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Author: Brian Mcfarlane

Lance Comfort began to work in films between the age of 17 and 19, more or less growing up with the cinema. When he came to make 'B' films in the 1950s and 1960s, his wide-ranging expertise enabled him to deal efficiently with the constraints of tight budgets and schedules. He was astute at juggling several concurrent plot strands, his prescient anticipation of postwar disaffection, the invoking of film noir techniques to articulate the dilemma of the tormented protagonist. Comfort's reputation as a features director seemed to be made when Hatter's Castle, made by Paramount's British operation, opened at the Plaza, Piccadilly Circus, after a well-publicised charity première attended by the Duchess of Kent and luminaries such as Noel Coward. He had been in the film business for twenty years when, in 1946, he directed Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia. Comfort is not the only director who enjoyed his greatest prestige in the 1940s and drifted into providing fodder for the bottom half of the double-bill in the ensuing decades. There were six intervening films, justifying the journalist who described him in early 1943 as the Busiest British film director. Great Day, Portrait of Clare, Temptation Harbour, Bedelia, Daughter of Darkness, and Silent Dust were his six melodramas. He was an unpretentious craftsman who was also at best an artist, and in exploring his career trajectory, the viewer is rewarded by the spectacle of one who responded resiliently to the challenges of a volatile industry.

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Six melodramas
Brian Mcfarlane

The period of Lance Comfort’s most sustained achievement, when he comes nearest to being (in Bourdieu’s term) an autonomous cultural producer, begins with Great Day in 1945 and cuts off sharply with the commercial failure of Portrait of Clare in 1950. These two and the four intervening films – Bedelia ( 1946 ), Temptation Harbour (1947), Daughter of Darkness (1948), and Silent

in Lance Comfort
Brian Mcfarlane

invoking of film noir techniques to articulate the dilemma of the tormented protagonist, and the willingness to risk his arm melodramatically: these, and other, qualities ensure that it is still a film well worth looking at fifty years later. They are the sorts of qualities one admires elsewhere in his work. Lance Comfort had been in the film business for twenty years when, in 1946, he directed Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia. In

in Lance Comfort
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Brian Mcfarlane

) 7 Eric Portman and Flora Robson as Captain and Mrs Ellis in Great Day (1945) 8 Beatrice Varley, Jill Esmond, Ian Hunter and Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia (1946) 9 Robert Newton as

in Lance Comfort
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Filming in the 1950s and 60s
Brian Mcfarlane

who once gave him a gollywog. There are echoes here of those earlier Comfort films, Bedelia and The Silent Dust in which an obsessive personality, which Marlow is, is signified by a portrait, and there is an astute cut between Marlow’s eyes and those of the woman in the portrait. As well as the writing and acting in these sequences, the camerawork, without being fussy, makes use of some unusual angles to articulate

in Lance Comfort
Brian Mcfarlane

produce three of his films as director. John Corfield, John Baxter’s producer on several films, produced Bedelia in which Comfort directed Margaret Lockwood in 1946. The composer and music director Kennedy Russell, the art directors, Holmes Paul and Duncan Sutherland, and the editor Sydney Stone were others with whom Comfort was associated in the 1930s and who would make important contributions to his later career as director

in Lance Comfort
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Hatter’s Castle
Brian Mcfarlane

it with another film in the melodramatic vein and would not make another wholly in this mode until Bedelia in 1946. Thereafter, he ventured out of it on no more than a handful of occasions, bringing his feeling for melodrama to bear on a range of urban and rural-set dramas and thrillers. The film and the critics The film’s reception offers a revealing insight into the critical preferences of the time

in Lance Comfort
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Robert Murphy

scary thriller, but the final quarter of the film – thanks to John Bryan’s fine production design and Guy Green’s cinematography – is a tour de force of noir atmospherics. Temptation Harbour was based on a story by Georges Simenon. Director Lance Comfort had already displayed his noirish proclivities in Hatter’s Castle (1942), Great Day (1945) and Bedelia (1946), and he is ably abetted here by

in European film noir
Fathers from American Gothic to Point Pleasant
Julia M. Wright

common, variation is the feminist one in which the woman is able to defeat her attacker, most emphatically in Whedon’s transformation of the petite-blonde victim of horror movies into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the figure has antecedents in a number of action movies. For instance, Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) might be the lady in distress that John McClane (Bruce Willis) must rescue and to whom she returns as

in Men with stakes
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Brian McFarlane

Sydney Box Productions, with Betty Box as producer, her soon-to-be husband Peter Rogers as screenwriter, and the uncredited assistance of her brother Sydney and his then-wife, Muriel, making it is very much a family affair. The screenplay was derived from a story by Moie Charles and Herbert Victor, who had previously worked together on Lance Comfort’s Bedelia (1946), another study in obsessive behaviour. In an essay written at the time, Sydney Box argued for ‘the amalgamation of documentary method of social reporting with a fictional story’, regarding this as ‘a real

in Four from the forties