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Friday, March 7, 2014

BANK HOLIDAY (aka THREE ON A WEEKEND) (1938)

Carol Reed started to get critical attention after making this well-received dramedy about a handful of mid-to-lower class couples & families grasping at fun in one of those ghastly British shore towns. But balanced against the travails of too many people working too hard at having a good time, is Margaret Lockwood as a maternity nurse in a story more serious & more adult than the rest. She’s wavering between a long-planned, unchaperoned trip with unofficial fiancĂ© Hugh Williams, and her sudden, unexpected emotional attachment to the nice young man back at the hospital who’s just lost his wife in childbirth. As director, Reed orchestrates these stories with ease and witty visual flair, moving back & forth with a fluid touch between beachfront adventures and the young widower’s loneliness & growing despair. Managing to keep the usual condescension toward ‘little people’ at their leisure out of the mix and even wangling in a bit of unexpected color-blind casting. Look sharp to see a young & handsome Michael Rennie as a Guardsman and a typically amusing piece of character comedy work from the great Wilfird Lawson, Alfred P. Doolittle in PYGMALION that year. Nowadays, Reed tends to be taken for granted, his most famous pic, THE THIRD MAN/’49, pegged as a collaborative effort with credit flowing toward Graham Greene, Orson Welles & Anton Karas’s zither. Don’t believe it, the guy was a natural.

SPOILER: The script missteps in the last act. Not only by dropping the infant boy from the storyline, but by messing up Lockwood’s ride-to-the-rescue climax. Lodge would never have gone for poisoned gas, the tone’s all wrong for the film. What should have happened is for Lockwood to dash in, with cops breaking down the door, only to find Lodge safe, sound . . . and surprised. Cut to the train arriving back at the resort just as Lodge, Lockwood & baby step off for a wknd. No wonder the Brits couldn’t break into other markets.

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