STARS LOOK DOWN, THE(director: Carol Reed; screenwriters: from the novel by A. J. Cronin/A. J. Cronin/A. Coppel; cinematographer: Ernest Palmer; editor: Reginald Beck; music: Hans May; cast: Michael Redgrave (David Fenwick), Margaret Lockwood (Jenny Sunley), Emlyn Williams (Joe Gowlan), Edward Rigby (Robert Fenwick), Nancy Price (Martha Fenwick), Allan Jeayes (Richard Barras), Cecil Parker (Mr. Millington), Linden Travers (Mrs. Laura Millington), George Carney (Slogger Gowlan), Milton Rosmer (Harry Nugent, MP), Olga Lindo (Mrs. Sunley); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Isadore Goldsmith/Maurice J. Wilson; Timeless Video; 1940-UK)
“The classic b/w film is rich in detail and atmosphere of mining life.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Carol Reed (“Trapeze”/”The Third Man”/”Odd Man Out”) directs this gripping but dated and dour ‘kitchen sink’ melodrama about the daily rigors of being a miner in northern England. It was shot at Workington, in Northumberland. A. J. Cronin adapts the screenplay from his own popular novel.
Davey Fenwick (Michael Redgrave) is the idealistic son of a hard-working miner (Edward Rigby) and a stoical mom (Nancy Price), whose academic ability wins him a college scholarship and a way out of the mines. The lad views this as a chance to help his dad and the other miners by fighting politically as an MP for their cause. But before he can complete college in the town of Tynecastle and fight to improve the lot of the Sleescale people, a slippery ex-working-class pal of his, Joe Gowlan (Emlyn Williams), who looted a butcher shop during a strike in his hometown and with the stolen money became an enterprising bookie, is now residing in Tynecastle. The untrustworthy Joe palms off on the unworldly Davey his pretty but bad character, cheap, bimbo, opportunistic, materialistic girlfriend Jenny (Margaret Lockwood). When the double-dealing Joe dumps the crass Jenny, who loves only Joe, she rebounds to get her hooks into Davey and manipulates him to quit college to marry her. The result is an unhappy marriage with Davey back home in poverty-stricken Sleescale struggling to get by teaching the elementary school children of the miners and feeling like a loser, while studying at night to complete his degree. Meanwhile his lazy wife loafs and nags him. Jenny’s old flame Joe returns to the mining town with a luxury car and schemes a secret deal with the wealthy mining boss (Allan Jeayes), that betrays his former working-class pals by getting them to work with the union’s permission in Scupper Flats–where on the other side of that coal seam is a million tons of flood water ready to rush right down the mine shaft. Davey finally gets it that his wife doesn’t love him and always loved Joe. He also realizes that Davey has cooked up something dangerous for the miners so that he can profit from their dangerous labor. When Davey’s warnings to the union leaders about poor working conditions in Scupper Flats goes unheeded, it leads to a mine disaster that has Davey’s father and several other workers killed when trapped in the mine.
The classic b/w film is rich in detail and atmosphere of mining life.
REVIEWED ON 3/3/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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