Basil Dearden

Sog.: liberamente ispirato a Otello di William Shakespeare. Scen.: Nel King, Paul Jarrico [Peter Achilles]. F.: Edward Scaife. M.: John D. Guthridge. Scgf.: Ray Simm. Mus.: Philip Green. Int.: Patrick McGoohan (Johnny Cousin), Keith Michell (Cass), Betsy Blair (Emily), Paul Harris (Aurelius Rex), Marti Stevens (Delia Lane), Richard Attenborough (Rod Hamilton), Bernard Braden (Lou Berger), Harry Towb (Phales), María Velasco (Benny), Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes (se stessi). Prod.: Michael Relph, Bob Roberts, Basil Dearden per Allied Film Makers, The Rank Organisation · 35mm.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

As a follow-up to their thrillers Sapphire (1959, with an interracial theme) and Victim (1961), producer Michael Relph and director Basil Dearden joined forces with a few blacklisted Americans – including producer Bob Roberts, screenwriter Paul Jarrico (using the pseudonym ‘Peter Achilles’), and actress Betsy Blair – to transplant the plot of Shakespeare’s Othello to contemporary Mayfair in London and a jazz milieu. In the Othello and Desdemona parts are a black American bandleader named Aurelius (Paul Harris) and his wife and featured singer, Delia (Marti Stevens), celebrating their first wedding anniversary at the plush London residence of a jazz buff (Richard Attenborough). The Iago part is held by a jealous jazz drummer named Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan).
As Michael Koresky has aptly noted, “One of the most striking aspects of the film is how matter-of-factly it treats the couple’s interracialness. It’s the subject of the drama, but it is treated without much fuss by Aurelius and Delia’s peers, also racially diverse”. And the mix of musicians is equally casual and resourceful; the improvised duet between Dave Brubeck on piano and Charlie Mingus on bass, notably titled Non-Sectarian Blues, was the first time these two musicians played together, and reportedly both were delighted as well as pleasantly surprised by the friendly dynamics of their encounter. The dozen or so musicians playing themselves also include two major stars of the British jazz scene, Johnny Dankworth (alto sax) and Tubby Hayes (tenor sax and vibes), and the atmospherics provided by the dockside warehouse/mansion serving as an impromptu jazz club, designed by Relph, and cinematographer Ted Scaife, are pungent.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

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