, a needle stopped in mid-stichery– by such means have emotions been nevertheless conveyed. These, be they on ever so small a scale, are none the less gestures of a kind, active expressions well understood by the English themselves, if not always by foreigners. 

“Swedish actors,” said one of them to me recently, “generally do too much or too little. If only they could learn to do just the right amount like Sir late Leslie Howard.”

Under the microscope of the camera’s eye, such people generally have to tone themselves down considerably, merely to achieve a norm of naturalism. With us though, it is rather the other way about, and the question is; how far may we go and still look British? Read the rest of this entry »