Private Life of an Actor (Siritzky International) is the first film made by Sacha Guitry, France's scampish old do-it-all of stage & screen, since he was cleared of charges of collaborating with the Nazis. The movie was mildly applauded in Paris, but stirred up an anti-Guitry demonstration in Lyon (TIME, June 7). On its own account, it is worth little fuss of any kind. It is a tribute, redolent of grease paint, to Sacha's famed actor father . Lucien. The son's brittle wit shows to best advantage when he is dishing out impudence, irony and disillusionment. This film suffers from an irony of its own: reverence and honest sentiment do not become M. Sacha Guitry.
Rope (Transatlantic Pictures; Warner) is an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The story: two young men, fresh out of college, strangle a young friendjust for the thrill and hide the body in a chest.To sharpen their excitement and selfesteem, they serve a buffet supper, off the murder chest, to the victim's father (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), sweetheart (Joan Chandler), unsuccessful rival (Douglas Dick) and a beloved former teacher (James Stewart).
One of the murderers (Farley Granger) is horrified by what they have done and gradually comes apart. The other (John Dall) is almost hard enough to carry them both. He is particularly excited by the presence of the teacher, a sort of armchair nihilist who first infected the boys' minds with the idea that there are superior men, above all moral law. Dall really wants to lay the corpse at his master's feet, the way a cat brings in a slaughtered robin. When he finally does, he finds that the teacher's endorsement of murder was always purely academic.
In its original form (Patrick Hamilton's play, Rope's End) this was an intelligent and hideously exciting melodrama. It has been well adapted by Hume Cronyn, but it was probably inevitable that in turning it into a movie for mass distribution, much of the edge would be blunted. The boys in the playwho were pretty clearly derived from the Loeb-Leopold casewere highly cultivated, effeminate esthetes. So was their teacher. Much of the play's deadly excitement dwelt in this juxtaposition of callow brilliance and lavender dandyism with moral idiocy and brutal horror. Much of its intensity came from the shocking change in the teacher, once he learned what was going on. In the movie, the boys and their teacher are shrewdly plausible but much more conventional types. Even so, the basic idea is so good and in its diluted way Rope is so well done that it makes a rattling good melodrama.