Thursday, August 25, 2022

Three Weeks Together

Vivien Leigh is the star being honored tomorrow (August 26) in TCM's Summer Under the Stars. One of her movies that had been sitting on my DVR for some time until I watched it a few weeks ago was 21 Days. TCM will be running it tomorrow at 7:00 AM, so now is a good time to blog about it.

Leigh really isn't the star here; that honor goes to Laurence Olivier. He plays Larry Darrant, a sort of ne'er-do-well who has returned to London where he now has a girlfriend in the form of Wanda (that's Vivien Leigh). One night, the couple are returning home to Wanda's flat, where she finds that she has a visitor: her estranged husband Henry (Esme Percy), whom she hasn't seen in years. Henry decides he's going to try to blackmail Wanda and Larry, pulling a knife on them when Larry refuses to pay up. In the ensuing fight, Larry kills Henry in what should be self-defense.

Larry has a brother Keith (Leslie Banks) who is a barrister, so Larry goes to him for advice. Keith, however, is up for a judgeship, and doesn't want any scandal in the family as that would likely ruin his chances to become a judge. So he suggests that Larry and Wanda leave the country, never mind that a good barrister could get Larry off.

Things are about to get a whole lot worse. There's a defrocked minister-turned-tramp, John Evan (Hay Petrie), who decided to pilfer Henry's body on finding it. The police find John with Henry's personal belongings on him, and naturally put two and two together and figure John must have been responsible. Now John is indeed, responsible, but only of theft. But because of his Christian faith, he has a lot of guilt, and has no intention of doing anything in his own defense at trial.

This is in some ways perfect for Keith. Somebody other than his brother will stand trial for the murder, and since to Keith it's pretty damn obvious that John wasn't the killer, John should be found not guilty, leaving Larry free once the trial ends. But Larry actually has a conscience, he not being an attorney, and seriously thinks about confessing. Things get worse for all involved when John is actually found guilty....

Considering the star power in 21 Days, I found it surprisingly flat. There's a good story here, but somehow it ended up as little more than a pedestrian programmer. It's not bad, by any means; it's more that it should have been a lot better. Indeed, producer Alexander Korda shelved it until after Leigh become an international star due to Gone With the Wind, seeing that the movie was a bit of a mess. Still, Leslie Banks does a fine job as the attorney who winds up being surprisingly sleazy, and fans of Olivier and Leigh will want to see it.

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