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  • "We shall not see each other again I think, farewell...". Those last words spoken on screen in 1958 by the grand Robert Donat in "Inn of the 6th Happiness", were to also prove true in life. This sterling Oscar winning performer was truly a one of a kind screen personality. Judy Garland claimed him as her favorite actor, and he cited the great Paul Muni as one of his favorites. How sad then that this remarkable performer suffered from an almost incomprehensible lack of confidence, combined with acute asthma, that eventually weakened him, contributing to his death.

    Most every major studio, and director, strove to convince him to take the lead roles in numerous productions - most he would decline. Many American film makers went to the UK (the land he called home) just to have him take the lead in their movies (who can forget him as "The Count of Monte Cristo" from 1934!). Seems such a pity he chose to live in a British climate, had he lived elsewhere he may have enjoyed better health. Without the medications we now take for granted, his life was reduced to fear and suffering.

    "Lease of Life" marked his return to the screen following several years of ill health. It was a role tailor made for him, as the unassuming pastor in a Yorkshire village. His stylish, strong flow of delivery belied the difficulty this must have presented him. Award nominated writer Eric Ambler: (The Cruel Sea '53 ~ Night to Remember '58 ~ Mask of Dimitrios '44) created a story that was both quiet, and forceful at the same time - perfect for this extraordinary actor. His wife played by Kay Walsh (Stage Fright '50) is admirable in her role of a woman longing for more of life's finery. Scottish born beauty (of Italian parents) Adrienne Corri (Dr Zhivago '65 ~ The River '51 ~ Scrooge '70) gives strong support as their youthful daughter.

    Award winning director of photography: Douglas Slocombe (Indiana Jones: several entries in that series ~ Jesus Christ Super star '73 ~ The Great Gatsby '74) provides former editor turned director, Charles Frend (Scott of the Antarctic '48 ~ The Cruel Sea '53) with glorious Technicolor images. Symphonic composer Alan Rawsthorne (Pandora and the Flying Dutchman '51) provides the suitably staunch score. The film is edited by Peter Tanner who also gave flowing style to the highly interesting 'Pool of London' in 1951. Award winning art director Jim Moraham (Train of Events '50 ~ The Blue Lamp '50) adds fine touches of aesthetic detail. A team of quality film makers give much to this somewhat under appreciated, and rarely seen feature. May be a little quiet (slow) for some, but those looking for quality, should be well rewarded for their patience.

    Again, I caught this classic on local Australian TV channel Gem, who treated it with the same level of contempt they show to those who have chosen to tune in...reducing it to nothing more than a devise to force their inane promotions down viewer's throats, filling it with annoying 'pop-ups' and intrusive over sized station graphics. I'll be looking for a DVD so I won't need to suffer this channel's childish lack of presentation style again. Will they ever learn?!
  • eanna27 December 2002
    Few contemporary films address religion with any sense of the nuances inherent in a belief in the supernatural. This film does so, and does so in ways so lovely that when it comes to its rather abrupt ending you're left saying "Wow...that was really interesting."

    Donat plays the classic English parson, a role unchanged since Trollope, poor, scrimping, of moderate talents but immense goodness. When forced to face his own mortality, he becomes happier than ever before, since he can act with his beliefs out there for all to see.

    The film also addresses the very common idea that a life of religion is one of rules alone, and demolishes it brusquely. The religious life is not one of rules but one of freedom. Freedom from many things, but freedom to do others. It is compellingly summarized in his brief but heartfelt sermon that is eagerly misinterpreted by the masses. But it is the message Jesus offered 2000 years ago. If you believe, and act on that belief, rules no longer are important. That is the ultimate freedom, and why Donat can be so happy while under a death sentence.

    Fine film, understated yet potent.
  • Fans of Robert Donat will not want to miss this one. As I watched the film, with its strong and unflinching view of daily life in which the Church structures every act in every household, I kept thinking of Agatha Christie and her conception of Miss Marple's detection of crime in an English village. In Donat's parsonage, there are no murders, but there are small transgressions, which, in the large scheme of things, may matter little, but under the microscope of vicarage life, mean as much as a daughter's music career hinging on 20£s being too little.

    Donat's character is reminiscent of Mr. Fred Rogers, of television fame, who just passed away. As with Mr. Rogers, his view of life is one of gentle humor and of quiet strength, always facing up to the challenge that each individual has in life when he is placed on this earth. The screen writer Eric Ambler is unknown to me, but his view of daily life in 1950's England, while a decade away from the war, was still one of struggle with a slightly grim, but not cheerless, overcast. The women are all strong, and, while the men not all good-looking, are a tad on the shrill and demanding side. We wonder if Donat's parson could survive without Kay Walsh's, and then the daughter Adrienne Corri's, constant ministrations, verbal and actual. The other women in the village also seem to be like harpies, which makes one wonder about the women in Ambler's life.

    Adrienne Corri, unless I am mistaken, actually does play the piano in the film-- the big Romantic composers into which she pours her heart as an escape from the potentially stifling life in Hinton. We see her as a younger beauty in Jean Renoir's classic "The River," which she made just four years earlier. Her beau in the film is the young Denholm Elliott, who in a long and distinguished career, plays, here, a rather aggressive and unsympathetic, though professionally encouraging to Adrienne, church organist.

    The movie is about character, and the performances remind us that ordinary life in a small English town revolved around the structure that religious life gave it, and that both pleasure and pain hinged on the degree of conformity that one presented to the outside world. Kay Walsh's character, both heroic and petty, also reminds us of how many vicar's wives have been sacrificed in real life to the altar of their husband's career and to fulfillig the lives of their children, through which they lived vicariously, as Mrs. Thorne through her daughter's musical talent.

    This film was an Ealing Film Studio production, and like other Ealing products, bears an honesty and respect for the dignity of ordinary people in the telling of its story, regardless of the director. Is this saying too much for a movie company, or is it the English character? One has only to consider the other Ealing Studio films which Turner Movie Classics has made available from time to time, "The Magic Box" (another Donat classic), "Shiralee" (an early Peter Finch), as well as a number of great comedies, like "The Wrong Box," "Man in the White Suit" (an Alec Guinnes classic), and others, that poke fun at human nature and its foibles with a sense of manic pleasure, but never losing sight of gentle humanity.

    "Lease of Life" was apparently the second to the last film that Donat made before he succumbed to chronic asthma, a tragedy as that ailment today can be so easily controlled. His last film "Inn of the Sixth Happiness" was ironically made for Hollywood, which he tended to avoid. In it he plays a dignified mandarin, both looking and speaking the part -- the only actor, in my experience, to have mastered the Chinese language in a western film.

    For "Lease of Life" four**** out of five***** for its rarity.
  • The very frailty of Robert Donat who suffered from asthma his entire life was never more in evidence than in Lease Of Life. In this film Donat plays a country vicar as if Mr. Chips had decided to take up the ministry.

    The very title of the film says in no uncertain terms we do not own life itself. It's something we're granted a lease on and it's up to us to try and do as much as we can for ourselves, our families, and for the whole of life itself.

    Donat knows something that no one else does that his lease on his capacity to breathe may get terminated very soon. What he's determined to do is make his life count in every conceivable way. With an invitation to speak at an Eton like prep school's graduation he gets such an opportunity and a bit of notoriety as well.

    Domestically Donat's major problem is putting together enough money for his daughter Adrienne Corri's musical education. She's a piano prodigy, but the living that a country parson has might not be sufficient to pay her way. That leads wife Kay Walsh to do something very stupid out of her concern.

    Lease Of Life is a gentle film about the life of an Anglican parson in a country village. No frills, no outrageous characters as one normally gets in an Ealing film. The people are quite real with all the strengths, foibles, and weaknesses we all have.

    Most of all it has Robert Donat and given that his health limited his film work the chance to see him at all should never be missed.
  • richardchatten14 January 2021
    A cruelly ironic title, since Robert Donat - still only in his forties but looking sixty - is visibly dying, thus reinforcing - in Charles Barr's words - the "moving kind of bleakness" of this Ealing cross between 'Le Corbeau' and 'Diary of a Country Priest'.

    With a suitably melancholy score by Alan Rawsthorne; through the camera of Douglas Slocombe, Ealing's first production in the new marvel of 'Eastman Colour' (sic) handsomely creates on location in Lincolnshire the deceptively pretty little parish of Gilchester (as well as vividly displaying a young Adrienne Corri's Titian mane as Donat's vibrant young daughter), which beneath it's picturesque facade throbs with intrigue and venality; it's poisonous passions ignited by Donat's unguarded sermon addressed to his flock.
  • Great acting by Robert Donat who one could see was clearly not well (a less than kind contributor mentioned he looked aged). The story itself a familiar plot of a dying man making the most of the time left. However beautifully done against the backdrop of village life in 1950s England, with a vicar faced with choosing between that which is expected of him and that which his heart and his faith demand. A spoilt daughter and a supportive though somewhat demanding wife who turns out to be quite vulnerable keeps the interest afloat. The characters in the village and the twists and turns of the tale make this a film well worth watching. If you prefer stories about life rather than spectacular action, depiction of morals and values against big budget drama and reality over fantasy then this should keep you entertained for the duration.

    Great shots of Beverley Minster and clever camera work I thought for what was probably a fairly low budget affair.
  • malcolmgsw10 November 2015
    It often used to puzzle me that a studio such as Ealing,which has produced so many fine films closed down in 1965.It was not till i had seen some of its lesser efforts of the period that i realised how poor some of the other films were,leading to Stephen Courtauld withdrawing his backing.I do not remember this film being previously shown on terrestial TV and we only have this opportunity to view it as a result of a DVD release.I looked at it it and i could only wonder to whom this film could have appealed at the time it was made.The only real attraction was seeing Robert Donat in one of his few roles.Now i know he was supposed to look ill as part of the plot .but at 49 years old he looks nearer 69.The plot in this film is silly and rather morbid.Great an actor as he was he cannot save this lifeless mess.