18 December 2002 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Damp Davis, capable Kanner
Connecting Rooms' is a bleak chamber drama, similar in mood and setting to Separate Tables' but nowhere near so interesting as that film. I'm not aware that Connecting Rooms' was ever released anywhere: I saw it at a trade screening, and not one of the cinema exhibitors in the audience showed any interest in booking this movie
despite the box-office value of Bette Davis and Michael Redgrave.
James Wallraven (Redgrave) is a schoolmaster who has been dismissed for sexual misconduct with one of his students: the script is careful to let us know that Wallraven was unfairly accused (unlike the equivalent character in Separate Tables', played by David Niven in his Oscar-winning performance). The disgraced Wallraven lives in a dilapidated rooming house in Bayswater, hoping that no one here will learn his shameful secret. He meets Wanda Fleming, a repressed cellist (Davis). This film was based on a (flop) stage play called The Cellist', and Davis's role is clearly the central character in this film. A tentative relationship develops between Wallraven and Wanda.
Wanda's student is a scruffy young man named Mickey Hollister (Alexis Kanner), who lusts for fame as a songwriter. Mickey also lusts for Wanda, even though he's a lot younger and better-looking than she is. Jealous that Wanda is giving her attentions to Wallraven, Mickey reveals Wallraven's secret
without revealing that Wallraven is innocent.
This whole thing is a soap opera. Leo Genn and Kay Walsh give good performances in supporting roles. Redgrave's role would have been much more interesting (and his performance more challenging) if his character had actually been guilty of the sex crime. By far, the best performance on offer here is Alexis Kanner's. Although Kanner is an extremely pretentious actor, he's also a very physical actor who takes risks. In many of his TV and film roles, what Kanner does onscreen is wrong
but he nearly always does something interesting and unexpected. He's vital, virile and primally evil as the covetous Hollister. If Kanner had channelled his talents more intelligently, and disciplined himself, he could have been the British version of James Dean.
At the end of the film, Bette Davis and Michael Redgrave walk past a theatre poster for a play starring an actress named Margo Channing (the character Davis played in All About Eve'). This wasn't a very good in-joke, as it reminds us of a film that's much better than Connecting Rooms', in which Bette Davis gives a much better performance than she does here. I'll reluctantly rate this movie 2 points out of 10.