- One for aspiring film makers to watch 4/19/2005 12:00:00 AM by richard-meredith27
From the jaunty opening scenes to the thrilling ending, you could be forgiven for thinking 'Cottage To Let' was made during the post war period. But this film was released in 1941, when the outcome of the war was still in the balance.
The cast reflects the wealth of talent available in the British Film Industry at this time and for two decades onwards. Not a false note is struck: Jeannie De Casalis makes me laugh out loud playing the dotty wife (check out her introduction speech for John Mills at the fête). Leslie Banks turns in a precise low key performance. He is an antidote to all the eccentric and unbalanced scientists that were/are the staple of cinema-land. Michael Wilding is urbane and, in his scenes, a good foil for a crumpled Alistair Sim, or the intense and faintly menacing John Mills.
Sim, of course, had managed to get his protégé George Cole the part of Ronald. Cole had (I think) already played this role on the stage, but took to the sound stage like a fish to water. He moved and acted as if born to boom and camera. In an idle moment compare young George as Ronald with middle-aged George as Arthur Daley in TV's Minder. It's all there: the sideway looks, aggrieved voice, controlled energy, sheer believable and likable personality.
The film scores on all points for me. The script is realistic and economical, the supporting cast firmly wedded into the few sub-plots. Even the sets, one or two seem to have migrated from other films, are splendid and evocative. And the final denouement is probably one of the most menacing in wartime film, if not the wettest.
- A rather brilliant wartime drama comedy called COTTAGE TO LET--fast complex cast and plot 6/29/2013 12:00:00 AM by secondtake
Cottage to Let (1941)
There are so many characters, so many tinges of British accent, and such a parade of turncoats and double agents it's difficult to quite follow everything here. But stick it out. Or, in the extreme case (which I admit taking) see it twice. It's "quite worth it, I dare say."
A comedy on the surface, and quite funny all through, it's also a serious war movie, shot and released in the thick of World War II. The key theme is actually not the bomb sight design and the attempt by the government to protect its secret from spies. It's about loose lips. And looking for traitors among us.
So, here at this cottage near where a top scientist is working on a secret weapon idea, there is a parade of suspicious characters, and I mean characters, including the redoubtable Alastair Sim. There is a nutty family running the place, a couple of love affairs in the air, a bunch of secret messages sent by various messengers. I count rough twelve characters who matter, and if some are very minor, they are critical in some small way to the outcome. Allegiances are everything.
What makes the movie actually remarkable is that it holds to together so well. And it has a tight economy to the editing, and a fluidity to the filming, that keeps it really going. For some reason the lighting in the first half, and the interior scenes in general, is bright and flat (no Warner Bros. influence here I guess) but then there are some scenes later that are extraordinary in their dramatic atmosphere.
In fact, there are some ideas that prefigure famous later ones, like the auction that is interrupted by spies and good guys by bidding incorrectly, stolen by Hitchcock in "North by Northwest." Or even the ending which is a slim version of the mirror shootout by Welles in "Lady from Shanghai." It's quite an exciting finish (never mind the goofy millstone moment, which you'll see).
Anthony Asquith, the director, went on to make some mainstays of post-war British cinema, and that's yet another reason to appreciate this, as a precursor to his own work. But it also reveals a real intelligence for the movies. Evident and appreciated.
In the big view, it isn't the plot, which is necessarily contrived to give a message to the nation, but the many pieces, and the writing and acting in those pieces, that make the movie really strong. The one version out there (streaming on Netflix) is a weak print (and there is no DVD release, apparently) so the sound and even the richness of the visuals will hamper a good appreciation. Even so, give it a look. Alertly.
- delightful film 4/29/2013 12:00:00 AM by blanche-2
I plow through the '40s and '50s black and white films, usually Bs, and occasionally I find a real gem. "Bombsight Stolen," or "Cottage to Let," its American name, is one.
Based on a play, it stars Leslie Banks, Jeanne De Casalis, Alistair Sim, Michael Wilding, John Mills, and George Cole.
The activity centers around a Scottish cottage, where the Barringtons live. The cottage currently serves several purposes: a place for evacuees, a hospital when a downed British airman (Mills) is found nearby, a place for the annual fair, and a science lab, as Mr. Barrington (Banks) is a military inventor. When Mr. Dimble (Alistair Sim) shows up to rent the cottage, he finds out it's not for rent and moves into the house.
The Nazis want Barrington's inventions, so MI-5 and Scotland Yard each have a man in the house. Who are they? Is there a mole among them? Very enjoyable film, with a hilarious performance by Jeanne De Casalis, the lady of the house who can't keep anything straight. It's the showiest role. Alistair Sim is excellent, as is young John Mills and Sims' protégé, George Cole. I have a feeling the part of Ronald (Cole) was intended for an actor a couple of years younger. He evidently played the role on the stage, which would have been earlier.
Charming film, well directed by Anthony Asquith, with some interesting scenes that take place in the annual fair fun house at the end.
- Enjoyable wartime 'thriller' which could only have been made in Britain 7/1/2008 12:00:00 AM by csrothwec
An enjoyable piece of British wartime entertainment, probably to be appreciated more now than by audiences at the time, (who would have found it very 'stagey' and lacking in action, I suspect). The plot is nothing in particular and its stage origins are all too apparent in the set locations, which cover the cottage of the title acting as a lodging house, home for evacuated children from London and a military hospital (????) whilst, up at 'the Big House', there is a 'top-secret' research laboratory, (which you know is 'top secret' as one of the (numerous) doors has a sliding panel in it),(but which actually seems to have more people entering and leaving it in the course of the film than the lounge of the 'Dog and Duck'), country gentry residence and garden fête venue. The real strength of the film, though, is its very strong cast. Leslie Banks is quite watchable on as the lead and John Mills is his usual, (for the period), photogenic, brylcreemed RAF fighter pilot hero, (or IS he?), who delivers in the usual sound manner. George Cole makes his first film appearance as one of two Cockney scamps evacuated to the 'cottage', (although the other one disappears from view entirely after the first five minutes!), and one can already see him mentally in a mini-sheepskin coat and with a cigarillo in hand as he begins his apprenticeship for greater glories to come in his career. Alastair Sim is, as usual, extremely good value for money and always watchable. The REAL star, though, I thought, was Jeanne De Casalis as the dotty 'Lady of the Manor', showing marvellous comic timing, interacting with all the rest of the cast flawlessly, (catch her expression when the little girl who has just handed her a bouquet of flowers at the opening of the fête wants it back!), and having me in stitches with her spoonerisms, ("Are you the lad with the manor? I'm sorry, I meant the man with the ladder?"), and, above all, her speech opening the fête; ("In the words of our dear Prime Minister, never was so much owed by so few to so many"). Somehow, one just cannot see film-makers of the time doing the same to speeches of their leader in the Kremlin! I shall certainly watch out for any other films starring this lady.
- Shady goings on in a Scottish cottage 5/23/2005 12:00:00 AM by chris_gaskin123
I've just watched Cottage to Let for the first time and found it quite enjoyable.
A motley collection of people come to stay at a cottage in Scotland including a scientist, pilot, a boy who is an evacuee from London and a new tenant. Soem of the people staying here are actually spies who plan to kidnap the scientist. The evacuee becomes suspicious and the butler is actually an undercover copper. The scientist is kidnapped towards the end and the evacuee gets caught up in all this and all are locked up in a room. The kidnappers get arrested and the pilot, who is one of them is shot dead at the end.
Cottage to Let is worth having just for the excellent cast, mostly British: Leslie Banks (Jamaica Inn), Alastair Sim (Scrooge), the late, great Sir John Mills (Scott of the Antarctic, Tiger Bay), a young George Cole (Minder)in his movie debut as the evacuee Ronald and one of Liz Talyor's many husbands, Michael Wilding.
This is worth watching, especially if you are into old movies. Great fun.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.