Thursday 4 March 2021

Father Brown (1954)

Director: Robert Hamer
Writers: Thelma Schnee and Robert Hamer, from the Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton
Stars: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Peter Finch and Cecil Parker

Index: 2021 Centennials.

It’s been Joan Greenwood week here at Apocalypse Later headquarters, because, hey, why not? Sure, I was trying to find an obscure but interesting picture from her career that I hadn’t seen but which would serve well as review material. I’d have watched the 1947 indie film called The White Unicorn, aka Bad Sister, given that it placed one of the most elegant British actresses ever to grace the screen in a home for delinquent girls, but I can’t find a copy anywhere. So I watched a bunch of others. After all, I’ve never heard a voice that does what her voice does to me. I could watch Joan Greenwood movies until the sun sets and until it rises again. Unfortunately, the excellent films I ran through didn’t feature her in a large enough role to warrant me covering them for her centennial. At least, I’m telling myself that and not that I merely don’t want to stop listening to that voice. It had a Scottish lilt in Whisky Galore! but was held back a little in The October Man. It’s just right, I feel, in Father Brown, a 1954 picture released in the U.S. as The Detective.

It reunited her with two major names: Robert Hamer, who had directed her in one of the blackest, sharpest features ever made, an Ealing comedy called Kind Hearts and Coronets; and its star, Alec Guinness, who played eight characters that time out but only one in this film, the titular priest, G. K. Chesterton’s timeless detective, Father Ignatius Brown. In between that picture in 1949 and this in 1954, she also played opposite Guinness in The Man in the White Suit, yet another classic Ealing comedy in a long line of them at that point, all of them absolute gems. She clearly got on well with Guinness and, while she’s not in Father Brown anywhere near as much as he is, their scenes together work very nicely indeed and her Lady Warren is the epitome of the elegant and unflappable but open and pixielike British lady that she played so often. It’s hardly surprising that she was able to hold her own in the 1952 adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, even with Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford to contend with.