- Gareth Crook
The Winslow Boy (1948)
It’s time for some more Robert Donat, starring here in The Winslow Boy. Expectations are high, this comes highly recommended by many, not least my Mum. To be perfectly honest, it’s hard not to like films like this, it smacks of pleasantness, oh but there’s a dark side. A proper one, this is a serious tale. Everyone is terribly well spoken, prim and well off. There are expectations. Expectations that young Ronnie Winslow (Neil North) doesn’t live up to. He’s accused of stealing at his authoritative Naval School. He swears he’s innocent though and with his retired banker father (Cedric Hardwicke), well it’s war! To be honest it’s more of scandal at first, but one born of principle. Bloody hell they’ve got me talking like them. Enter Mr Donat as Sir Robert Morton “The greatest barrister in the country”. Also a bit snooty. Ah but you see that’s what makes him so wonderful. In a world of order, everything in its place, speak when you’re spoken to, Morton is the maverick and Donat is magnetic. Winslow and his boy take the Navy to court. They want a fair hearing, they want to clear Ronnie’s name, they want justice. It comes at a price though, one that upsets the dynamics of the Winslow family. Choices have to be made. Reputation over comfort. For all the flowery details of the day, it deals with some pretty heavy topics. Not least the ability to sue the Navy and by association the King “a dangerous precedent to set”. What could tear a family apart though only serves to galvanise. All this gives the story real heft, but make no mistake, it’s all window dressing for Donat to effortlessly take the reigns and shine. He’s magnificent, be it in the humblest of scenes or in parliament, not to mention the courtroom itself. For all the heat on the Winslow Boy. The Winslow Girl, Catherine (Margaret Leighton) deserves as much of the spotlight. Leighton gives Donat a real run for his money in the star stakes. If their final scene together doesn’t fill your heart with joy, there’s little hope for you. This is a fantastic film, proving that old saying... Mother’s always right.