Val Guest

Give Us the Moon (1944, Val Guest)

Even though Give Us the Moon ends up going exactly where I expected it to go, the film’s not predictable at all. It opens with Peter Graves’s post-war layabout. He was a war hero, his father (Frank Cellier) is a rich hotelier, he wants to do nothing with his life except enjoy it. Through coincidence, he meets a woman (Margaret Lockwood) who similarly wants to do nothing with her life except enjoy it–this idea of being idle following the war never gets a lot of attention, but many of the film’s characters share the thought–so Give Us the Moon will inevitably be a romantic comedy.

I mean, Lockwood’s got an assortment of fellow layabouts who provide wonderful support and she’s got an adorable, if troublesome little sister (a fantastic Jean Simmons). It’s got all the pieces for romantic comedy, only director Guest takes it in an entirely different direction. Eventually. Graves and Lockwood have immediate chemistry, which their characters recognize in one of the script’s most efficient moves, and for a while Moon stays on its predictable course.

Until Guest deviates, sort of demoting Graves from his position as protagonist, then even demoting Lockwood as his replacement. Instead, the film becomes this wonderful situational comedy involving all her sidekicks, led by Vic Oliver. Oliver’s a con artist, whether he’s trying to get a pound off would-be saviors or getting into a hotel suite, and he’s an absolute delight. The film introduces him, brings him back, starts lingering more on him and then realizes he’s the one to follow. Well, him and Simmons. She’s got a phenomenal arc, even managing to stay relevant when she’s off-screen for some of her character’s best action.

Graves is a charming lead; Lockwood gets some great material towards the beginning before joining the supporting ranks. Cellier’s good as Graves’s disappointed father and there’s wonderful support from everyone, especially Roland Culver, Eliot Makeham and Gibb McLaughlin. Guest’s direction is solid–though filming restraints are a little obvious (although it’s set after the war, Moon was made during it)–and it’s all technically fine. Maybe Phil Grindrod’s photography could be a little better, but it all works out.

It’s a delightful comedy, full of marvelous performances. It’s simultaneously fortunate and unfortunate Graves and Lockwood don’t have a better story arc. It’d be nice to have seen more of them, especially in the second half, but the film doesn’t really need them. There’s so much good stuff going on anyway; Guest’s wrangling of it all is most impressive.



Directed by Val Guest; screenplay by Guest, Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon and Howard Irving Young, based on a novel by Brahms and Simon; director of photography, Phil Grindrod; edited by R.E. Dearing; music by Bob Busby; produced by Edward Black; released by General Film Distributors.

Starring Peter Graves (Peter Pyke), Margaret Lockwood (Nina), Vic Oliver (Sascha), Jean Simmons (Heidi), Frank Cellier (Mr. Pyke), Roland Culver (Ferdinand), Max Bacon (Jacobus), Iris Lang (Tania), George Relph (Otto), Gibb McLaughlin (Marcel) and Eliot Makeham (Dumka).

Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941, Walter Forde)

For the final Inspector Hornleigh picture, the filmmakers go propaganda. They do have some fun with it—the film’s first sequence is Gordon Harker and Alastair Sim on an army base, undercover as aged privates, investigating scrounging. It’s all played for laughs, sort of wasting some of the running time before Harker and Sim can get onto the bigger case (Nazi spies).

Unfortunately, the Nazi spy part of the film is never particularly interesting. Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It feels like a sequel where no one involved with the previous two worked on it (though they did). Harker’s character spends multiple scenes impersonating other people, hiding his identity as a police inspector—it’s as though the filmmakers decided to make that method his gimmick. As for Sim, as the bumbling sidekick, he has slightly less to do. The film’s rather disjointed; there’s no nice transition between the army base part and the remainder (in fact, I’m pretty sure the two of them are AWOL).

Forde does a fine job directing, even though he doesn’t have much interesting to shoot. The conclusion has a lot of potential but it’s too short; there’s no time for it.

There’s some bad acting too. Percy Walsh is Harker’s rival—apparently, Harker’s the joke of Scotland Yard and just doesn’t realize it, which also goes for making the film’s place in the series perplexing. The rivalry is lame and Walsh is awful.

So’s Raymond Huntley.

It’s got some charm, but it’s a worn out franchise.



Directed by Walter Forde; screenplay by J.O.C. Orton and Val Guest, based on a story by Frank Launder and characters created by Hans Wolfgang Priwin; director of photography, Jack E. Cox; edited by R.E. Dearing; produced by Edward Black; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Gordon Harker (Inspector Hornleigh), Alastair Sim (Sergeant Bingham), Phyllis Calvert (Mrs. Wilkinson), Edward Chapman (Mr. Blenkinsop), Charles Oliver (Dr. Wilkinson), Raymond Huntley (Dr. Kerbishley), Percy Walsh (Inspector Blow), David Horne (Commissioner), Peter Gawthorne (Colonel), Wally Patch (Sergeant Major), Betty Jardine (Daisy) and O.B. Clarence (Professor Mackenzie).

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