On Approval (1944)

In his only outing as a director, actor Clive Brook created a surprisingly cinematic adaptation of Frederick Lonsdale’s classic comedy of manners. He and co-writer Terence Young (later the director of the first James Bond films), transposed the action from the ’20s to the gay 1890s. As a result, the escapades of two couples sharing a platonic trial marriage to see if they’re suited to each other appeared even more risqué. Then he used a series of deftly cut montages to locate the film in its period and show the effects of the month-long spree on the four leads. He also kept a foot firmly on the stage, with the stars playing gamely to the camera and Brook even occasionally arguing with the film’s narrator. The cast is a dream, headed by Brook and by Beatrice Lillie in one of the few film roles to capture the comic genius that made her an international stage star. As the widowed Maria Wislack, she’s all barbs and angles, insulting her suitor so gleefully it almost seems like foreplay.

Dir. Clive Brook

In attendance: Jeffrey Vance