THE MOVIES AT THE CIRCUS, DARK AND OTHERWISE

Rick’s Journal    –    MY FILM CAREER

THE DARK TOWER     John Harlow     1948

(According to the credits the film is based on Sam H. Harris’
production of the play by Geroge S. Kaufman and Alexander Woolcott.)
Starring Herbert Lom, Anne Crawford, Ben Lyon, David
Farrar and Bill Hartnell

I enjoy films with characters living in caravans, so I like films with circus settings.  The circus of The Dark Tower is not a colorful circus.  Not just the harsh black and white of photographer Otto Heller, but the desperate characters and bleak narrative make for a dark journey.

A failing circus is saved by a wanderer who appears in time to calm the traveling show’s escaped lion and goes on to greatly increase their take  —  while being at odds with most of the performers.  SPOILER ALERT:  Morale plummets as he breaks up a long standing romance and plans a murder.

The point of all this seems creation of the tawdry atmosphere of a small circus.  While interpolated circus acts do not deepen characterization nor advance the narrative, they are entertaining and add authenticity.

Herbert Lom, early in his film career, is riveting as the wandering hypnotist whom everyone loves to hate.  Anne Crawford is outstanding as the aerialist who becomes the object of his affection and his tool in his plan for murder.  Her beautiful face is quietly expressive as she always makes us believe her in a not entirely believable role.

Ben Lyon is the circus owner, Bill Hartnell his publicity man, and David Farrar is the aerialist’s shallow, jealous but loyal lover.  It is intriguing to reflect that this relatively unknown British film was released the same year as The Red Shoes and Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and the year after Black Narcissus in which Farrar played a prominent part.

NEXT FRIDAY POST November 27

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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