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The Horse's Mouth - DOC

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					"The Horse's Mouth,"(1958), is another brisk comic masterpiece of English cinema from
the 1950's; a particularly rare one, as it is in color. It stars the hugely talented Alec
Guinness, who led a number of these comedic achievements (The Ladykillers;Kind
Hearts and Coronets - Criterion Collection), as well, of course, as many serious films
(The Bridge on the River Kwai;Star Wars Trilogy). In this particular case, "Horse's
Mouth," Guinness also wrote the film for the screen, adapting it from the Joyce Cary
novel of the same name (The Horse's Mouth: A Novel). It was directed by Ronald
Neame, ( The Odessa File; The Poseidon Adventure) who had a lovely light touch; it
received one Oscar nomination.

It tells us of Gulley Jimson, obsessed painter always searching for the perfect realization
of his artistic vision, scamming and riding roughshod over those unfortunates in his way
as he goes. He receives sterling support from Kay Walsh as Coker, a friend/girlfriend,
Renee Houston as Sara Monday, his ex-wife; and Mike Morgan, who died too young, at
twenty-eight, ten days before the end of filming, so that his last lines had to be dubbed, as
Nosey, a fervent young admirer. The young Michael Gough plays Adam, a
sculptor/cohort. As Guinness wrote the part of Jimson for himself, he did, of course,
tweak it a bit to make the artist more likable; and give him a better cinematic end. The
film makes remarkable use of Lieutenant Kije, by Sergei Prokofiev, as its sound track. It
was filmed at Shepperton Studios, Surrey; and on location in London: it gives us an
equally remarkable picture of the then-contemporary city, still showing its war wounds.
The color, so rarely used in 1950s British comedies, has been well-remastered; sound,
too, is bright.

So why is it so undeservedly obscure? Same reason, I theorize, as it is in color: it was
made not by Ealing Studios, (see Ealing Studios Comedy Collection (The Maggie / A
Run for Your Money / Titfield Thunderbolt / Whisky Galore! / Passport to Pimlico)), so
famous for its 1950s black and white English comedies, but by the upstart Knightsbridge
Films. And who knows what that was all about, but it certainly has resulted in the film's
being little-known.

				
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posted:7/15/2010
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