On Approval, starring Clive Brook and Beatrice Lillie, is available for $24.95 from Kino Video, 333 West 39th Street, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018, tel: 212-629-6880/800-562-3330, http://www.kino.com.
Those who feel as if nothing the film industry produces today can measure up to the silver screen classics of days gone by, take heart. Several vintage video companies are responding to consumers’ nostalgia and converting these rare cinematic gems to home video. One such company, Kino Video, has released a number of classic 1930s and ’40s British films.
Perhaps the most delightful of which, On Approval, is sure to be a hit among connoisseurs of classic British light comedy. This 1943 adaptation of Frederick Lonsdale’s popular stage play by the same name stars Clive Brook (who also produced, directed, and adapted the film for the screen) and the incomparable stage star Beatrice Lillie in a rare film appearance.
The subject of the play (originally set in the 1920s) is a ‘trial marriage’ between the wealthy, aristocratic Maria Wislack (Lillie) and the poor, love-struck Richard Halton (played by Roland Culver), friend and companion of the similarly poor Duke of Bristol (Brook). By 1943, the idea of such an arrangement had ceased to hold significant shock value, so Brook decided to take the film back to the more prim and proper 1890s, when premarital relations would have caused a scandal.
The transposition is a fortunate one for us, for it not only treats us to a course in strict late-Victorian manners, but also to the sight of the elaborate period costumery, designed for the film by the legendary Cecil Beaton.
When first shown in the United States in 1945, On Approval earned praise from Time magazine as one of its 10 best films of the year. If you’ve been longing to see it ever since, now you can have a copy of your own to enjoy time and again. If you missed it the first time, here’s your chance to experience a timeless British film classic.
Leigh Ann Berry