Thursday, 15 April 2010

Miranda (1948)

When people think about mermaid movies (assuming they do), the first film that is likely to come to mind is 1984's "Splash". However oddly enough two similar films appeared in the U.K. and the U.S. in 1948, both with similar stories of a man hooking the fabulous creature while fishing. I wouldn't like to say which came first, this film or the equally charming "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid", since the latter is based on a previously published novel and the British entry was a popular stage play. Not that it matters in the least.

On many levels this is a very lightweight tale and an equally lightweight film, but it is not without its memorable moments. The sea creature is played in a sexily flirty style by husky-voiced Glynis Johns, while Mr. Peabody's remained silent. The able if not overly starry supporting cast includes doctor Griffith Jones as the enterprising fisherman, Googie Withers (an actress who is something of an acquired taste) as his shrewd wife, and the recently-deceased John McCallum and David Tomlinson as respectively an artist and a chauffeur, who are captivated by Johns' siren. As a piece of movie history, I must mention that of course Johns and Tomlinson played together again as Mr. and Mrs. Banks in "Mary Poppins" (1964). The gem among the support however is Margaret Rutherford, an actress who brightens every single film in which she appears. She is hired as a nurse for the 'invalid' Johns whom Jones has brought up to his London flat (where she overnights in the bathtub and snaffles the fish from the goldfish bowl). Rutherford's look of joy when she first sees Johns is priceless (she says she always did believe in mermaids) and there is also an oppoturnity for her to perform a little dance in her own inimitable gracefully clunky style.

SPOILERS follow: Having just about temporarily estranged all of the male cast from their female counterparts, Johns eventually dives into the Thames to begin her long swim to the sunnier climes of Majorca. The last slot shows her cuddling an angelic-looking blonde mer-child and the viewer can take his pick as to which of the three male characters was the father. He can also wonder how on earth one inpregnates a mermaid!

This sweet fantasy has been directed with a light touch by director Ken Annakin. Among the amusing scenes are ones where Johns hungrily licks her lips at the seals' feeding time at the zoo (eventually managing to catch and swallow a fish herself) and her taking advantage of the opportunity to show her mermaid singing skills at Covent Garden. It is the only film I know which boasts a front credit 'Tail by Dunlop' and when the movie finishes, of course it does not say 'The End' but more amusingly 'Fin'.
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