I have already torn up several pages of opening paragraphs for this review because they sounded like press releases, and have also firmly dismissed one effort which assaulted Elinor Hughes in immoderate language for remaining unruffled in the face of this movie. I must get a grip on myself. . .
Now. Alee Guinness' new movie, The Promoter, is very good. It is more than that, it is. . . stop, you fool, or you'll have to begin again. It is very good for a simple reason: the actors in it, especially Guinness of course, are really acting, not just saying lines. Fully as much of the humor in the picture comes from small gestures, various wrinklings of faces, tones of voice, as from the lines or the situations themselves. Nothing is done without a purpose; every move, even the smallest, is invested with some meaning and contributes something to a characterization or a situation.
Humor of this sort seldom shakes the belly. Instead it shakes the mind, working on it like a picador on a bull.
All this lies in the method of the production. The story itself is by no means subtle--it could easily have been given a less interesting treatment. Briefly it is the story--taken from an Arnold Bennett plece--of how a washer-woman's son rises in the world by using his wits. (Guinness movies always involve a little man who turns the tables on his environment--it is part of their charm and one reason for their great popularity.)
When he wants to get a scholarship he calmly tampers with his marks; when he wants to get into a society ball he calmly lifts an invitation from a pile he is addressing; when he wants to make money he starts a whole series of speculative enterprises; when he wants to be elected mayor he procures the greatest soccer player in England for the town team.
All this, I suppose, could be given a boff treatment. Indeed there are a few pratfalls, just enough to provide a little variety. But there is no frantic chase after gags; the characters are consistent with themselves and with their background. The humor is scrupulously confined to the intrinsic.
The acting, as I said earlier, is excellent. It is useless to dwell on Guinness' talent; suffice it to say that he seems to me to be the funniest man in the acting profession today. What is worthy of comment is the quality of the rest of the performances, particularly that of Glynis Johns as the girl who plays Guinness for a sucker. Miss Johns is not, I think, a good actress but in this picture she sparkles, maneuvering her cyclids and husky voice to perfection. As usual, too, the minor characters are sharply delincated and make a fine gallery.
Possibly the director, whose name escapes me, is responsible for this fine acting, and the equally fine music, camerawork, and script. But I am inclined to give Guinness the praise--certainly it is his character which dominates this picture. The Promoter is incontestably another "Guinness movie."