The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1953)


A beautiful blonde angel (Diane Cilento) arrives in The Angel, Islington on a goodwill mission to soften the heart of pawnbroker Joshua Webman (Felix Aylmer). To raise money for her earthly mission, she pawns her harp for £20 and declares her love for the shop assistant Len (Philip Guard) who is immediately taken with her. She shows the people she encounters the path down which their happiness lies, whilst winning at the dogs and dodging pickpockets (Alfie Bass and Thomas Gallagher) and tries to improve people’s economic situations (pretty dire at the time) and puts couples together. This is a fairly typical British film of its post-WW2 era, blending elements of sentiment and whimsy with social realism (but you could take issue with the way that Jewish characters are represented). There are some nice visual touches – my favourite occurs when Bass gets planted in a birdcage during a foiled burglary. This was adapted by Charles Terrot from his novel and TV play with Sidney Cole and directed by Alan Bromly. Quite charming, with Cilento immensely impressive as the naive visitor in one of her earliest appearances, really becoming the Angel of Islington. There’s a pleasant score by Antony Hopkins.

Rattle of a Simple Man (1964)


Charles Dyer’s play was a valuable property and producer Sydney Box came out of retirement to acquire it for £50,000 – a large amount at the time. Muriel Box (his wife) and he were hoping that Peter Sellers would take the lead role of the Northern naif in London for the football finals who ends up with an upper class prostitute for the evening after a bet involving his mate Michael Medwin who likes to flash the cash. Harry H. Corbett (famous for Steptoe and Son by then) substituted for Sellers who proved too expensive and the stunning Diane Cilento plays the well educated call girl with whom he spends his time discussing her upbringing, his mother and life back home. Neither will tell on the other about what they did. The play’s flaws are not ironed out and Box doesn’t really get more from the actors than they’re capable of and the sidebar antics – her pimp, his mates – don’t really add much and it doesn’t wholly work either as comedy or drama. However there is some nice scene setting and while Corbett is good,  Cilento is terrific even if she’s playing something of an archetype, albeit with the family revelations. It was Box’s final film. She left filmmaking (where she had experienced sexist behaviour – even from actresses like Jean Simmons and Kay Kendall) and founded feminist imprint Femina the following year.