Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Manxman

Title: The Manxman
Year: 1929
Studio: British International Pictures Ltd
Screenplay: Eliot Stannard
Source Material: From the novel by Sir Hall Caine
Running Time: 80 minutes
A Silent Picture in Black & White

Sunday 25th July, 10:45am
Ah, back to the grindstone! Last weekend was very busy due to it being my birthday weekend and I had the Murder Party, day trips to Sassafras and jaunts into the city, so the notion of attacking the project was rather implausible.
After having had a ridiculously late night on Saturday, I awoke around 9am (and for anyone who knows me well will concur that this is almost unheard of!) and I roused myself with no less than three mugs of Yorkshire Gold tea.

I knew today's viewing would be the first milestone of the journey as it is the final of Hitchcock's silent movies. However I was unprepared for the quality - more of that later.
I was briefly, albeit pleasantly, interrupted by a visit from my friend Brad who brought me a belated birthday present and some chocolate cake (nom, nom, nom) and we has tea & coffee and discussed Doctor Who.
Eventually I got back into the movie and watched the final half hour. What a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday day.

Pete Quilliam - Carl Brisson
Philip Christian - Malcolm Keen
Kate Cregeen - Anny ondra
Caesar Cregeen - Randall Ayrton
Mrs Cregeen - Claire Greet

"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

With this statement, the film opens with a sense of foreboding.
The famous triskelion flag of the Isle of Man flutters before us and the fishing boats are returning to harbour from a days work. Aboard one is Pete, a jolly, excitable and naive young man with the best of intentions.

Pete's best friend, Philip Christian, a rising young lawyer, is awaiting Pete on the dock. They have known each other since they were young boys. Phil has a petition for Pete and his fellow fisherman to sign.
He and the fisherman head to the 'Manx Fairy' - the local pub run by Caesar Cregeen.
At the pub, both Phil and Pete see their friend, Kate, a girl with whom both of the young men have feelings.
Pete flirts with Kate with bravado and Phil watches on.
Later, when the pub is practically empty, Phil and Pete discuss Kate. Pete wants to marry her but is doubtful he has the eloquence to persuade Kate's father to allow him her hand. He asks Phil to do the honours.

Phil does so, but Caesar is not impressed. He storms into the abr, flings open the door and asks Pete to leave.

"I tell you - get out! How dare you mention my daughter's name, you penniless lout."

Pete and Phil leave the pub, but Pete is not deterred. He plans to make his fortune overseas and return for Kate when he can afford to look after her properly.
The two men hang out below Kate's window. Pete throws up a stone to get her attention, she sees them, covers herself with a blanket and flirts with them in a '2 Romeos & Juliet' sort of way. Pete climbs on Phil's shoulders so he can steal a kiss from her. He promises he'll come back rich from his travels, but he promises her to wait for him. She teases him with a series of nods and shakes of the head.

Pete: "Aw, Kate - hold your capers - - be serious a-while. Will you wait, darlin'?"
Kate: "All right, Pete, I promise."

As he leaves, all giddy with joy, she realises what she has done and a look of panic crosses her face. He was more serious than she thought. This isn't merely a game.

Pete leaves on a liner and heads to Africa to seek his fortune. He has asked Phil to take care of Kate and make sure she sticks around for his return.

We see Kate;s diary and over a period of about a month, we see she has a number of dates with Phil. Initially referring to him as 'Mr Christian', but eventually, he becomes 'Philip'.
At the Christian home, his Aunt berates him. She is concerned that his dallying with the publican's daughter will not fare him well with his career as he climbs the ladder to become Deemster oif the island (a Deemster being a judge).

Aunt: "Your father married beneath him - let his ruined career be a warning to you."

Phil goes to the pub, but the atmosphere is sombre. It turns out that Pete has been killed. Caesar is surprisingly regretful...

Caesar: "Maybe I was wrong about Pete and Kate - she hasn't spoken a word since the news came."

Phil goes to Kate to console her, but she doesn't need consoling - she acts like she's been granted the grace to do as she pleases.

"Philip - we're free. Don't you see what this means for us?"

Unbeknown to them, it appears that there was a mistake - Pete is actually still alive and prepares to return.
Phil and Kate's relationship blossoms and on one fateful day, they are having a look around the nearby mill. It is here that they consummate their relationship albeit a sinful rendezvous.
It is later that Phil discovers the news about Pete and he writes for Kate to meet him. They are on a beautiful beach where he tells her the news and they vow to never speak of their love affair for fear of breaking Pete's heart.

Kate: "I am glad Pete's alive but it makes no difference. I don't love him."

They return to the pub and Pete has returned. The two lovers have to feign happiness but find it hard. Pete has returned with money and the wedding is planned.

In a montage, we see Kate pondering as she looks out from a balcony, having her veil fitted, the ring placed on her finger and her arms linking with Pete. They are married, but she is apathetic and lost.
The wedding reception is held in the mill, at the same spot where Phil and Kate made love. After the reception, the guests follow the newlyweds back to their new home and leave them in peace after passing on their congratulations.

After a period, there is a newspaper announcement regarding Phil's appointment to Deemster. Both Kate and Pete are very happy for him. Pete heads off to work in his usually buoyant mood and Kate meets with Phil again. She tells him some devastating news. She is pregnant - it is too far along for it to be Pete's. It has to be Phil's.
Phil is appalled and terrified. This could affect his career greatly. He states that Pete must never find out the truth.
Eventually, Pete comes home, initially spying through the window a strange man talking to his wife, but he is relieved when he sees it is his good friend Phil.

Months later, Pete and Phil are waiting downstairs whilst the doctor is helping with the delivery of the baby. Fortunately, all goes well and they welcome a baby girl into the family. Pete is overjoyed.

A few weeks later, Phil has finally been officially made Deemster and after giving his speech from the balcony to the crowd, he returns to his office only to be greeted by Kate who says she has left Pete and wants somewhere to hide away.

Back at Pete's, the man of the house returns home to find Kate gone - the table is set for one and there is a note and the wedding band left upon it.

Pete. I can't deceive you any longer. I'm going away. Before I married you I loved another man and I love him still. Good Bye. K.

Pete breaks down and sobs.
Later he tells locals that she has merely gone away to London for a brief holiday.
He turns up at Phil's place bemoaning Kate's absence, little knowing that she is in the next room listening.

Back home, Pete is with the baby and Kate's parents. Caesar has the note Kate left and he is suspicious and unimpressed with his daughter's actions.

At Phil's office, Kate gives Phil an ultimatum, asking him to choose between his career and her - he needs time to think. She storms off saying she is going to get her baby.

Back at Pete's she confronts him and tells him that the baby is not his. He is astonished and horrified. He screams at her saying she is lying, grabs the baby and locks himself in the bedroom. All forlorn and at a loss, Kate leaves the house. She walks down to the docks and plummets into the water.

The next day, it is Phil's first day in Court as Deemster. The whole town is there for the event. The first thing on the agenda is an attempted suicide, but it is announced that the guilty party won't give her name. A policeman gives his testimony of how he saved her. She is in the courtroom shrouded in a blanket.
She lifts her head and Phil sees who it is - he is gutted.
Pete bursts into the courtroom ready to defend his wife and speak for her.
Phil discharges her and says she must return to her husband. However, she says she does not want to. She stands stoically staring at Phil. It is now that Caesar has confirmation of his suspicions - he leaps to his feet and accuses Phil of being the man whom Kate left her husband for.

Caesar: "There before you is her betrayer, the Deemster himself. Can't you see, Pete - Can't you see?"

Phil removes his wig and stands - the court also rises. He admits the travesty.

Phil: "I am not fit to sit in judgement on my fellows, I who have sinned against God and man. I resign this - the dignity I strove for, that I may devote myself to righting the wrong I have done."

Pete lunges at Phil, grabs him by the collar, in readiness to do damage, but Phil is calm and simply states;

"Pete, we too have suffered."

At the home, Pete is now lacking all of his energy and verve. Kate takes her baby and leaves with Phil.

Later, Pete is back on his fishing boat, heading out to sea, tears rolling down his cheeks.

The End

Great Lines
Towards the end, when Phil is making his confession to an entire courtroom, he delivers the line;

"You gave me your trust which I am unworthy to bear."

And although it is directed to the public in his role as Deemster, it is also a brave admission to his dear friend Pete and it's double-meaning is eloquent and simple.

Hitchcock certainly loved Anny Ondra (he would use her again in his next film) and the camera certainly loves her too with a great number of close-ups on her face.
The movie is punctuated with tableauxs more than any other of his silent films - they are intentional and effective, telling the story powerfully through images of human emotion.
Also worthy of note is Hitchcock's eye for framing a scene. The shots of Kate rushing from her home, across the hill and down to the beach are marvellous and highlight the beauty of the Cornish countryside. My breath was taken away with the silhouetted image of Kate running across the hill with the sun breaking out from a cloud beyond her.
One slight worry is Kate's selfish behaviour to the point of incredulity when she leaves the baby alone in the house when she leaves Pete and goes to Phil's offices. SHe's not fit to be a mother!

My Verdict
Without doubt, my favourite of the silent films in Hitchcock's canon. Beautifully filmed, superb tableauxs used to perfection throughout and a heartfelt performance from Carl Brisson as the naive but lovable Pete. It's certainly not the most optimistic movie ever made, but it's exquisitely handled. 8/10

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