CROWN VS. STEVENS (director: Michael Powell; screenwriters: from the novel “Third Time Unlucky” by Laurence Meynell/Brock Williams; cinematographer: Basil Emmott; editor: Bert Bates; cast: Beatrix Thomson (Doris Stevens), Patric Knowles (Chris Jansen), Reginald Purdell (Alf), Glennis Lorimer (Molly Hobbs), Allan Jeayes (Inspector Carter), Frederick Piper (Arthur Stevens), Mabel Poulton (Mamie), Billy Watts (Joe), Morris Harvey (Julius Bayleck), Davina Craig (Maggie, Maid), Googie Withers (Ella); Runtime: 66; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Irving Asher; Warner Bros.; 1936-UK)
“A well-conceived British quota picture.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a well-conceived British quota picture, that was used by the American producer Irving Asher for Warner Brothers’ London owned Teddington Studios to fulfill one of it obligations required by law; that is, an American studio must make a certain amount of features with a British cast and crew every year in order to work in England. Before graduating to A films and becoming a legendary director and teaming up with Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell (“The Phantom Light”/”The Price of a Song”/”The Fire Raisers”) made this very good cheapie film noir. This quickly shot film was based on the novel “Third Time Unlucky” by Laurence Meynell and was written by Brock Williams.
Nice guy, underpaid struggling young office clerk for a small business decorator Chris Jansen (Patric Knowles) gives a dance hall floozy (Mabel Poulton) an engagement ring not paid for and she runs off with another fellow (Billy Watts) and, the not so nice gal, keeps the ring. When Chris goes to the Nottingham pawnbroker/moneylender, Bayleck (Morris Harvey), to try to explain why he can’t make the payment, the insensitive Bayleck threatens to press charges if there’s no ring or money by tomorrow. When Chris returns again to plead his case and get an extension on his note, he finds someone he will learn later to be his boss’s wife, Doris Stevens (Beatrix Thomson), an ex-dancer hiding behind a curtain and still holding the small pistol she used to murder the loan shark. Doris three years ago married the wealthy Arthur Stevens (Frederick Piper) for his money only to discover that he’s a skinflint, and the high living gal borrowed money she couldn’t pay back. Chris reluctantly agrees not to go to the police after sociopath liar Doris fills his head with deceitful stories. Though Chris did burn the loan shark’s account book while in the vic’s presence, and is not all that innocent. Trying to forget his ordeal Chris starts dating pretty nice girl interior decorator Molly (Glennis Lorimer), a company client. One night Doris gets so fed up with her cheapskate dull hubby for wanting to report it was her pistol the police recovered in the water after they splash its description all over the papers, that she decides to overdose him with sleeping pills and asphyxiate him by leaving him asleep in his garaged car with the motor running. Chris relates to Molly what happened at the crime scene, and the two come over to tell Mr. Stevens the truth and instead end up saving him just before he’s a goner.
It’s a very entertaining little melodrama about an unworldly and limited chap embroiled in a tricky situation that leaves him stuck trying to find the right way out of something that has gotten beyond his control. The acting honors go to Thomson. The stage actress was superb as the quintessential femme fatale, and easily steals this film from her capable co-stars.
REVIEWED ON 9/18/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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