Friday The Thirteenth

Victor Saville

Sog.: G.H. Moresby-White, Sidney Gilliat; Scen.: Sidney Gilliat, Emlyn Williams; F.: Charles Van Enger; Mo.: R.E. Dearing; Scgf.: Alfred Junge, Alex Vetchinsky; Su.: George Gunn, H. E. Hand; Mu.: Bretton Byrd, Louis Levy; Int.: Jessie Matthews (Millie Adams), Ralph Richardson (Horace Dawes), Emlyn Williams (William Blake), Frank Lawton (Frank Parsons), Robertson Hare (Ralph Lightfoot), Leonora Corbett (Dolly), Max Miller (Joe), Eliot Makeham (Henry Jackson), Edmund Gwenn (Norman Wakefield), Mary Jerrold (Flora Wakefield), Sonnie Hale (Alf), Cyril Smith (Fred, l’autista), Ursula Jeans (Eileen Jackson), Gordon Harker (Hamilton Briggs), Belle Chrystall (Mary Summers), Donald Calthrop (Hugh Nicholls), Martita Hunt (Agnes Lightfoot); Prod.: Herbert Mason; Pri. pro.: 11 dicembre 1933. 35mm. D.: 89’.

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

Bus journeys in London are often eventful, for better or worse. But no bus today could gather the colourful passengers who board the 134 bus on Friday the thirteenth, the unluckiest of days, in the driving late-night rain. Sitting there, with catastrophe looming, is a good portion of the Gaumont-British company’s acting talent, largely drawn from the London stage. There’s Jessie Matthews, the musical star, and that drolly individual actor Ralph Richardson, then new to films. There’s Max Miller, the music-hall king of fast and risqué talk, and Robertson Hare, the henpecked husband of a thousand farces. Character actors also have their tickets: Eliot Makeham, perpetually meek; Muriel Aked, dowdy and prim, who gets off before the bus collides with a building-site crane. Like Thornton Wilder’s novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey (a direct inspiration), the film uses a communal disaster to trace preceding events in the participants’ lives. But unlike Wilder’s novel, Friday the Thirteenth is more comedy than drama. There’s gaiety in its ebullient technique as the editing flips us between six interwoven stories. Every element, from script to set design, is streamlined for easy motion and the registering of an immediate effect, and Victor Saville guides us through with panache – in the 1930s he was Britain’s most technically accomplished director. As in all these British multi-storied films, the script aims at mixing the social classes. Not with equal success, it’s true: the working-class characterisation of Sonnie Hale’s bus conductor certainly appears laboured today. But even when matters go slightly awry, Friday the Thirteenth moves with speed and always manages to entertain. Board this bus with confidence.

Geoff Brown

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