BRIGHTON ROCK, 1947
Cast: Richard Attenborough, Carol Marsh, Hermione Baddeley, William Hartnell, Harcourt Williams, Wylie Watson
Pinkie Brown is a small-town hoodlum whose gang runs a protection racket based at Brighton race course. When Pinkie orders the murder of a rival, Fred, the police believe it to be suicide. This doesn't convince Ida Arnold, who was with Fred just before he died, and she sets out to find the truth. She comes across naive waitress Rose, who can prove that Fred was murdered. In an attempt to keep Rose quiet Pinkie marries her. But with his gang beginning to doubt his ability, and his rivals taking over his business, Pinkie starts to become more desperate and violent.
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Released in 1947 and renamed Young Scarface in the USA, Brighton Rock (dir. John Boutling) has remained to be one of the best British films ever released, as well as being one of the most well known examples of classic film noir. With a remake to be released in 2010 with the same name, it’s only fair to review the original film and I’m very glad that I did.
The screenplay was written after the events of world war two and the writers obviously had the same interest as so many other people at the time, which was to get an insight into the criminal world and they aimed at a small British seaside town for this film’s story.
Following the young criminal known as Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) and his gang of mature criminals, we see them tracking down rival and traveller Fred Hale (Alan Wheatley) and before long Pinkie kills him secretly on Brighton Pier. However, it’s not long before one of Pinkie’s men accidentally leaves a card of Hale at a café. Before long Pinkie arrives at the café, noticing that a waitress named Rose (Carol Marsh) has taken the card and this makes the young criminal get close to her so that she doesn’t tell anyone about the card and the person who left it.
Meanwhile, Brighton Pier performer Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley) is suspicious about the sudden death of Hale after meeting him on the pier and decides to investigate the crime by herself. With Arnold getting closer to who the murderer could be and Pinkie’s men and girlfriend starting to leave clues behind them, it’s up to the young criminal to take action into his own hands, even if that means to silence the people around him.
With the production run by the then famous John and Roy Boulting, they made a great production on this classic and the director really made the most out of it. The choice of locations and the design of the set pieces were selected brilliantly to give the town of Brighton a small appearance that fits well with the secret criminal world.
It’s great to see that the main location being used is Brighton Pier and it really gives the film some great variety with the rides, the seaside view and the local performances, which helped this one location cope with the different actions and relate to the characters’ emotions. For example, we see Fred Hale sitting in a deck chair with the sounds of the sea and laughter surrounding him, socialising with the people next to him so that he could hide from Pinkie’s gang before his unfortunate and untimely death.
Another big location used throughout the film was the sets that make out the hideout of Pinkie and his gang. This was mainly used as a way for everyone involved in the gang to communicate and plan their next scheme with one another, getting an idea of who they really are and how the act when they’re not doing any criminal-related duties.
What made all of these locations look amazing and beautiful was the way that both director John Boulting and Cinematographer Harry Waxman planned each shot to get the most out of the cast, while still being in locations with different size problems. This was resolved with mainly close-ups and long shots with different angles and this was edited in a way that helped to make the film beautiful to look at, while making the characters very engaging and highly recognisable.
The young Richard Attenborough who played Pinkie Brown did a brilliant performance that still stands out as being one of the best performances by a young actor. Pinkie’s characteristics are very dark and demanding for someone who’s aged at seventeen and Attenborough really does a great job at playing a role that wouldn’t really be seen in modern cinemas for today’s young actors and actresses. Considering the fact that he also spent three years before playing the same character for a West End play, Attenborough does a fantastic job and a performance that should be seen.
As for Carol Marsh, who plays love interest Rose, this was her first role in a feature length film and she did a great job at playing the catholic waitress who has her eyes set for Pinkie. What was great about seeing her performance was how well she made Rose react towards the other characters around her, if it’s treating Pinkie with great respect and listening to what he tells her or if she’s scarred to talk with the highly questioning Ida Arnold. Though this role wasn’t as big as some of the others in the film, she does make herself noticeable quite easily.
My overall thought of this classic British film noir is that it definitely lives up to the popularity surrounding it and deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates cinema. Brighton Rock is a beautifully made film that is gorgeous to look at from beginning to end.