Short Memories for British Film, or: Another Sign of the Apocalypse, Now
By Meredith Brody
Among the glories of over a hundred years of British film: Alfred Hitchcock. David Lean. Noel Coward. Laurence Olivier. Michael Powell.
Ealing comedies. The Red Shoes. The 39 Steps. The Man in the White Suit. Black Narcissus. The Third Man. Brief Encounter. Kind Hearts and Coronets. Accident. It Always Rains on Sunday. The Ladykillers. Lawrence of Arabia. The Lady Vanishes. Googie Withers (yes, really).
But when Virgin Media conducted a recent poll looking for the greatest British film of all time, nobody seemed to remember anything made before 1979. The winning films: #5, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), #4, Casino Royale (2006), #3, Trainspotting (1996), #2, Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), and, drum roll, THE BEST BRITISH FILM OF ALL TIME (wait for it): coming in at #1, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).
Hugh Grant, he of the floppy hair and endearing stutter, also comes in as the 4th best British actor of all time (after Sir Sean Connery, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Sir Michael Caine, and before Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Alec Guiness: when knighthood was in flower. It can’t be too long before Mr. Grant is no longer plain Mr. Grant, either). Laurence O. sneaks in a couple of rungs lower (after Alan Rickman, but just above Daniel Craig and James McAvoy). Don’t bother to look for Trevor Howard, Peter O’Toole, or Dirk Bogarde, for they’re nowhere to be seen.
But Lawrence of Arabia (1962) did manage to sneak in. At #6. And the oldest movie on the list by almost a decade. Apparently British film started in the Sixties. And it seems the Nineties were one hell of a decade, film-wise.
Note to poll respondents: You might want to check out some of the films mentioned in the first paragraph, above.