9 February 2016 | robert-temple-1
Powerful and troubling postwar melodrama
This film is based upon a novel by a long-forgotten novelist, Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson (1879-1971), who was born in colonial India, and who earlier wrote a novel called THE HAPPY WARRIOR which was made into a silent feature film as long ago as 1917, in which Leslie Howard made his first feature film appearance. This film, IF WINTER COMES, was also initially made into a silent film in 1923 with a cast of actors all of whom are now entirely forgotten in the mists of time. The very powerful and disturbing story was thus a postwar tale, but one told of the aftermath of the First World War, but which is here recycled and set in the aftermath of the Second World War. Walter Pidgeon plays the lead, a gentle and kindly man living in the fictional Surrey town of Tidborough and married to an embittered harridan of a wife, played by Angela Lansbury, who certainly knew how to play embittered women and have a pinched face and the tongue of a serpent. The film is chiefly notable for the second screen appearance of Janet Leigh, aged twenty but successfully playing an innocent 16 year-old girl named Effie Bright, who is all sweetness and light. And who ever had a sweeter smile than Janet Leigh at this age? Despite being American, she manages a British accent successfully enough. The romantic female lead is played by an impassioned Deborah Kerr, at her most intense. She has returned to the town and has her heart set on joining up again with Walter Pidgeon whom she had jilted three years earlier when she ran off and married the wrong man. Pidgeon is a bit wooden, so that one wonders why all this passion is swirling around him. He is excellent at being kindly and noble, and in fact during my brief acquaintance with him in my teens, he was exactly like that offscreen. 'You couldn't find a nicer man.' But that is not the same as inspiring an controllable passion in Deborah Kerr when she is on heat. Oh well, that's the movies for you. Victor Saville did an excellent job of directing, and the film works very well. Dame May Witty has a cameo role, and it is always a pleasure to see her. The story however is very powerful and upsetting. It is about a man with a good heart who through his kindness becomes a central figure in a vast misunderstanding, where he stands accused of all sorts of terrible things which he did not do. Most of the people of the town are exposed as bitter and small-minded, and they turn against him en masse. It is really very harrowing indeed. This makes for good drama, and there is plenty of desperate tragedy.