"Shooting Stars" (1928)

Produced by British Instructional Films and released by Pro Patria
Films, England, in 1928 with a running time of 72 minutes.

Producer H Bruce Woolfe
Directed by A.V. Bramble
Assistant Director Anthony Asquith
Scenario by Anthony Asquith and J. O. C. Orton.

Cast: Brian Aherne (Julian Gordon), Annette Benson (Mae) and Donald
Calthrop (Andy).


Shooting Stars begins with a young girl sitting in a tree sayin goodbye to her cowboy friend, and, as he rides away, a dove flutters on to the girl's hand. She caresses the bird, and when she places the bird against her cheek, it pecks her, and she angrily lets the bird go. The camera draws back revealing the tree is a studio pro and the cowboy's horse is a wooden frame that is being pulled by stage hands. The girl, Mae Feathers (Annette Benson), is married to the cowboy, Julian Gordon (Brian Aherne), and as they are leaving the set, they pause to look at a comedy being shot on another set.

They are shooting a comedy, and the star of the comedy is Andy Wilks (Donald Calthrop), a friend of theirs. Although Mae is married to her leading man, Julian, she develops a craving for the charismatic slapstick comedian Andy. When Julian lets his wife go to the theater alone with Andy because he is too busy to take her himself, Andy and Mae remain in Andy's flat. When Mae returns home from her supposed visit to the theater, Julian is cleaning a gun which will be used in one of the forthcoming scenes, and he removes the "live" cartridge and inserts a "blank" cartridge. Mae surreptitiously puts one of the "live" cartridges in her purse.

On location Andy's double is doing a scene on the edge of a cliff being chased by a fat man, and when the double accidently falls off the cliff, a news reporter, not realizing that it was not Andy but a double, telephones the accident to his newspaper.

Mae receives the news of Andy's supposed death and is visibly upset. However, when Andy returns, she rushes into his arms, and, as they kiss, Julian enters the room and watches with an expression of complete incredulity on his face.

Things further get complicated when Mae gives Andy the key to he apartment informing him that Julian will be away for the weekend. When Andy comes calling, though, Julian is still on the premises, and it doesn't take Julian long to size up the situation.

Julian announces his intention to divorce Mae, an action which, thanks to a morals clause in Mae's contract, will ruin her career. The next day as preparations are being made to film a scene in which Julian is to be shot, Mae removes a "blank" cartridge from one barrel and replaces it with a "live" cartridge. Mae is utterly surprised when the take is over and Julian returns and asks the director why only one shot was fired.

The director tells him that one shot was sufficient, and just then a call comes from the comedy set for the gun. The gun is required in a comedy scene in which Andy, swinging on a chandelier, is to be shot by the fat man who was chasing him on the cliff the day before.

Mae watches in horror as the fat man prepares to shoot Andy who is swinging on the chandelier.


The film was an immediate success in Europe, and it established
Asquith, who did most of the directing, as one of the most interesting people working in the British movie industry at the time.

The film was reviewed by two movie critics of the London office of Variety, and they both expressed two entirely opposite views of the film. The favorable review was by an American, and the unfavorable review was by an Englishman.

The English critic said," Acting and photography are both good. The rest is inexcusable." The American critic said, "The viewpoint of the writer is that the picture is too modern for the average moving picture patron, who is confronted with the difficulty of carrying in his mind a story within a story and then part of another story within the inside story."

The Director

Anthony Asquith (1902-1968) was the son of British Liberal prime minister H.H. Asquith. Upon his graduation from Baliol College at Oxford in 1925, he helped to establish the London Film Society. The British movie industry was mired in mediocrity at that time, and it was Asquith's hope that the Film Society would encourage British directors to adopt the more colorful techniques of their brethren in Hollywood, Germany and Sweden. He spent three months in Hollywood as the guest of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, and on his return to England in 1926, he joined British Instructional Films.

He became a director with 1927's "Shooting Stars," an exercise in youthful cinematic bravado. Not wishing to be "typed" in the manner of such prominent directors as Hitchcock and Korda, Asquith tackled any number of film subjects and styles including the dankness of "A Cottage in Dartmoor "(1929), the low-key patriotism of "We Dive at Dawn" (1943), and the theatrical frothiness of "Pygmalion" (1937) and "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1953).

Many of his films from 1939 onward were made in collaboration with scenarist/playwright Terrence Rattigan. In the 1950s, Asquith turned his attentions to television, directing numerous ballet presentations. He was active in the film industry until his death.

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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