Saturday, December 08, 2018

Journey's End (1930)

Journey's End (1930). David Manners (Raleigh), Billy Bevan (Trotter), Colin Clive (Stanhope). Tiffany Gainsborough and Welsh-Pearson. Domaine publique. Wikipedia. Do click to enlarge the image.

Matkan pää / Männen vid fronten
    GB/US 1930. PC: Gainsborough Pictures and Welsh-Pearson / Tiffany Productions. P: George Pearson. D: James Whale. SC: Joseph Moncure March, Gareth Gundrey – based on the play by R. C. Sherriff (1928) – Finnish theatrical premiere 8 Nov 1929 (Turun Suomalainen Teatteri). Cin: Benjamin H. Kline – early sound aperture 1,2:1. AD. Hervey Libbert. S: Buddy Myers – RCA Photophone System. ED: Claude Berkeley.
    C: Colin Clive (Capt. Denis Stanhope), Ian Maclaren (Lt. Osborne), David Manners (2nd Lt. Raleigh), Billy Bevan (2nd Lt. Trotter), Anthony Bushell (2nd Lt. Hibbert), Robert Adair (Capt. Hardy), Charles K. Gerrard (Pvt. Mason), Tom Whiteley (sergeant major), Jack Pitcairn (Colonel), Werner Klingler (German prisoner).
    New York opening: 9 April 1930. GB premiere: 14 April 1930.
    Helsinki premiere: Bio-Bio, 2 March 1931 – distributor: Adams Filmi Oy – Finnish film control number 16753 – K16 – Finnish film control length 3550 m / 129 min – 130 min (AFI Catalog: New York premiere listing) – 110 min (AFI Catalog: London premiere listing) – 3491 m / 127 min
    35 mm print from British Film Institute / National Archive: 120 min.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (James Whale / Centenary of WWI), 8 Dec 2018

"Set in the trenches near Saint-Quentin, Aisne in 1918, towards the end of the First World War, Journey's End gives a glimpse into the experiences of the officers of a British Army infantry company. The story plays out in the officers' dugout over four days from 18 March 1918 to 21 March 1918, the last few days before Operation Michael." (Wikipedia, on Sherriff's play)

R. C. Sherriff's success play was popular in Finland, too. It premiered in 1929 in Turku, Helsinki and Kotka, and in 1930 in Pori, Viipuri, Lappeenranta, Savonlinna, Joensuu, Tampere, Lahti, Rovaniemi, and another theatre in Turku. In 1932 it premiered in Riihimäki, in 1934 in Kajaani.
    In The Finnish National Theatre the casting included Aarne Leppänen as Stanhope, Urho Somersalmi as Osborne and Uuno Laakso as Trotter. Joel Rinne, Yrjö Tuominen, Jussi Snellman, Uuno Montonen, Leo Lähteenmäki, Jaakko Korhonen and Ilmari Unho were also cast. These actors were so active in films that it is possible to imagine how they might have interpreted Journey's End.

The film adaptation was released in the middle of a remarkable wave of WWI films, including The Big Parade (premiere 5 Nov 1925), What Price Glory (23 Nov 1926), Wings (19 May 1927), Four Sons (13 Feb 1928), Verdun, visions d'histoire (23 Nov 1928), Journey's End (9 April 1930), All Quiet on the Western Front (21 April 1930), Westfront 1918 (23 May 1930), The Dawn Patrol (10 July 1930), Hell's Angels (15 Nov 1930), The Last Flight (29 Aug 1931), and Les Croix de bois (17 March 1932).

I had never seen Journey's End before. It is a grim, relentless and compact war film respecting the classical unities. I was thinking that the screenwriters of The Dawn Patrol may have been familiar with Sherriff's play because of important affinities, although there is no question of imitation. I was also reminded of King & Country, Joseph Losey's masterpiece based on the WWI play by John Wilson.

Journey's End is still a transitional work of early sound cinema. The visual magic of late silent cinema is gone. Instead we have a static record of filmed theatre in long takes and long shots.

The combat scenes feel authentic, the battlegrounds are desolate, and the nervous tension is palpable.

James Whale was himself a war veteran. Colin Clive was not, but he was born into a military family and had attended Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

According to the AFI Catalog synopsis Hibbert is feigning psychological illness, but in the film it is clear that his troubles are real. He is only acknowledging openly what everyone else is experiencing, with the possible exception of Trotter.

All others drown their psychological problems in alcohol, and the worst of all is Captain Stanhope. Colin Clive plays Stanhope in the same highly strung mode as Dr. Frankenstein. Stanhope is badly in need of a holiday, but he refuses to take a break. He is unjust and unreasonable towards the more sensitive and inexperienced ones, but in the finale he expresses tenderness towards the mortally wounded Raleigh.

Colin Clive's Stanhope is a personification of agony.

Comic relief is provided by the absent-minded cook Mason who mixes pineapples with soup and tea with onions. An outlet of fantasy is provided by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which Stanhope keeps reading and quoting. There are no women in the film, not even in images. Images are seen by the soldiers but not by us.

The finale is stunning and memorable.

There is no music.

We screened the film in the full high frame of the early sound aperture. The print has been properly copied without marks of cropping. The visual quality is fine. There are no signs of wear and tear. There seem to be versions of different lengths; this BFI print runs 120 minutes.


Matkan pää oli useiden tekijöidensä esikoisteos. Se oli James Whalen ensimmäinen ohjaus ja elokuvan näyttelijät Colin Clive ja David Manners saivat esikoisroolinsa valkokankaalla (tosin Manners oli jo näytellyt yhdessä elokuvassa mutta hän ei päätynyt krediittilistalle).

Matkan pää pohjaa R. C. Sherriffin ensimmäiseen maailmansotaan sijoittuvaan näytelmään, jonka ensi-ilta oli Lontoon Apollo teatterissa joulukuussa 1928 ja sittemmin 1972 ja 2011. Universalin elokuvasovitus (1928) on tyypillinen esimerkki varhaisesta äänielokuvasta: elokuva on vahvasti sidottu näytelmään ja teatterimainen ilmaisu näkyy myös valkokankaalla.

Elokuvan tekoa kiirehdittiin, kun tuottajat saivat vihiä siitä, että Universal suunnitteli toista ensimmäiseen maailmansotaa käsittelevää elokuvaa. Kyseessä oli Lewis Milestonen Länsirintamalta ei mitään uutta (All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930).

Pääosa elokuvasta tehtiin New Yorkissa, sillä Englannin äänielokuvatekniikka ei ollut vielä tarpeeksi kehittynyttä.

Kuten näytelmä, myös Whalen elokuva keskittyy kolmeen upseeriin. Luutnantit Denis Stanhope (Colin Clive), Osborne (Ian McLaren) ja Raleigh (David Manners) ovat trio, joka kohtaa saksalaisten viimeisen hyökkäyksen maaliskuussa 1918.

Whalen omat kokemukset upseerina juoksuhaudoissa tuovat elokuvaan omakohtaista sävyä. Kriitikot ja Lontoon West Endin tuottajat eivät uskoneet elokuvan tuottavan koskaan voittoa mutta siitä tuli kuitenkin maailmansotien välisen ajan menestynein näytelmäelokuva.

Elokuvasta tehtiin myös saksalainen versio Die andere Seite (1931), jonka ohjasi Heinz Pauli. Sen pääosissa olivat Conrad Veidt (Stanhope) ja Wolfgang Liebeneiner (Raleigh). Elokuva kiellettiin Saksassa pian kansallissosialistien päästyä valtaan 1933.

Pasi Nyyssönen 4.12.2018


The action unfolds in the confined area of a dugout on the Western Front.

Stanhope, a British Army officer, shattered by the strain of 3 years' fighting, turns to liquor to bolster his courage.

Osborne, his righthand man and a philosophical schoolmaster, tries to reassure young Raleigh, fresh from school, to the satisfaction of Stanhope, whom the boy optimistically worships as a college hero.

Although Stanhope, who loves Raleigh's sister, resents the boy's presence, he is crushed by the boy's spirit and loyalty in battle.

He confesses his own fears to Hibbert, a coward who feigns illness to avoid fighting; Osborne and Raleigh are selected to lead a raiding party on the German trenches, and Osborne calms the boy by quoting from Alice in Wonderland and talking of home.

Many men, including Osborne, die in the raid, and Stanhope drowns his grief in drink; a rift develops between him and the boy until Raleigh is mortally wounded.

Friendless and grief-stricken, he goes to face another furious attack.


Act I

In the British trenches before Saint-Quentin, Captain Hardy converses with Lieutenant Osborne, an older man and public school master, who has come to relieve him. Hardy jokes about the behaviour of Captain Stanhope, who has turned to alcohol to cope with the stress which the war has caused him. While Hardy jokes, Osborne defends Stanhope and describes him as "the best company commander we've got".

Private Mason, a servant cook, often forgets about ingredients and key parts of the food that he prepares for the officers. Second Lieutenant Trotter is a rotund officer commissioned from the ranks who likes his food; he can't stand the war and counts down each hour that he serves in the front line by drawing circles onto a piece of paper and then colouring them in. Second Lieutenant Raleigh is a young and naive officer who joins the company. Raleigh knew Stanhope from school where he was skipper at rugby and refers to him as Dennis. He admits that he requested to be sent to Stanhope's company. Osborne hints to him that Stanhope will not be the same person he knew from school as the experiences of war have changed him; however, Raleigh does not seem to understand. Stanhope is angry that Raleigh has been allowed to join him and describes the boy as a hero-worshipper. As Stanhope is in a relationship with Raleigh's sister Madge, he is concerned that Raleigh will write home and inform his sister of Stanhope's drinking. Stanhope tells Osborne that he will censor Raleigh's letters so that this does not happen; Osborne does not approve.

Stanhope has a keen sense of duty and feels that he must continue to serve rather than take leave to which he is entitled. He criticises another soldier, Second Lieutenant Hibbert, who he thinks is faking neuralgia in the eye so that he can be sent home instead of continuing fighting. Osborne puts a tired and somewhat drunk Stanhope to bed. Stanhope (and the other officers) refer to Osborne as 'Uncle'.

Act II

Scene 1

Trotter and Mason converse about the bacon rashers which the company has to eat. Trotter talks about how the start of spring makes him feel youthful; he also talks about the hollyhocks which he has planted. These conversations are a way of escaping the trenches and the reality of the war.

Osborne and Raleigh discuss how slowly time passes at the front, and the fact that both of them played rugby before the war and that Osborne was a schoolmaster before he signed up to fight; while Raleigh appears interested, Osborne points out that it is of little use now. Osborne describes the madness of war when describing how German soldiers allowed the British to rescue a wounded soldier in No Man's Land and the next day the two sides shelled each other heavily. He describes the war as "silly".

Stanhope announces that the barbed wire around the trenches needs to be mended. Information gathered from a captured German is that an enemy attack is planned to begin on Thursday morning, only two days away.

Stanhope confiscates a letter from Raleigh, insisting on his right to censor it. Stanhope is in a relationship with Raleigh's sister and is worried that, in the letter, Raleigh will reveal Stanhope's growing alcoholism. Full of self-loathing, Stanhope accedes to Osborne's offer to read the letter for him; the letter is in fact full of praise for Stanhope. The scene ends with Stanhope quietly demurring from Osborne's suggestion to re-seal the envelope.

Scene 2

In a meeting with the Sergeant Major it is announced that the attack is taking place on Thursday. Stanhope and the Sergeant-Major discuss battle plans. The Colonel relays orders that the General wants a raid to take place on the German trench prior to the attack, "a surprise daylight raid", all previous raids having been made under cover of dark, and that they want to be informed of the outcome by seven p.m. Stanhope states that such a plan is absurd and that the General and his staff merely want this so their dinner will not be delayed.

The Colonel agrees with Stanhope but says that orders are orders and that they must be obeyed. Later it is stated that in a similar raid, after the British artillery bombardment, the Germans had tied red rag to the gaps in the barbed wire so that their soldiers knew exactly where to train their machine guns. It is decided that Osborne and Raleigh will be the officers to go on the raid despite the fact that Raleigh has only recently entered the war.

Hibbert goes to Stanhope to complain about the neuralgia he states he has been suffering from. Stanhope states that: "it would be better for him to die from the pain, than for being shot for desertion". Hibbert maintains that he does have neuralgia but when Stanhope threatens to shoot him if he goes, he breaks down crying. The two soldiers admit to each other that they feel exactly the same way, and are struggling to cope with the stresses that the war is putting on them.

Osborne reads aloud to Trotter from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, his chosen reading and another attempt to escape from the realities of the war. The scene ends with the idealistic Raleigh, who is untouched by the war, stating that it is "frightfully exciting" that he has been picked for the raid.


Scene 1

There is confirmation that the raid is still going ahead. The Colonel states that a German soldier needs to be captured so that intelligence can be extracted from him. Osborne admits to Stanhope that he knows he's probably not coming back and asks Stanhope to look after his most cherished possessions and send them to his wife if he does not come back after the raid. In the minutes before going over the top, Raleigh and Osborne talk about home – the New Forest and the town of Lyndhurst – to pass the time. Smoke-bombs are fired and the soldiers move towards the German trench, a young German soldier is captured. However Stanhope finds out that Osborne has been killed although Raleigh has survived. Stanhope sarcastically states, "How awfully nice – if the Brigadier's pleased", when the Colonel's first concern is whether information has been gathered, not whether all the soldiers have returned safely. Six of ten other ranks have in fact been killed.

Scene 2

Trotter, Stanhope and Hibbert drink and talk about women. They all appear to be enjoying themselves until Hibbert is annoyed when Stanhope tells him to go to bed, and he tells Stanhope to go to bed instead, then Stanhope suddenly becomes angry and begins to shout at him and tells him to clear off and get out.

Stanhope also becomes angry at Raleigh, who did not eat with the officers that night but preferred to eat with his men. Stanhope is offended by this and Raleigh eventually admits that he feels he cannot eat while he thinks that Osborne is dead and his body is in No Man's Land. Stanhope is angry because Raleigh had seemed to imply that he didn't care about Osborne's death because he was eating and drinking. Stanhope yells at Raleigh that he drinks to cope with the fact that Osborne died, to forget. Stanhope asks to be left alone and angrily tells Raleigh to leave.

Scene 3

The German attack on the British trenches approaches, and the Sergeant Major tells Stanhope they should expect heavy losses. When it arrives, Hibbert is reluctant to get out of bed and into the trenches.

A message is relayed to Stanhope telling him that Raleigh has been injured by a shell and that his spine is damaged meaning that he can't move his legs. Stanhope orders that Raleigh be brought into his dugout. He comforts Raleigh while he lies in bed. Raleigh says that he is cold and that it is becoming dark; Stanhope moves the candle to his bed and goes deeper into the dugout to fetch a blanket, but, by the time he returns, Raleigh has died. The shells continue to explode in the background. Stanhope receives a message that he is needed. He gets up to leave and, after he has exited, a mortar hits the dugout causing it to collapse and entomb Raleigh's corpse.

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