Wednesday, March 08, 2017



In WWII, a British tank faces a bridge that might be mined. Despite being warned, the commander insists on heading over. Next we see a headline that officer Vivian Kenway (Rex Harrison) has been reported missing. We then flashback to see highlights in the life of Kenway. During the Armistice parades of 1918, young Kenway sneaks out of bed to join the celebrations and is given a shiny pin and told not to forget the "common man" soldiers. [Spoiler: he keeps the pin but rather forgets about the common man.] At Oxford in 1931, Kenway is a bit of a cut-up, putting a chamber pot on a beloved statue, and a bit of a cad, going on a date with Jill knowing that she's seeing his best friend Sandy (Griffith Jones). Sandy warns him to change his ways, but sure enough, Kenway is expelled. His family insists he make something of himself and is sent off to a South American coffee plantation, but that doesn't last long, and Kenway is able to return home and eke out a playboy existence on family money for a while. He meets up with his college buddy Sandy, who is now married to Jill, and he beings an affair with her which goes nowhere, except to a fistfight with Sandy (pictured). When his share of the family money dries up, he takes up race car driving but gets stranded in Vienna where Rikki (Lilli Palmer), a rich Jewish heiress running from the Nazis, helps him out; he also helps her out by marrying her and getting her out of Austria. But back in London, he has an affair and she tries to kill herself. Kenway continues his downward slide, becoming a door-to-door salesman and then a dancing companion (when he's criticized for his lack of ability, he says, "What do they expect for a bob—Fred Astaire?"). Finally, he aims for redemption by joining the Army in WWII and he works his way up to tank commander—and we're back to the beginning of the film. This life story of a useless fellow was loosely inspired by the famous series of paintings by Hogarth. Despite the melodramatic plot twists, the film retains a fairly light tone and Harrison does a nice job of keeping the unlikable title character charming enough that we care what happens to him. Palmer, Harrison’s real-life wife at the time, is very good as is the always appealing Griffin Jones. The rest of the actors don't really stand out, mostly because of their limited screen time, except for Godfrey Tearle as the father. [TCM]

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