Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Brighton Rock 1947.

According to Grahame Green, Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of the 17-year-old razor-wielding thug Pinkie Brown is the best depiction of any of the characters in his novels. When you see the film Brighton Rock (1947) you will understand why. This is a mesmerising performance and totally believable and Attenborough excels himself and will always be remembered for this particular role although as an actor he was in many other films including Dancing with Crime (1947), I’m All Right Jack (1959) and 10 Rillington Place (1971). But this role was to my mind the template for many other sociopathic gangsters that we still come across in modern cinema. Attenborough’s Pinkie Brown was a scary creation that despite the evil bravado was actually deeply vulnerable but almost devoid of human feelings and emotion.
Hail Mary full of grace....
It was Greene and Terence Rattigan that wrote the screenplay adapted from Greene’s 1938 novel of the same name. Richard Attenborough had starred in the original stage version at the Garrick Theatre in 1944 opposite Dulcie Gray as the naïve Rose, the modest waitress who becomes Pinkie’s girlfriend and then his wife, a role played by the Carol Marsh in this, the first screen adaptation[1].

Cubbit, Dallow and Pinkie discuss strategy. 
The drama is centred on Brighton, East Sussex on the South Coast of England between the wars. Amongst the façade of tourism and the Regency Terraces there is another Brighton, one of dark alleyways and slum housing where you will find the race-track gangs who fought one another with cut throat razors in order to control the tracks. One such gang was lead by Kite who because of an article written by newspaper reporter Fred Hale (Alan Wheatley) was killed by a rival gang. The young Pinkie Brown takes over leadership of the gang backed up by his second in command Dallow (William Hartnall whose suit you will not easily forget) Cubit (Nigel Stock) and the aging Spicer (Wylie Wilson). The gang set out to avenge the death of Kite by killing Hale and making it seem like a heart attack or perhaps a suicide. The local ‘bogies’ are happy to close the case and if it were not for the persistence of Ida Arnold (Hermione Bradley) who believes that Fred Hale has been murdered, nothing would have been done to investigate the matter further.
Rose - the naive waitress.
As well as the cast I have already mentioned some great British character actors, including Harcourt Williams as the crocked lawyer Prewitt, populated the film all of which were in top form. It was directed by John Boulting with his identical twin Roy producing. Location shooting took place in and around Brighton with the cinematography in the capable hands of Harry Waxman who went on to win a prize for his work on the 1959 social problem film Sapphire. The mood music was by Hans May.  All-in-all a terrific movie, if you have never seen it I would suggest you put that right immediately if for no other reason than to see an unforgettable performance from one of Britain’s greatest cinematic assets who will be greatly missed but as with all the best actors and directors leave’s us a body of work to appreciate for all time.

It it wasn't for Ida Arnold........

[1] The second adaptation Brighton Rock (2010)

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