Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Forgotten British '50s movies: The Wind Cannot Read

Off to India with Dirk ....

THE WIND CANNOT READ was one of Dirk Bogarde's biggies back in 1958, though it would have been 1959 when 13 year old me saw it then, and of course it was a glorious weepie, which I had not seen since till now. Another success then for "the Idol of the Odeons" after his terrific CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM, THE SPANISH GARDENER and A TALE OF TWO CITIES ...

Made at the height of his box office success, Dirk Bogarde stars as an RAF pilot caught up in a forbidden romance in this classic British film drama set in the Far East during the Second World War. Michael Quinn finds himself grounded in Delhi after his aircraft crashes, and posted to a special Japanese language course for interrogators of prisoners-of-war. He and his fellow inmates are introduced to their new instructor, an exquisitely beautiful young Japanese girl Susuki San (Yoko Tani). As the days pass Michael and Susuki spend their off-time exploring Delhi and their love grows. But there is a shadow between them - something that Susuki refuses to talk about. Michael even nicknames her 'Sabby' - because 'sabishi' is Japanese for sad ... Before Michael can uncover Susuki's tragic secret he is captured by the Japanese and the two lovers are parted .... perhaps for ever. As the blurb gushes ...
I still have my 1959 Picture Show Annual

They (producer Betty Box, director Ralph Thomas) actually went to India for this one, like Cukor's BHOWANI JUNCTION there is lots of local colour, as we see a lot of Delhi, Jaipur and the Taj Mahal. Dirk actually wrote a diary published in one of the fan magazines, his "Indian Diary", I must scan it in sometime. Yoko Tani (1928-1999, a Parisian Japanese, overdoes the winsome bit (she was in several films of the time, playing an Eskimo with Quinn in Ray's THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS). The supporting cast is good with John Fraser, Ronald Lewis, Donald Pleasance and reliable Marne Maitland.

As doomed romances go, this is a good one with the heroine suffering one of those maladies that ensure they still look good even at the end .... As in Hollywood movies of the time (LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING, SOUTH PACIFIC) inter-racial romances usually end in tragedy .... Dirk plays to the camera splendidly, though some reviewers found it all a bit arch: "he offers too much of the wry smile, the imperceptibly quivering stiff upper lip, the spaniel pathos in the eyes". His skill with the cliches work though, like that scene where he was smoking the obligatory post-coital cigarette, he was not only fully clothed but belted as well, the sole indication that they had been to bed was that she had changed her dress and let down her hair ....
 
John Fraser, who was an openly gay actor, mentions this film in his fascinating memoirs. It seems their co-star Ronald Lewis was a raging homophobe and quite violent (he eventually committed suicide by shooting himself in a Brighton hotel) - unable to get at Rank star Bogarde he took it out on Fraser, giving him such a beating he knocked out some of Fraser's teeth! Lewis had several other movie roles (as in HELEN OF TROY, CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS) but never became a major name. Fraser also wrote a fascinating chapter on the home life of Bogarde ...

Some more Dirks soon, LIBEL and THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA both from 1959. Only a year or three later Bogade was breaking out of his mould with those daring choices VICTIM and THE SERVANT.

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