February 24, 2017


Laburnum Grove – 1936 | 73mins | Drama | B&W

Plot Synopsis

Laburnum Grove

Carol Reed‘s second film for ATP was Laburnum Grove, adapted from J.B. Priestley’s play (by Kimmins and Gordon Wellesley) it came to the screen after a prodigious run in London and a much less substantial one in New York. It was released in England in 1936, with no prints available it is only possible to assess the film second hand. Andrew Sarris, writing many years after the film’s release, praises it for ‘photographing the vestigial manor pretensions of its suburban characters through over-stuffed gardens encroaching on cluttered interiors’, but several of the reviews at the time of its release criticised the film for theatrical stiffness and loquacity.’ In the main, though, Laburnum Grove was treated kindly by the press, which looked on it as a winsome effort, enlivened by British wit and a certain musty charm.

Carol Reed was clearly comfortable with Priestley’s whimsical story about an upper-middle-class businessman, starched with respectability who stuns his family by casually informing them that he is not a ‘paper merchant’, as they believe, but a counterfeiter. The play is a mockery of the maddeningly smug British bourgeoisie, quite winningly executed, with a sketch of a parasitic, loud-mouthed brother-in-law done in broad, funny strokes. In the movie veteran film actor Edmund Gwenn recreated the role of the businessman that he had first performed on the stage. Evidently Sir Cedric Hardwicke stole the show, however, abandoning his usual screen persona, the urbane man-about-town, and bringing the bounder of a brother-in-law uproariously to life. One yearns to see what Reed was able to do with this appealing material.

Production Team

Carol Reed: Director
Edward Carrick: Art Direction
Denis Wreford: Art Direction
John W Boyle: Cinematography
Jack Kitchen: Film Editing
Ernest Irving: Music
Basil Dean: Producer
Anthony Kimmins: Script
Gordon Wellesley: Script


Edmund Gwenn: Mr Redfern
Cedric Hardwicke: Mr Baxley
Victoria Hopper: Elsie Radfern
Ethel Coleridge: Mrs Baxley
Katie Johnson: Mrs Radfern
Francis James: Harold Russ
James Harcourt: Joe Fletten

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