Sunday, February 20, 2011


This is a small-scale British "Grand Hotel"-type movie which follows the adventures of a handful of people whose paths cross over an August "bank holiday" at a beach resort in Bexborough. The film begins with sidewalk headlines about revolution and war shadows replaced with more joyful news about weather reports for the upcoming holiday. First we meet Catherine, a young nurse who bonds with a man named Stephen when his wife dies in childbirth. She is scheduled to go off to the resort with her boyfriend Geoff--where they may or may not have sex for the first time--but she clearly would rather stay and help Stephen in his grief. Still, she goes off with Geoff (who keeps seeing posters for a play called "Sinners" wherever he goes) though it's obvious she's thinking about Stephen. The second story concerns Doreen, a small-town beauty queen who travels to the resort to compete in a Miss England contest where she and her friend Milly keep running into the more polished and glamorous Miss Mayfair. The third batch of characters is the working-class family of Arthur and May and their three unruly kids; the most stereotypical of the film's characters, May is burdened with the children while Arthur keeps sneaking away for a drink. The first night, the hotels are full up and everyone except Doreen winds up sleeping on the beach. The next day, they all get rooms at the Grand Hotel and the melodramatics kick into high gear when Catherine rebuffs Geoff's attempts at seduction, then leaves the hotel to go back to the city because she's sure that Stephen in at the brink of suicide (which he is--we periodically see Stephen drifting aimlessly through the weekend, having flashbacks to happier days with his late wife). Doreen winds up comforting Geoff, and Catherine gets a ride with a crook who is stopped on suspicion of theft. Will she be in time to save Stephen from himself? Will Doreen win the beauty contest? Will Arthur get his comeuppance from May?

This comedy-drama from director Carol Reed is mostly enjoyable, if predictable. The lovely Margaret Lockwood is fine and gets the most screen time as Catherine, though Rene Ray (as Doreen) and Kathleen Harrison (as May) are just as good, and Mere Tottenham makes the most of her comic-relief sidekick character of Milly. John Lodge, who plays Stephen, gave up acting for politics, was governor of Connecticut and later served as ambassador to Spain and Argentina. Ultimately, Hugh Williams as Geoff (pictured above with Lockwood) may be the most sympathetic character; even though (gasp!) he wants premarital sex, he's not painted as a bad person, although a little more insight into his background would be a plus. The juxtapositioning of the stories works out nicely, and I was amused by the two off-duty soldiers who keep cropping up in scenes; they're not important to the narrative, but they deliver a nice punch line at the end. The nighttime beach scene is particularly effective. American title: THREE ON A WEEKEND. [TCM]

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