Michael Powell

Sog.: dalla pièce S.O.S. (1928) di Walter Ellis. Scen.: Ian Dalrymple. F.: Leslie Rowson. M.: Ian Dalrymple. Scgf.: J. Elder Willis. Int.: Hugh Williams (Alan Heriot), Viola Keats (Lady Avril Weyre), John Laurie (Robb), Googie Withers (Effie), Francis L. Sullivan (Sir Julian Weyre), Sophie Stewart (Judy Weyre), Felix Aylmer (Lord Carnforth). Prod.: Simon Rowson and Geoffrey Rowson per New Ideal. DCP. D.: 68’. Bn.

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

Of the rediscovered films from Powell’s quota period, this probably comes closest to one stereotype of that genre. Based on a successful West End play, which had already been filmed as a silent, it starred accomplished stage actors in a classic society drama revolving around misplaced suspicion and murder, qualities that were acknowledged in approving contemporary reviews. Initially, we are led to believe that Williams, as secretary to a powerful politician, is having an affair with his employer’s wife. His motive, however, is very different, and when wife and secretary meet for their supposedly clandestine weekend in the country, two of what were becoming Powell regulars, Googie Withers and John Laurie, swing into action, with Withers bringing expert comic relief to the proceedings.
Behind the scenes, the production brought together members of a family who had long been active in trying to make quality British films, before the era of quota commissions from Hollywood majors. The Rowsons had produced a string of literary adaptations in the ’teens, leading up to their Life Story of David Lloyd George in 1918, which was mysteriously pulled from release, and lost for 75 years. Simon Rowson then became a leading expert in film policy, advising the British government, as well as an occasional producer. His son, cameraman Leslie Rowson, shot three films for Powell in the 30s, of which this is the most elaborate. Made at Hammersmith Studios, it boasts a number of striking compositions, making good use of architectural features to embellish the drama. Unusually, but no doubt contributing to the film’s success, both script and editing were by the versatile Ian Dalrymple.

Ian Christie

Copy From

Remastered in 4K in 2023 by BFI National Archive at Silver Salt Restoration and BFI laboratories, from a 35mm safety negative duplicate and the negative duplicate soundtrack. Remastering supported by Matt Spick and the Charles Skey Charitable Trust