The Winslow Boy (1948 film)
The Winslow Boy is a 1948 British film adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy. It was made by De Grunwald Productions and distributed by the British Lion Film Corporation. It was directed by Anthony Asquith and produced by Anatole de Grunwald with Teddy Baird as associate producer. The adapted screenplay was written by de Grunwald and Rattigan based on Rattigan's play. The music score was by William Alwyn and the cinematography by Freddie Young.
|The Winslow Boy|
Original British poster
|Directed by||Anthony Asquith|
|Produced by||Anatole de Grunwald|
|Written by||Terence Rattigan|
Anatole de Grunwald
|Based on||The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan|
Sir Cedric Hardwicke
|Music by||William Alwyn (comp.)|
Dr. Hubert Clifford (dir.)
Osmond H. Borradaile (exteriors)
|Edited by||Gerald Turney-Smith|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)|
|Box office||£211,383 (UK)|
The film stars Robert Donat, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Margaret Leighton with Basil Radford, Kathleen Harrison, Francis L. Sullivan, Marie Lohr and Jack Watling (who was also in the original West End theatre production). Also in the cast are Stanley Holloway, Mona Washbourne, Ernest Thesiger, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Lewis Casson, Cyril Ritchard and Dandy Nichols. Neil North, who plays the title role, also appeared in the 1999 film adaptation directed by David Mamet.
Set against the strict codes of conduct and manners of the age, The Winslow Boy is based on a father's fight to clear his son's name. The boy (Ronnie) is expelled from Osborne Naval College for supposedly stealing a five shilling postal order, without receiving a fair trial. His father (Arthur) and sister (Catherine) lead a long running legal battle, that takes them as far as the House of Commons. The play focuses on a refusal to back down in the face of injustice – the entire Winslow family, and the barrister who represents them (Sir Robert Morton), make great sacrifices in order that right be done.
The play was inspired by an actual event, which set a legal precedent; the case of George Archer-Shee, a cadet at Osborne in 1908, who was accused of stealing a postal order from a fellow cadet. His elder brother, Major Martin Archer-Shee, was convinced of his innocence, and persuaded his father (also called Martin) to engage lawyers. The most respected barrister of the day, Sir Edward Carson was also persuaded of his innocence, and insisted on the case coming to court. On the fourth day of the trial, the Solicitor General accepted that Archer-Shee was innocent, and ultimately the family was paid compensation. George Archer-Shee died in the First World War and his name is inscribed on the war memorial in the village of Woodchester in Gloucestershire where his parents lived. There is no real world counterpart to the character of Catherine, although she is central to the plot of the play and films.
Ronnie Winslow (Neil North), a cadet at the Royal Naval College, is accused of the theft of a postal order. An internal enquiry which grants him no chance of defence, finds him guilty and his father, Arthur Winslow (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), is requested to remove his son from the college. Unwilling to accept the verdict, Winslow and his daughter Catherine institute their own enquiries and engage a friend and family solicitor, Desmond Curry (Basil Radford) to assist them, including the briefing of the best barrister in England at the time, Sir Robert Morton (Robert Donat), should the case come to court.
The government is unwilling to allow the case to proceed, but after heated debates in the House of Commons, the government yields, and the case does come to court. Morton is able to discredit much of the supposed evidence and the government finally withdraws the charges against Ronnie. Although the family wins the case, each of them has lost something along the way: Dickie Winslow (Jack Watling) has been forced to leave Oxford due to the lack of money, Catherine (Margaret Leighton) loses her marriage settlement and subsequently her fiancé, John Weatherstone (Frank Lawton), and Arthur Winslow loses his health.
Differences from the play
The Archer-Shee case took place in 1908, while the film is set in 1912, just prior to World War I.
Writing in The New York Times however, Bosley Crowther compared the film unfavourably to the play, "staged with superlative finish on Broadway two seasons ago," but praised the "sparkling performance" of Robert Donat, and concluded, that despite these reservations, "the screen has a striking and an inspiring picture in 'The Winslow Boy'"; The Monthly Film Bulletin noted, "It is very much a period piece, in which the middle class, with its comforts, its unlovely interiors and hideous clothes, is very much in evidence. It is too long, and would benefit by judicious cutting," although the reviewer concluded, "This is quite definitely a film to see and enjoy"; while more recently, Dennis Schwartz found the film to be "directed with great care for feeling and detail (the period settings are superb) by Anthony Asquith," and that it "proves to be excellent middle-class entertainment," and concluded by singling out Donat, "superb as the witty and elegant lawyer, who also has grit and compassion."
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 20 No. 4, 2000
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