The Light That Failed (1939)

Passed   |    |  Adventure, Drama, War

The Light That Failed (1939) Poster

Dick Heldar, a London artist, is gradually losing his sight. He struggles to complete his masterpiece, the portrait of Bessie Broke, a cockney girl, before his eyesight fails him.


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1 August 1999 | otter
Well done, beautifully acted, and as melodramatic as possible
Authors just don't have the nerve to write melodrama any more. They're afraid of big issues and larger-than-life emotions, they're afraid that if they put any real passion or sentiment on the page, they'll make fools of themselves. They're probably right, but when a story as sappy as this works, it really, uh, "tugs at the heartstrings" as they used to say.

Rudyard Kipling's war horse story works because it's well acted and directed. Ronald Colman is even more wonderful than usual as a Victorian artist who finds he's going blind, and has just enough time left to paint a masterpiece. Never was an actor more admirable, earnest, and lovable as Colman. Ida Lupino got her big break as the model for "Melancholy". Oh, she's wonderful; a mean, vicious, petty little tart, never again would anybody dismiss her as just another pretty face. This part established her as one of the all-time great Bad Girls, beautiful and strong enough to make over-the-top hysteria seem like bravura acting. She's great.

The direction is as lively as can be for what's largely two characters in one room, and the B&W photography is beautifully expressive. Recommended for when you want some old-fashioned unashamed emotion.

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