The Captain's Paradise (1953), is another brisk, (94 minutes), silly little black and white classic of English comedy that could, I guess best be classified as a romantic comedy. It’s witty, and rather high-concept, with a plot that’s a seamless, sweetly spun, sly confection, and was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar. It stars the uber-talented Alec Guinness. (He was, at this time, rather early in his career, considered a comic actor—see KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS; but he would win a Best Actor Oscar in the late 1950’s for THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, and then become internationally famous, as never before, in STAR WARS.) Here he plays the title part in the movie, a part that might have been tailored just for him: Mediterranean ferryboat captain Henry St. James. The Captain has things nicely organized for himself, thank you very much: He's got a loving, conventional, "veddy" English wife Maud (Celia Johnson, BRIEF ENCOUNTER) in the restricted British colony of Gibraltar; and a possessive, hot- blooded mistress Nita (Yvonne De Carlo, MCLINTOCK!), in Spanish Morocco. It’s a perfect arrangement, as long as he can keep them apart. But what happens when one woman decides to follow him to the other port? Guinness is said to have respected, and enjoyed working with De Carlo, who is said to have found this one of her best roles. She had supposedly been a professional dancer, and is said to have taught him the tango for their memorable dance scene. Furthermore, this movie allows Johnson a chance to give her hanky a rest: she doesn’t cry once. Guinness has also got some strong supporting players in this one. Miles Malleson (KIND HEARTS) plays Lawrence St. James; Charles Goldner plays Chief Officer Ricco; Bill Fraser is Absalom, the taxi driver. Sebastian Cabot (FAMILY AFFAIR) is Ali, the vendor. The movie was filmed on location at Gibraltar, and at Shepperton Studios; it was not made by Ealing Studios, powerhouse of British comedy in the 1950s. The movie was remade as a mediocre TV entertainment, centered upon an airline stewardess, titled COFFEE, TEA OR ME, in 1973. CAPTAINS PARADISE is a well-known and much- honored movie. It’s sexist, of course, but don’t go getting all riled up about that. It’s quite entertaining, and surely worth a look, though not necessarily a purchase.
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