Michael Powell

Sog.: dal racconto The Right Honourable: Being Three Days From the Life of Elbert, Second Baron Thornton Heath (1931) di Oliver Madox Heuffer. Scen.: Ralph Smart. F.: Geoffrey Faithfull, Arthur Grant. M.: Arthur Seabourne. Scgf.: Frank Wells. Int.: Jerry Verno (Bert Gibbs), Janet McGrew (Ilya Myona), Ben Welden (Washington Roosevelt Lincoln), Polly Ward (Leninia), Peter Gawthorne (Ferguson), Muriel George (Emma Gibbs), Patric Ludlow (Hon Grimsthwaite), Michael Hogan (compagno Curzon), V.C. Clinton-Baddeley (compagno Howard). Prod.: Jerry Jackson per Westminster Films. DCP. D.: 72’. 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

The second production of Powell and Jerry Jackson’s Westminster Films company, His Lordship reunited Powell writer Philip MacDonald and star Jerry Verno. It stands as a fascinating oddity – a musical satire of the British class system that, although received poorly at the time, now looks highly enjoyable, with a very British sense of humour and endearingly memorable songs. Long believed lost, a print was eventually found following the BFI’s 1992 ‘Missing Believed Lost’ campaign.
The film upends the usual Brit ish snobberies by having Verno play a plumber who discovers to his horror that he is, in fact, a hereditary Lord – something he keeps a secret from his fiancée Leninia (Polly Ward) because, as her name might indicate, she is a communist who disapproves of such privilege.
Ralph Smart’s witty script is full of colloquial 1930s dialogue, and Pow ell makes smart use of location footage, with the result that His Lordship today offers unlikely windows into its time – even sending up the British susceptibility to Hollywood PR. It also introduced audiences to the wonderful Muriel George, best remembered for her part in Cavalcanti’s Went the Day Well? ten years later; here she plays Bert’s mother, making her film debut aged 50.
However, the contemporary response was damning. The film was reportedly barracked from the screen when it opened at London’s Dominion in September 1932, and the trade press seized on it as an example of the apparent damage the quota system was doing to the prestige of British cinema. “Kinematograph Weekly” complained that: “This effort, which starts off as a musical comedy, drifts into burlesque, then finishes up in a rich satirical vein, is neither flesh, fowl, or good red herring.” Tellingly, this is a charge similar to many of those levelled by some contemporary reviewers at Powell and Pressburger’s 1940s masterworks. Even at this early stage of his career, Powell was already confounding the narrow strictures imposed by many in the British film industry.

James Bell

Copy From

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