Tag Archives: Denholm Elliott

Dirk Bogarde twilight of the British empire double feature

In a simpler, less stressful time, i.e., a couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to the start of Melbourne Cinematheque’s season of Dirk Bogarde films. For obvious reasons it was not to be. So I thought I would undertake my own mini-festival in memory of one of my favourite British actors, focusing on his lesser known films.

I might post on a few of these over the next couple of weeks but, for now, the Rank Organisation’s Simba (1955) is first cab off the rank. The movie takes place at the height of what was termed the Mau Mau Uprising, a rebellion by a number of Kenyan tribes against British colonial rule. It began in the early 1950s and lasted until 1960, when the British finally managed to crush the rebels using tactics that they had learnt fighting communist rebels in Malaya around the same period.

Bogarde plays Alan Howard, a somewhat footloose Englishman who visits his farmer brother in Kenya. No sooner has Howard stepped off the plane plan and been picked up by the daughter of another farmer, Mary Crawford (Virginia McKenna, better known for her lead role in the 1956 film, A Town Like Alice), who it is inferred he has a past with, than he discovers his brother has been murdered by the Mau Mai.… Read more

Kinda Hot: The making of Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack

kindahotTowards the end of Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore, Peter Bogdanovich tells the book’s author Ben Slater: “Some of the best things are things that just happen once and then don’t happen again. They just don’t. Now mater how much you want them to.”

It’s a fitting observation for a film I have always regarded as a one of a kind, Bogdanovich’s 1979 adaption of the book by the same name by Paul Theroux, about a small time Italian American hustler (played by Ben Gazzara in the film) living in Singapore in the early seventies whose ambition is to open up his own high-class brothel.

As the film begins, Flowers is very much a bottom feeder, eking out a precarious existence on the fringes of Singaporean society. He’s so skint he has to haggle with his Chinese bosses for the taxi fare to pick up William Leigh (Denholm Elliott in the film), a mild mannered English accountant sent from head office in Hong Kong to audit the books. The one currency Flowers has no shortage of is contacts. Taking Leigh and a visiting American businessman on a tour of the island’s nightlife, Flowers is on first name terms with every hooker and tout he meets.

Flowers eventually establishes his brothel in a magnificent British colonial villa.… Read more