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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

film-makers (Charles Frank’s Uncle Silas, 1947, Lewis Allen’s So Evil My Love and Marc Allegret’s Blanche Fury, both 1948), all at least as accomplished as the Gainsborough films, failed to find critical or commercial favour. Further, Comfort’s melodramas, including Temptation Harbour (1947), Daughter of Darkness (1948), Silent Dust (1949) and Portrait of Clare (1950), were all perhaps too sombre for popular

in Lance Comfort
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Where to, now?
Brian Mcfarlane

from some vivid, even idiosyncratic, players. However, even if his last ‘A’ film, Portrait of Clare, had been a success, he was, as a melodramatist, working in a vein which was not likely to attract critical attention (symbolic capital) and one which was no longer such a potent force at the box-office (economic capital could no longer be counted on from such product). Towards the end of the 1940s and into the early 1950s, the

in Lance Comfort
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Brian McFarlane

adapted author was Francis Brett Young, who, if not much heard of in the mid-2010s, was very popular at the time. Two of Young’s other novels were adapted by British film-makers in the 1940s, namely My Brother Jonathan (1948), which was directed by Harold French and made stars of Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray, and Portrait of Clare (1950), directed, with less commercial success, by Lance Comfort. Made for Korda’s London Films, but with ex-Gainsborough producer Edward Black fulfilling his former role, A Man About the House has some recognisable Arliss characteristics

in Four from the forties
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Brian McFarlane and Anthony Slide

foreman in Eight O’Clock Walk (1954) or the bibulous Italian barman in The Intruder (1953). OTHER BRITISH FILMS INCLUDE : What A Man! (1938), The Face at the Window, Jamaica Inn (1939), Noose (1948), Portrait of Clare (1950), The Captain’s Paradise (1953). Adam, Sir Ken ( b Berlin, 1921 – d London, 2016). Production designer. German-born designer Adam, in England since 1934, trained as architect at London University, served as RAF pilot during WW2, and entered films as draughtsman on This Was a Woman (1948). He made his name as the man

in The Encyclopedia of British Film