21 June 2008 | JohnHowardReid
Walter Connolly Makes a Highly Believable Father Brown
It's both interesting and instructive to compare the two movie versions of "The Blue Cross". In the Paramount picture, the writers cleverly preserve the maguffin of the tale, namely the ingenious yet simple way in which Brown outwits his adversary, yet change the character of the priest himself. In the British picture, however, Brown's astonishing ingenuity is completely ignored, other than his re-swapping the parcels (a commonplace feat common to both films); yet, although he indulges in no abstruse theological debates, the Guinness' Brown is far more faithful to G.K. Chesterton's conception.
Frankly, despite Chesterton's disapproval, I prefer Connolly, who makes Brown a believable priest, not an argumentative theology basher lecturing on "the real difference between human charity and Christian charity" and similar peripheral, philosophical subjects ("The Chief Mourner of Marne", page 583 in the Cassell omnibus edition).
Walter Connolly and his scriptwriters imbue Brown with a quality that Guinness and company don't even attempt: Spirituality! The only other movie occasion in which I've seen this essential quality brought into the open was in the character played by Burgess Meredith in The Cardinal (1963). With Connolly, however, this virtue is not drawn to the audience's attention. It's just there! In a gesture, a wink, an attitude or simply part of the actor's charisma. Connolly's performance transcends "acting". He really is Father Brown. On the other hand, with Guinness we always have the impression that here is Guinness again most ably playing his customary screen character, this time under the label, Father Brown.
Although he is not the Flambeau described in the books, Paul Lukas does well in the part and receives excellent support from lovely Gertrude Michael. Hobbes, of course, is his usual aristocratic self. And also much as usual, alas, is Una O'Connor, complete with trademark squawk. Fortunately, her role is small.
Technical credits are first-class.