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Review: The Green Cockatoo

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The Green Cockatoo

Based on a story by Graham Greene, The Green Cockatoo is a highly entertaining curio of early British cinema, an Anglo-Saxon attempt at a Cagney-esque American gangster picture. John Mills is hilariously miscast in the central role of Jim Connor, though this perversely works to the film’s advantage. Best described as a tap-dancing toughie, Jim crosses paths one night with Eileen (deer-in-headlights ingénue René Ray), an innocent country waif who comes to big, bad London in search of employment. Almost immediately after disembarking the train (where she’s lectured on big city iniquities by a blustery, bearded gentleman who closes their brief acquaintance with the memorable non sequitur, “I cannot give advice, I am a philosopher!”) Eileen is unintentionally framed for the murder of ne’er-do-well Dave Connor (Robert Newton), Jim’s gambling-obsessed younger brother. Several coincidental twists n’ turns later and Eileen finds herself at The Green Cockatoo nightclub where Jim performs. Both are unaware of the other’s relationship to Dave and are soon on the run from the actual murderers, a gang of fedora and trenchcoat-clad hoodlums led by the lanky, mustachioed Terrel (Charles Oliver). Along the way, love blossoms, truths are revealed, and Jim tells his befuddled butler Provero (Frank Atkinson) to “Cut yourself a slice of sleep.” Director William Cameron Menzies, an award-winning production designer, grounds The Green Cockatoo in expressionist shadows that anticipate Carol Reed’s The Third Man (the ne plus ultra of Greene’s cinema output) and the writer himself is evident via the piece’s sense of a veiled, yet inescapable moral outcome with which each character must deal.

Cast: John Mills, René Ray, Charles Oliver, Bruce Seton, Julian Vedey, Robert Newton, Allan Jeayes, Frank Atkinson Director: William Cameron Menzies Screenwriter: Ted Berkman, Arthur Wimperis Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time: 65 min Rating: NR Year: 1937

“Tell the truth but tell it slant”
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