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Before he leaves for a posting in India, young Jim Wyndham has a fling with pretty Helen Norwood. After he leaves, Helen marries Prof. Paul Bernardy, a much older man. Four years later Jim returns from India, ready to take up where he left off with Helen, only to find out that she's now married. Complications ensue.
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Benn W. Levy
Gerald du Maurier,
JOHN GALSWORTHY'S amazing story of this jail breaker is an epic of hunted men...a shameful truth laid naked in a burning drama as deep as the soul of the world. (Print Ad- New York Evening Post, ((New York NY)) 1 November 1930) See more »
If an "official" list of Ealing films were created, this would be at the beginning; though it was filmed at Beaconsfield as the London site was still under construction. Famed theatre director Basil Dean had conspired with American studios RKO to form Associated Talking Pictures (ATP), which the US company hoped to use to produce talkies with British thespians which could be distributed in both the UK and the US.
'Escape' was the first picture to fall out of this agreement, and was produced in 1930. Though Alfred Hitchcock's 'Blackmail' usually takes credit for being the first talkie produced in Britain, his film was actually produced as a silent, and it was due to Hitchcock's foresight that he introduced sound during filming. However, 'Escape' was conceived as a talking picture from the beginning, and, as Dean later proudly proclaimed, it was the first talking picture to be shot on location, with scenes taking advantage of the Dorset countryside.
To use as a story for this important first ATP film, Dean turned to his friend John Galsworthy, and after much persuasion managed to gain the rights to adapt his play. It was also vital that Dean harnessed the very best of British acting talent, which meant turning to the theatre. He achieved a considerable feat in enrolling a then-giant of the stage, Sir Gerald du Maurier, to play the lead role. du Marier, like most theatrical actors of the period, looked upon the cinema with contempt, but due to a number of unwise financial investments, found the opportunity too good to refuse. His experience on 'Escape' must have done little to improve his opinion, as the old theatrical knight was forced to roll around in mud for take after take in, only to find an entire days' filming rendered unusable due to the incorrect configuration of the primitive sound recording equipment.
du Maurier plays Matt Denant, a man who is imprisoned for assaulting a policeman whilst defending the integrity of a woman (in scenes shot on location in (I believe) Hyde Park). After two years he is presented with an opportunity to escape in thick fog, and we follow his exploits across the countryside, relying on the generosity and discretion of those he encounters to remain at large. A pre-39 Steps Madeline Carroll has a particularly memorable role as a girl who allows Denant to hide in her bedroom.
Basil Dean's eight years at the helm of a pre-Michael Balcon Ealing are often unfairly disregarded as providing nothing but George Formby and Gracie Fields pictures. He directed 'Escape' himself, and with minimal experience, and in what must have been a challenging shoot on location with actors unused to working away from a warm, comfortable stage, he managed to conjure a perfectly entertaining film. We start by witnessing a fox hunt, which foreshadows Denant's fox hunt, and there are shades of Powell and Pressburger's 'Gone to Earth' (1950) in these opening scenes. He admirably achieved his aim of showcasing the English countryside. Alas, there is no evidence here to display Gerald du Maurier's acting ability, despite the fact that this is probably his best role in the few films he made before his death in 1934.
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