Michael Powell

Sog.: da un racconto originale di Philip MacDonald. Scen.: Ralph Smart. F.: Geoffrey Faithful, Arthur Grant. M.: A. Seabourne. Scgf.: Charles Saunders. Int.: Jerry Verno (Jerry Mason), Anthony Holles (Mrs. Le Grange/Saunders), Edgar Norfolk (Mr. Charlie Miller), Philip Morant (Mr. Meek), Sybil Groves (Mrs. Harkness), Vera Sherbourne (Joyce Dacre), Paddy Browne (Miss Meek), Michael Powell (Marconi). Prod.: Jerry Jackson per Ideal Films, DCP. D.: 53’. 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

Although made only a year after his directorial debut Two Crowded Hours, Hotel Splendide was already Powell’s sixth film, such was the breathless pace of his early output. Shot over two weeks at Nettlefold Studios in Surrey, the constraints on its production are clear, but it demonstrates how eager he already was to inject his cinematic ideas into otherwise routine material.
Topping the cast is Jerry Verno, a popular figure on music-hall stages who became a regular in British films in the 1930s, bringing his chipper persona to four of Powell’s early films (he would also have a small part in The Red Shoes). Verno’s everyman appeal marks him as a forerunner of such English stars as George Formby and Norman Wisdom, and he’s on typical form here as a frustrated clerk whose break comes when he inherits the Hotel Splendide in the fictional town of Speymouth-on-Sea. Anticipating palatial grandeur, he instead finds a shabby little fleapit – a reveal realised by Powell with a dissolve that shows early evidence of his visual inventiveness.
The plot hinges on the sort of manoeuvres often favoured by writer Philip MacDonald (who had also written Powell’s previous four films), as a pearl necklace once stolen by gangster Gentleman Charlie turns out to be buried in the grounds of the hotel. Charlie comes looking for it, trailed by his criminal rival Pussy Saunders, one of whose gang members is particularly familiar – that’s Powell himself cameoing as the eavesdropping Marconi.
It’s tempting to look for autobiographical themes (Powell too, after all, had once left banking for hotel work, and Verno’s shattered expectations might be read as an allegory of Powell’s experiences in filmmaking), but Powell’s opinion on it remains unknown. One curious detail from the film’s dialogue-free climactic scene though: Powell sets the action to Charles Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette – later, of course, more popularly known as the theme music for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

James Bell

Copy From

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