The Stars Look Down – 1940 – English
Film directed in 1940 by Carol Reed, and starring Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Edward Rigby…
Synopsis: Davey Fenwick (Sir Michael Redgrave) leaves his mining village on a university scholarship intent on returning to better support the miners against the owners. But he falls in love with Jenny (Margaret Lockwood) who gets him to marry her and return home as local schoolteacher before finishing his degree. Davey finds he is ill-at-ease in his role, the more so when he realizes Jenny still loves her former boyfriend. When he finds that his father and the other miners are going to have to continue working on a possibly deadly coal seam he decides to act.
Review: One of the greatest British films of its period. Carol Reed directed this version of A J Cronin’s novel in a free-wheeling, naturalistic style that belies its literary source. It’s consistently cinematic in a way British cinema wasn’t until the late fifties or early sixties. It’s about coal-mining, (and the coal-mining sequences are superb), but it’s also about politics and education and class and its various themes run seamlessly through the picture.
Michael Redgrave, in an early performance, is remarkably good as the idealistic young miner who educates himself and becomes a teacher but sells out and marries a heartless guttersnipe brilliantly played by a young Margaret Lockwood. Emlyn Williams is the spiv she really loves and Edward Rigby and Nancy Price are both superb as Redgrave’s parents. In terms of style it’s a much more primitive picture than some of Reed’s later work such as “The Third Man” and “The Fallen Idol” but that works in its favour. This is a raw, highly energized picture and it’s very moving.