Friday 27 February 2009

British Film Classics

With 'Slumdog Millionaire' deservedly winning awards the world over, it's genuinely refreshing to see a British funded movie doing so well. Sometimes we forget that our beleaguered little island once had its own very individual film industry.

The British movie industry used to turn out thoughtful, whimsical, thrilling, funny, charming, bizarre (and predominantly black and white) films that starred unflappable British greats like John Mills, Dirk Bogard, Jack Hawkins, Michael Redgrave and Kenneth More. Classic films like Brief Encounter, Henry V, The Dambusters, Scott of The Antarctic, The Cruel Sea and The Inn of The Sixth Happiness were the staple of many cinema goers' regular viewing sometimes supporting a US main feature or as the main feature themselves. Films like these were propelled by stirring and evocative scores that exuded a certain Britishness, coming from great beknighted composers including Sir William Walton, Sir Malcolm Arnold, William Alwyn, Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Ron Goodwin and Alan Rawsthorne.

British Film Classics is a great double CD that brings together some fine examples of these often overlooked composers' popular works for film. The first CD kicks off with Ron Goodwin's theme from the 1966 feature The Trap better known to British TV viewers as the music for the London Marathon televisations. Elsewhere, we are treated to Sir Arthur Bliss' galloping theme for Things To Come and my personal favourite, Sir Malcolm Arnold's whimsical and anarchic theme from The Belles of St Trinians.The second CD features many evocative scores including Ralph Vaughan Williams bleakly beautiful titles for Scott of The Antarctic and Sir William Walton's soaring Prologue from Henry V and his stirring Spitfire Prelude and Fugue from The First of The Few. Whether it is pure coincidence or my defective hearing, but George Auric's delicate waltz from the 1952 version of Moulin Rouge from CD1 bears something of a passing resemblance to John Barry's 1966 theme to The Wrong Box.

Take some time to wallow in a bit of nostalgia for those wonderful old British films and pay tribute to the composers who helped shape that industry and perhaps inspired the likes of Williams, Goldsmith et al .

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