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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Man In Grey (1943)

In early 19th century England, a young girl (Phyllis Calvert) enters a loveless marriage of convenience with a cold hearted but titled cad (James Mason) who is part of the aristocracy. Her treacherous best friend (Margaret Lockwood, THE LADY VANISHES) moves in to their home at her request but she quickly becomes the mistress to the man of the house. This rather lurid period costume drama is near irresistible in its kitsch, a dime store Harlequin romance paperback come to life on celluloid. As the brooding man of the manor, this was James Mason's breakthrough role, making him a matinee idol of sorts in Great Britain. Odd considering his character here is rather repellent. But the wickedness of Lockwood's and Mason's characters are much more preferable and certainly more fun than the goody goody Calvert and the noble Stewart Granger as the adventurer she falls in love with. The film is dated uncomfortably in some of its sexist and racist attitudes. Calvert is told, "When we marry you must learn to obey me" and she happily accepts it and blacks are casually referred to as savages and the "N" word by Granger. That aside, it's an enjoyable bodice ripper. Directed by Leslie Arliss. With Martita Hunt, Helen Haye, Nora Swinburne and young Harry Scott, who appears to be white playing in blackface as Calvert's loyal urchin.

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