Movie Countdown: 45 – 41

45: Rhodes of Africa (1936): Produced by Michael Balcon at Gaumont-British, Sherriff was called in for a few weeks script doctoring during early summer 1935. The work is significant, since this was the first occasion on which his services had been utilised by a British producer, and it coincided nicely with his desire to spend less time travelling to and from Hollywood for work.

44: Bricks Upon Dust (1945): Having arrived back from an extended stay in Hollywood in August 1944, he began working for Alex Korda in the autumn, with the screen adaptation of Paul Tabori’s novel his first assignment. The book is an engrossing tale of a soldier returning to his home town, in an unidentified, but presumably Balkan, country after he has been invalided out of the army. Sherriff struggled with it, however, seemingly unable to contemplate the scale of the destruction to which the hero returns. Tabori, however, had based the book on his own observations in Europe, and his marginalia on Sherriff’s draft make his dissatisfaction with the script perfectly clear. Truth be told, it is not one of Sherriff’s better efforts, and he is probably lucky that Korda’s Studio was unable to proceed with it.

43: Flare Path (1943): Based on Terence Rattigan’s stage play, Sherriff scripted the movie for Twentieth Century Fox in 1943. He opens the action up quite considerably, and takes considerable liberties with the structure, with the result that the script lacks much of the tension which is present in the play. Fox never produced the film, but elements from the play made their way into the Rattigan-scripted British movie The Way to The Stars in 1945.

42: Her Excellency the Governor (1935): Commissioned by Universal Films, the script was based on a short story by Nina Wilcox Putnam which relates the rise of Judith Stonewall to the Governor’s mansion, and the dilemma she faces when her ex-husband’s death warrant (for murder) is presented for her signature. There were difficulties with the Production Code Administration (at the suggestion that Judith might pardon a murderer), but there were other problems with the script as well, which was unconvincing in its presentation of political life in the US (politics never being Sherriff’s strong suit). Universal at this point was under financial pressure, and with the PCA proving relatively intransigent the film was never made.

41: House of Chedworth (1943-4): Commissioned by Twentieth Century Fox (TCF), the film was initially intended as a screen adaptation of Hugh Walpole’s final novel, Blind Man’s House (published in 1941). The story was that of a blinded ex-serviceman bringing a young woman back to his country estate, as his bride. Sherriff had been sketching out a similar story in his own mind for some time (he was at pains to make sure no-one suspected him of plagiarism), and suggested that, rather than adapt Walpole, he write his own novel and the script at the same time. TCF were happy with this, receiving the script in 1943 and placing it before the PCA which recorded some objections. The script does not seem to have been revised thereafter, and the film was never made, probably because its wartime setting already seemed out of date. But Sherriff did get a book out of it – his novel, Chedworth, was published in America by Macmillan in 1944, to favourable reviews. It was never published in the UK.