Cast & Crew
During World War I, Private Hamp, a young Englishman, is arrested near Calais for desertion after serving 3 years in the frontline trenches. Before his court-martial in Passchendaele, Belgium, he is questioned by the unsympathetic attorney assigned to defend him, Captain Hargreaves, who readily agrees to follow suggestions from the upper echelon that he ignore the fact that Hamp was suffering from shellshock when he deserted. Having had an unhappy youth, Hamp had enlisted in the army on a dare and had grimly accepted the deaths of his army buddies and the news of his wife's unfaithfulness until he had simply walked away from his post. After hearing all the facts, Hargreaves becomes so impressed with the private's sincerity that he delivers an impassioned plea for justice, saying that Hamp was not responsible for his actions. Nonetheless, the court finds him guilty; and Hargreaves' recommendation for leniency is denied because the battalion is moving out and military discipline must be maintained. On the eve of his execution, Hamp's fellow soldiers gather in his cell and drink stolen rum. Drunk, and dizzy from playing blindman's buff, Hamp falls into the arms of a priest and finds himself the astonished participant in last communion. At dawn Hamp faces the firing squad, but the shots fail to kill him outright, and Hargreaves uses his revolver to put a bullet in his head. The conventional letter for soldiers killed in action is mailed to his family.
Daniel M. Angel
King & Country -
Losey handed the script to Evan Jones, who had previously scripted Eva (1962) and These Are the Damned (1963) for the director. With Losey's blessing, Jones jettisoned the teleplay and returned to the source, and at his request added a kind of Greek chorus of soldiers to provide an additional perspective to the ordeal of the trenches. Bogarde, an author in his own right, also contributed to the script, rewriting some of his scenes and providing the background of experience, all of it uncredited on the film but acknowledged by Losey in later interviews.
Bogarde took the role of Capt. Hargreaves, an upper-class officer assigned to defend the private in the makeshift battlefield court martial, and rising star Tom Courtenay was Pvt. Arthur Hamp, the naïve, almost oblivious soldier who is never quite aware of the gravity of the trial. Losey had seen Courtenay in a stage production of The Seagull many years before and cast him in a project that never materialized. Since then, he had made a name for himself in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) and Billy Liar (1963). Leo McKern (later famed as Rumpole of the Bailey on British TV) represents the blustery old school military tradition of a bulldog of an army doctor whose standard prescription for exhaustion and shell-shock is a bracing speech and a laxative, and Barry Foster offers a more sympathetic portrait of command as an amiable, supportive Lt. offering testimony for the defense.
King & Country (1964), as the film was ultimately titled, was produced as a television film on a small budget and a short schedule, with 10 days of reading rehearsal and a shooting schedule of 18 days. The entire film was shot in the studio, which was transformed into a battlefield barracks mired in the mud and rain, in black and white. "That was a monstrous film to shoot because the stage was deep in mud, we brought these rats in, they got loose and the place really stunk like the trenches," Losey recalled to Michel Ciment. "We were working under artificial rain in mackintoshes and boots, and by the time we were finished with our eighteen days in that place, we really felt as though we'd been in the trenches."
In many ways, the film was a return to Losey's early days as a stage director with the Living Newspaper and the Political Cabaret, a message movie with a passionate commitment to the message. But it is also defined by stark imagery and striking technique, with startling flashbacks and an uncomfortable intimacy created by the small studio environs and the tight interior spaces of sets. "I was very limited to what I could do, so I concentrated as much as I could on the acting, on lines, on getting a feeling of claustrophobia, getting a real sense and smell of war without any guns being fired, excepting... the distant guns that are heard." Though produced for television, it was premiered at the 1964 Venice Film Festival, where Tom Courtenay won the Best Actor prize, and released in theaters later that year. It was a box-office disappointment but it earned good reviews and was nominated for four BAFTA awards, including Best British Film. New York Times film critic Eugene Archer called it "an uncompromising film. Some of its scenes are so strong they shock," and Losey biographer David Caute rates it as a "minor masterpiece" from the director.
Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life, David Caute. Oxford University Press, 1994.
Conversations with Losey, Michel Ciment. Methuen & Co., 1985.
Losey on Losey, Tom Milne. Doubleday, 1968.
By Sean Axmaker
King & Country -
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
The still photograph which appears when Private Hamp says the words "king and country" shows King George V riding with his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II prior to the First World War.
Opened in London in December 1964; running time: 86 min; cut from 88 min. The working title of this film is Hamp.
Released in United States 1964
Released in United States September 23, 1964
Shown at 1964 Venice Film Festival.
Shown at New York Film Festival September 23, 1964.
Tom Courtenay won the Best Actor Award for his performance at the 1964 Venice Film Festival
Released in United States 1964
Released in United States 1964 (Shown at 1964 Venice Film Festival.)
Released in United States 1964 (Tom Courtenay won the Best Actor Award for his performance at the 1964 Venice Film Festival)
Released in United States September 23, 1964 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 23, 1964.)