Friday, August 30, 2013

Storm in a Teacup

TCM's annual Summer Under the Stars concludes tomorrow with a day of movies starring Rex Harrison. You've probably seen the Word of Mouth piece in which Andrew Lloyd Webber gushes about My Fair Lady, but I'd rather mention a movie from much earlier in Harrison's career: Storm in a Teacup, which is airing at 7:45 AM tomorrow.

Harrison plays Frank Burdon, a reporter from England who's going up to Scotland to work for a newspaper there and write some stories about the Scottish political situation. On the ferry to the small, isolated Scottish town of Baikie, he has a chance meeting with Victoria Gow (Vivien Leigh). As you can guess from such a chance meeting, the two characters are going to have a more significant interaction later in the film; since it's a meeting between a man and a woman, you wouldn't be far off if you guess that there's also going to be romance involved, with some complications along the way. Some of those problems come about because Victoria is the daughter of the local Provost (roughly equivalent to a Mayor, played by Cecil Parker).

Frank gets a story almost as soon as he steps off the ferry. Popular resident Mrs. Hegarty (Sara Allgood, a veteran character actress on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1930s) has had her dog caught by animal control. Unfortunately, Hegarty isn't able to pay the license fee for her dog. And since this isn't the first time it's happened, the Provost is insistent that Hegarty be punished. The really bad thing is that the punishment involves confiscation of her dog, with the dog eventually to be put down. Frank has a great human interest story to write about.

Needless to say, this makes things difficult for Frank, Victoria, and the Provost. Frank hadn't intended to do aything particularly antagonistic toward the Provost, but he's got a good story, and there isn't any way he's going to let a good story get away. Once Frank discovers that Victoria is the Provost's daughter, and she discovers that he's the reporter writing scandalous things about her father, it understandably puts a crimp in their relationship. And as for the Provost, he has ideas of higher office; the Scottish National Party wants to run him for a seat in the House of Commons in an upcoming by-election. But siding against Hegarty and her beloved dog is a sure-fire electoral loser. He should have tried stealing candy from babies instead.

Storm in a Teacup has the feel of something Frank Capra might have directed, if he'd emigrated to the UK instead of the US. There's a good mix of comedy and drama, with a plot that very obviously places our sympathies with the little guy. Ah, but what a story! The romance between Frank and Victoria may be a bit predictable, but the dog story is the dominant and more interesting story. Even if you know it's got to have a happy ending, the way there is still well worth the watch. It doesn't hurt that all of the actors -- both human and canine -- turn in appealing performances. Storm in a Teacup is a winner on all levels.

Storm in a Teacup has received a DVD release, but I don't think it's currently in print.

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