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I Am A CameraUnited Kingdom 1955
Directed by Henry Cornelius
Running time 98 minutes
Theatre critic William Kerr famously wrote of the John van Druten stage play, I Am a Camera, “Me no Leica”. The film version by Henry Cornelius, loosely adapted from the van Druten play by John Collier is however likeable enough with Julie Harris reprising her stage performance as Sally Bowles, an aspiring actress in the decadent milieu of pre-WWII Berlin. Laurence Harvey plays the writer, Christoper Isherwood, on whose collection of autobiographical vignettes, Berlin Stories, the van Druten play was based.
Although hamstrung by the characteristically cheap production values of the post-war British film industry, Harris gives an exuberantly over-the-top performance which is well-contrasted by Harvey’s stuffily proper public school Englishman and when the pair are performing alone the film is at its best.
The rise of Naziism, which was a much stronger component of the classic Fred Ebbs-John Kandor musical and the 1972 Bob Fosse film version of it, Cabaret, is played down here, with most of the attention being given to Sally’s louche adventures, including a pregnancy to a passing American playboy (in the US the film was denied a Hays Code imprimatur because of this). Anton Diffring plays Isherwood’s would-be gigolo friend, Fritz, and Shelley Winters is the plain-but-wealthy Jewish girl he courts. Cabaret is head-and-shoulders above this film but it is an interesting and reasonably entertaining precursor.