Sapphire 1959

Basil Dearden directed this Thriller which starred Nigel Patrick, Yvonne Mitchell, Michael Craig, Paul Massie, Bernard Miles and many stalwart and well known actors of that era.

Basil Dearden had directed some impressive films including ‘Dead of Night’ “The League of Gentlemen” and this one “Sapphire”

The film begins with the discovery of a dead woman in a park. However, this turns out to be anything but a routine case when the police investigate further. It turns out that the lady was pregnant. Secondly , for whatever reason, she was black and posing as a white woman. While this sort of plot might seem pretty routine today – back then in 1959 it was quite daring.

The film is very well written. Nigel Patrick did a first class job in playing the chief inspector- I remember him for two film roles particularly – one in ‘The Browning Version’ where he plays Frank Hunter a young teacher who is having an affair with Millie Crocker-Harris, the wife of teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris played by Michael Redgrave in one of his best roles and the other in more light-hearted mode when he played Mr Know-All in one of the story segments in ‘Trio’

Michael Craig is in the early stages of his film career with this film – he plays the Chief Inspector’s Assistant

Paul Massie and Michael Craig ABOVE

Yvonne Mitchell is also very good as a key witness, and Earl Cameron is outstanding as Sapphire’s dignified brother whose skin is closer to their mothers.

From him we get to see the indignities that an educated man must face because he’s a black doctor at that time

This is a film well worth seeing. It’s not surprising that the film won the BAFTA ( British version of the Oscar) for Best Picture.

ABOVE – Michael Craig and Nigel Patrick with Orlando Martins behind the bar

BELOW – Nigel Patrick here with Jean Kent and Michael Redgrave in ‘The Browning Version’ 1951

BELOW – Nigel Patrick as Mr Know-All in ‘Trio’

Michael Craig who is still alive today aged 93 started in films in the very early fifties and throughout that decade and the next he remained a popular leading man with his classic good looks helping him there.

One film he made early in his career in 1954 was ‘Svengali’ with the great Shakespearean actor Donald Wolfit who had been drafted into the leading role with only two week’s notice because the original star Robert Newton suddenly pulled out and flew back to the USA. One theory is that it was for tax reasons.

Michael Craig, though, was way down the cast list

I like Robert Newton and Sir Donald Wolfit as actors of that era. They were both Shakespearean trained stage actors who had gravitated into films quite successfully

Robert Newton had great success in ‘Treasure Island’ and after this failed ‘Svengali’ attempt – he went to Australia and made ‘Long John Silver’ and then a full television series by the same name which turned out to be very popular on a world scale – certainly on Television here in England

Donald Wolfit used his film earnings to help finance his Theatre tours which brought Shakespeare to the masses with great success.

He was much maligned by the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson but he was at the very least their equal.

More on Sir Donald Wolfit another time

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