Michael Powell

Sog.: Jack Celestin. Scen.: Selwyn Jepson. F.: Arthur Crabtree. Scgf.: Ralph W. Brinton. Mus.: Charles Cowlrick. Int.: Judy Gunn (Mary Lee), Louis Hayward (John Gregg), Googie Withers (Minnie), Dave Hutcheson (Thompson), Morris Harvey (presidente), Aubrey Dexter (vice presidente), Jack Knight (direttore generale), Gilbert Davis (Hosiah H. Smith), Eve Turner (Kathleen), Bernard Miles (Allan). Prod.: Leslie L. Landau per Fox British. DCP. D.: 64’. 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

In 1935, British trade paper “Kine Weekly” approved: “the realistic settings form a sturdy and attractive frame for the plot”, with “very good lighting and photography” distinguished by “a feeling of fluid continuity”. Overall, it was commended for “bright story, clean sentiment, good characterisation, and excellent staging”. What had impressed the reviewer was undoubtedly the elaborate lab setting in a plastics company, which contains much of the action. At this time, Bakelite was only starting to be widely used, and the idea of a woman heading a research lab must have seemed distinctly novel, if not revolutionary.
Only rediscovered in 1990, the year of Powell’s death, The Love Test still strikes an intriguingly modern note in its premise and setting, even if the underlying plot would have already been hackneyed by the time of Shakespeare’s comedies – a man set up to romance an apparently unattractive women falls for her. As in many of Powell’s early films, British business is shown struggling to come up to date, with the company’s bosses mercilessly caricatured, and Googie Withers, whom Powell had recently discovered, playing what Variety engagingly described as “a gum-chewing secretary-vamp who crank-starts Hayward’s engine”, when she offers the hero basic instruction in kissing.
The central couple, Hayward and Judy Gunn, are certainly adequate, but Powell was starting to meet the actors who would become vivid characters in his and Pressburger’s later masterpieces. Withers was clearly ripe for more demanding roles, which One of Our Aircraft is Missing would offer, before she starred in some of Ealing’s greatest 1940s dramas. Two other debutants would return in later Powell films: Bernard Miles is part of the bomber crew in One of Our Aircraft and Dave Hutcheson is a foppish foil to Clive Candy in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
Future director Arthur Crabtree’s fine tracking shots and high-key lighting are still impressive; and the task that the lab is working on, how to make cellulose nitrate – the same material that film was long made from – less flammable, has a poignant irony for archivists.

Ian Christie

Copy From

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