"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?!
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