Friday, February 13, 2015

Streaming tips: black-and-white 1950s British gems: FAST AND LOOSE and ALWAYS A BRIDE

Netflix provides such a treasure trove of movies -- from foreign films to independents to documentaries -- that some of its least-known gems can easily get lost in this abundance. People stupidly complain that the service doesn't have all the big mainstream hits. True. But so what? If you really care about movies of all types, they're here for the asking. Two such, which we recently watched one right after the other (we almost never do this at a single sitting, but these were so charming, we quickly were hooked), I'll tell you about now.

FAST AND LOOSE, a Brit hit in glorious black-and-white from 1954, and ALWAYS A BRIDE, from 1953, also British and in b/w (and filmed at least partially on the French Riviera!) are two small gems of subtle, subdued humor and full of fine character acting from all concerned. Both are also filmed in the aspect ratio of that time (1.37:1) that may seem a little small by our widescreen standards. But that also helps contribute to their charm -- as do the witty, low-key performances from almost everyone in the two casts, along with the unadorned, straight-ahead direction (Gordon Parry for Fast and Loose,  Ralph Smart for Always a Bride).

F&L takes off as a man and his new bride leave for their honeymoon but he runs into an old flame at the station and chats a bit as the train, with his bride aboard, takes off without him. What to do? The result makes up this silly, funny romp that features the wonderfully droll and glamorous actress Kay Kendall (above) as that old flame and the lesser-known-but-serviceable Brian Reece in the role of the husband. The bride's parents provide a bundle of laughs, as does the harridan landlady of the small hotel in which our cast finally gathers.

Always a Bride takes us into the world of father-daughter con artists, Ronald Squire and Peggy Cummins (above), their very funny accomplices and the fellow who falls in love with the daughter (the handsome Terence Morgan, below).

The grifting is handled with fine aplomb and oodles of charm, the romance is light-footed and sweet, and the Riviera looks lovely, even in black-and-white. Both films are quite short (Fast is only 75 minutes, Bride comes in at 82). And both are available now via Netflix and maybe elsewhere. Click on the links above for easy access.

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