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United Kingdom 1949
Directed by
Anthony Darnborough / Terence Fisher
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Astonished Heart

Anyone coming to this film with its endless verbosity, public school diction and constipated English types carrying on in terribly English ways, and not knowing that it is the work of Noel Coward (he also wrote the score as well as the screenplay and original stage play) would be forgiven for wondering how anything could be so misguided. Cinematically it is dreadful but of course Coward IS the key element here with a special bonus in that he plays the lead, a world famous psychiatrist (or "alienist" as shrinks were call in the early days of the profession) who is adored by his devoted wife (Celia Johnson), secretary (Joyce Carey) and junior partner (Graham Payn) who has an affair with his wife's old school friend (Margaret Leighton).

Certainly no-one could call this Coward's best work. Not only is his script repetitious and ludicrously mannered, a virtual parody of his own distinctive style, but as a philandering psychiatrist he is dreadfully unconvincing. However there’s a deliciously hysterical quality to the dialogue and performances, particularly from Johnson and Carey (both who had appeared in David Lean’s classic 1945 adaptation of Coward's Brief Encounter) and not least from Coward himself that for fans it is glorious tosh made all the better for the fact that it is played perfectly straight.




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