Anthony Asquith ‘greatest hits’

We’re greatly looking forward to our screening of ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’ tonight with composer-pianist, Joss Peach, at Fabrica in Brighton. As part of the preparations, we’ve been looking into the back catalogue of Director Anthony Asquith.

Asquith is noted for his family connections as much as for his filmography, because he was the son of the then-Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, and is the great-uncle of Helena Bonham Carter. He entered the film industry partly to escape his high profile family background and, although often belittled because of his aristocratic lineage, he was incredibly gifted. We’ve picked out a few of his finest…

Shooting Stars (1928)

A satire of the film industry, Asquith’s first film recently had the VIP treatment, with a new restoration from the BFI in 2015. It is sophisticated in its storytelling: a love triangle, with a treacherous British starlet, who gives the title of the film a clever double meaning.

Underground (1928)

This working-class romance is like a little time capsule of 1920s London. It was only Asquith’s second film (‘Shooting Stars’ was officially credited to A.V. Bramble), but you can see the gentle humour and warmth towards his subjects that also comes through in ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’, giving away his staunch socialist values.

Pygmalion (1938)

After the silent era, Asquith’s career declined slightly until in the late 1930s, he was involved in a number of screen adaptations of films. This, based on the play of the same name by George Bernard Shaw, staring Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard, is delightful.

The Browning version (1951)

The first film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s play, Asquith’s version stars Michael Redgrave in one of the finest performances of his career, as the generally despised, but inwardly vulnerable classics teacher, ‘The Crock’, Andrew Crocker-Harris.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Asquith’s faithful adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “Trivial Comedy for Serious People” was his first colour film, and he approached it with a characteristic understated approach – rather than being full of bold, glitzy bright colours, the film has a largely pastel palette. The breathtaking costumes designed by Cecil Beaton are also worth a mention here, and of course, Edith Evan, who absolutely made the character of Lady Bracknell her own!

As a bonus (for local interest) we recently found this little gem, also directed by Asquith – ‘On Such a Night’ – a semi-documentary film about a visit to the Glyndebourne opera! Here’s the trailer:

Hopefully we’ll see you tonight at Fabrica – for full details, and to book, please visit Eventbrite

After this, we have the launch of the Bookshop Screening Room at Waterstones Brighton next Thursday, 9 February – tickets have already sold out, but details of future screenings and a full report will be posted shortly.

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