Picking the stars of the future is always one of the more intriguing guessing-games ; and there are so many hazards in store for even the most promising up-and-comer that you always have an excuse if your favourite tip fails to make the grade.
I want to talk about a group of people, mostly young, who should be stars or near-stars within the next couple of years if the British film industry recovers steadily, and if the hazards of illness, bad casting and the like do not cause unforeseeable set-backs.
The best bet, I think, is James Donald, who, in The Small Voice, gave a performance which won generous praise from all the critics. Donald was just beginning to get breaks before the war: then military service intervened. When he was demobbed he had to start all over again, but fortunately Sydney Box gave him the part of the flight engineer in Broken Journey, after which he was signed on a long contract. Donald has a quality of sincerity and a quiet style of acting that wins sympathy from the· start. He may take longer to reach real stardom than more handsome and flashing young men, but once there he will certainly stay.
Another young man of whom his producers at Ealing have great hopes is Robert Beatty, who was given his biggest part to date in Another Shore, that whimsical but rather too slight Irish story. Beatty has something of the quirky charm of Burgess Meredith and a certain dark intensity of his own which enabled him to do a first-class job as the drunken painter in Portrait From Life. A Canadian who has made good in Britain’s entertainment world, Beatty has proved by some excellent work on the radio that he is a versatile performer. Now he needs a strong dramatic story to give him the chance to reveal his full powers.
Perhaps the best demonstration of versatility we have had for a long while has come during the past few months from Nigel Patrick, whose magnificent spiv in Noose was followed quite startlingly by an almost equally fine performance in an entirely different vein in Silent Dust. Since then he has done another attractive job, again different, as a young man-about-town in The Perfect Woman. When we saw Noose, most critics thought that Nigel would most certainly be typed. Adroitly, he has evaded that danger and has shown himself to be a very able actor, with a polished technique and an attractive personality.
In spite of the fact that he seems to have had too little to do, I still confidently tip Kieron Moore for stardom, provided that he is not forced to tackle characters for which he is unsuitable, such as Vronsky in Anna Karenina. It is not easy to forget his fine, sinister performance in Man About the House, which made an instant and powerful impact upon filmgoers and critics alike. He was not entirely happy in Mine Own Executioner, but since those early days he has appeared in Saints and Sinners, a story more suitable to his talent and personality, for he learned his acting at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Kieron was introduced as a star from the first: but he needs careful casting in his next two or three films if he is in fact to achieve big stardom of a lasting kind.
Three other men have been given prominent spots in major films of late and have done well enough to be regarded as star material. They are Harold Warrender, Norman Wooland and Dirk Bogarde. Of these Warrender and Wooland are both actors of long and varied experience. Bogarde has had much less general but more picture experience.
Harold Warrender’s performance as Dr. Wilson in Scott of the Antarctic was so sympathetic and natural that it would require very little time to groom him into a British Spencer Tracy. His subsequent film, Warning to Wantons, was not so successful. I would like to see this gifted actor given a first class story with enough drama to enable him to give us more of his gift of deep human understanding.
Norman Wooland impressed the critics and also filmgoers of all classes by his fine work as Horatio in Hamlet. Since then he has appeared in Look Before You Love, with Margaret Lockwood and All Over the Town. In both pictures he played a “decent” type, with that quiet, rather diffident charm and excellent use of his fine voice. Wooland has not the immediate impact of Warrender’s personality, but I think he is an actor who will grow into picturegoers’ affections.
Dirk Bogarde is another young man who was hailed as a star almost before his first picture reached the screen. Such publicity is often a mistake. Bogarde needs, like any other young actor who has been chosen for stardom primarily because of his challenging personality, some solid experience of screen technique and a number of strong stories. Esther Waters wasn’t a vital enough film – though it should have been – to give him the crash-start he needed. Once a Jolly Swagman, although it has annoyed the speedway fans, was better because it was more alive. A little more unashamed melodrama for Dirk in the near future could possibly turn him into an English equivalent of Tyrone Power.
Of the younger men not quite as far up the ladder as those I have already mentioned, I would single out Derek Farr, Peter Hammond, Paul Dupuis and Gordon Jackson as having very good prospects for stardom. Derek Farr’s career has suffered from the war: only now is he winning back to the position he had reached. His work in Man on the Run must, I feel, win him chances in more ambitious pictures.
In the Huggett films Peter Hammond has been a surprise success. Hardly more than a teen-ager, he has a very easy style which creates that instant bond between player and filmgoer that is the foundation of star-appeal. It is early yet to say how far he may go, but certainly his producers are aware or his potentialities.
Paul Dupuis has given so many fine portrayals in varied featured parts that he thoroughly deserved his big chance as the man in Margaret Lockwood’s life in Madness of the Heart. This “promotion” may lead to the stardom he deserves. Gordon Jackson, too, has done some splendid supporting work, notably in such pictures as the amusing “Whisky Galore!” Sincerity and freshness are his strong points.