• U.S.

Cinema: The New Pictures: Nov. 28, 1938

4 minute read

Sixty Glorious Years (Imperator-RKO Radio) should be an enlightening experience for U. S. cinemaddicts whose notions about 19th-Century history may have been slightly confused by recent Hollywood versions. Suez, for example, portrayed Ferdinand de Lesseps, who actually had two wives and ten children, as a lovesick young bachelor, and explained England’s participation in his canal-building as the result of a General Election which never occurred. In Sixty Glorious Years, a dinner-table chat between Disraeli and Queen Victoria shows how the matter was actually handled. This reverence for the real is characteristic of a picture which is aimed at historical fidelity rather than romantic excitement, but often achieves both.

Much of the emotional validity of Sixty Glorious Years comes from the fact that the British Government,* highly approving of Director Herbert Wilcox’s treatment of the same subject in Victoria the Great last year, lent him settings which not even Hollywood could hope to reproduce. No empty shells tacked up on a sound stage, the castles of Windsor and Balmoral, the palaces of Buckingham and St. James’s (to whose interiors the King gave Director Wilcox and his company access) look as substantial as their own walls and superb Technicolor film can make them.

The people whose story they enclose—the Prince Consort (Anton Walbrook) and Wellington, dozing in his chair. Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone, Asquith, Salisbury and a dozen others—seem as real as the sombre, graceful rooms, the velvet lawns and old streets that surround them. Most real of all is the Queen herself (Anna Neagle), waltzing at a palace ball, reviewing troops on a white horse, rebuking Gladstone for not preventing the massacre of Gordon’s army at Khartoum, telling an old servant how she waved to a crowd of costermongers at her Jubilee.

For the 20th Century the legend of Victoria’s reign has an inexhaustible fascination. As Victoria the Great re-created its political turmoils, so Sixty Glorious Years re-creates the calmly splendid pageant of its great days with the dignity they deserve. Good sequence: Victoria giving her blessing to the betrothal of her eldest daughter and Prince Frederick William of Prussia—whose son is Germany’s ex-Kaiser. Submarine Patrol (Twentieth Century-Fox) shows the U. S. Navy in a strange new light. Heretofore seen on the screen as background for Dick Powell’s singing, James Cagney’s impudence. Hermes Pan’s dance routines and Robert Young’s football playing, the Navy in Submarine Patrol has suffered a sea change: it is shown fighting a war.

Cinemaddicts who recover from their initial shock at this innovation will be relieved to find that: 1) If, as Franklin Roosevelt says, it is inadequate for national defense, his favorite branch of the service is still amply capable of giving taxpayers their money’s worth in a theatre. 2) Aside from its new sphere of operations, the Navy’s chief interest remains what it always has been: romance, in this case between the daughter (Nancy Kelly) of a freighter’s captain and a daring young engineer (Richard Greene*) on the submarine chaser S.C. 599, assigned to convoy the freighter through the Mediterranean. Result of the combination is to make Submarine Patrol, forcefully directed by John Ford, the season’s liveliest adventure film. Good sequence: the wooden S.C. 599 nosing through a mine field to blow up a U-boat at its supply base.

*A co-author of the dialogue—which contains a discussion of Great Britain’s defensive policy against aggressor nations—was Sir Robert Yan-sittart, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Foreign Office. *After attending a San Diego preview of Submarine Patrol, Actor Greene last fortnight set off with his valet on a hunting trip in the Kaibab National Forest. When he failed to telephone his mother as he had promised, forest rangers, rail-road agents, and 100 CCC workers, started a search for Actor Greene. Twenty-four hours later, he was discovered at Williams, Ariz.

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