Monday, September 30, 2019

Noirsville Neo Noir Images Of The Week


Sapphire (1959) British Transitional Noir

A Rank Organisation Film.

Directed by Basil Dearden a Brit Noir Veteran who gave us The Blue Lamp (1950) and Pool of London (1951), also other crime and possible Noir dramas Cage of Gold (1950), I Believe in You (1952), The Gentle Gunman (1952), PT Raiders (1955). Those film should be sought out and evaluated. We don't get to see the full spectrum of European Film Noir here in the USA. Deardon also directed a nice little Black & White comedy about a couple who take over a dilapidated movie theater called Big Time Operators (1957) which I've actually caught on Turner Classic Movies.

Sapphire was written by Janet Green with additional dialogue provided by Lukas Heller. Cinematography was by Harry Waxman who lensed noirs (Brighton Rock (1948), The Long Memory (1953), and later The Wicker Man (1973)). Music was by Philip Green.

Sapphire stars Nigel Patrick as Superintendent Robert Hazard, Yvonne Mitchell (Turn The Key Softly) as Mildred, Michael Craig as Inspector Phil Learoyd, Paul Massie as David Harris, Bernard Miles (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)), as Ted Harris. Olga Lindo as Mrs. Harris, Earl Cameron (Pool of London (1951), as Dr. Robbins. Gordon Heath as Paul Slade, Jocelyn Britton as Patsy, Harry Baird (The Italian Job (1969)) as Johnnie Fiddle, Orlando Martins as Barman, Rupert Davies as P.C. Jack Ferris, Freda Bamford as Sergeant Cook, Robert Adams as Horace Big Cigar, and Yvonne Buckingham as Sapphire Robbins.

Nigel Patrick as Superintendent Robert Hazard

Earl Cameron as Dr. Robbins

Michael Craig as Inspector Phil Learoyd

Bernard Miles as Ted Harris

Yvonne Mitchell as Mildred 

Paul Massie as David Harris
Harry Baird as Johnnie Fiddle lt.

The Story

The body of a young woman is found stabbed multiple times on Hampstead Heath. It's locally known as "the heath" It is a large, ancient London heath, covering 790 acres, just a bit smaller than New York City's Central Park.

grisly find 

CSI - UK style
The film starts out as a policier, with Scotland Yard Superintendent Robert Hazard heading up the investigation. The police first identify the body as Sapphire Robbins a student at the Royal Academy of Music. The police question her boyfriend David Harris, her friends at the academy, and her landlady.

searching Sapphire's room

The police know that she was killed elsewhere and dumped on the heath because of the lack of blood on the scene. A search of her room discovers in the contents of a locked draw a bunch of gaudy lingerie and a photograph that was cut in half. The photo only shows Sapphire dancing with someone who has been cut off. An autopsy reveals that she was a few months pregnant.

The police go back and question David Harris who states to Superintendent Harris that he and Sapphire were to be married.

Everything begins to go Noirsville when Sapphire's older brother Dr, Robbins arrives at police headquarters. Dr. Robbins is black, Sapphire was white or so the police thought. Sapphire was actually the product of a white father and a black mother. She was passing for white.

This fact exposes prejudices across a broad spectrum throughout the rest of the film. Hazard's second in command Inspector Phil Learoyd begins making derogatory comments. Sapphire's rooming house landlady is concerned about being shunned by white boarders if they find out that she rented to a black. The Harris's in particular David's father Ted and David's sister Mildred display a great deal of prejudice against blacks, but David tells the police that Sapphire had told him of her racial background and that they were getting married anyway.

So now the police try and piece together Sapphire's back story figuring that who ever Sapphire was dancing with in the photo they found may be a prime suspect, as in a jilted lover angle. With this new lead the police go to Sapphire's first boarding house and question the tenants. They discover the names of Sapphire's friends and take their statements and follow leads to the International Club and a nightclub called Tulips. They discover that once Sapphire found out that she could pass for white she cut off her old friends split and began a new life.

friends of Sapphire

The International Club


Smoggy 1959 London 

The blue lamp marking a London police station.

For it's time period Sapphire surprisingly explored straight forwardly racial relations in the UK.

During the 1950s some of the white working class in the UK began to show open hostility to the influx of African-Caribbean immigrants. Groups such as the Teddy Boys, Oswald Mosley's Union Movement and the White Defense League were agitating to keep Britain white.

Blacks were attacked during the summer of 1958. On 29 August 1958 Majbritt Morrison, a white Swedish woman, was arguing with her Jamaican husband Raymond Morrison at the Latimer Road Underground station. A fight broke out between Morrison and some of his friends and some whites who tried to intervene.

The following day Majbritt was assaulted by a white gang. That night on Bramley Road, hundreds of whites attacked the houses of West Indian residents. These riots and attacks continued through the 5th of September. The Metropolitan Police Service arrested well over a hundred people.

"The riots caused tension between the Metropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary." (Wiki)

Sapphire won the British equivalent of our Academy Award the BAFTA Film Award for Best British Film. It's a nice noir-ish mystery with a message 8-9/10.

Sapphire is a part of  Great British Movies - Film Noir [DVD] along with 21 DaysSo Long At The FairHunted and Turn the Key Softly.

Great British Movies - Film Noir [DVD] [1940]

PS - You'll need a third party converted region free DVD player to watch these in the U.S.