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Kings and countryKorda Britains Only Movie MogulCharles DrazinSidgwick Jackson 20 pp411Just over 70 years ago the critic CA Lejeune writing in this newspaper said that Alexander Kordas new film The Private Life of Henry VIII was more likely to bring prestige to the British film industry both at home and abroad than anything we have done in the whole history of filmmakingThat flourish of patriotic hyperbole from Lejeune says as much about Kordas ability to project himself as it does about the film or even Charles Laughtons grand performance in it The cast may have been British it may have been made by London Films a company that stamped its productions with a shot of Big Ben but as Charles Drazins assiduously researched biography of Korda proves the sensibility that delivered it was something entirely other All the key figures behind the camera were French American or as with Korda HungarianThat is not to question Kordas devotion to or belief in his adopted country He certainly felt more at ease working in Britain than anywhere else and hed had a go at making films in most countries where there was an industry But it was his very otherness that made him such a success In the coffee-houses of Mittel Europe the boy from the Hungarian provinces found his ambitions to put grandeur and spectacle on the screen stifled by the intense life of the mind in the Hollywood of the 1920s he found the demands of commerce numbingBritain offered a halfway house both literally and figuratively It was a place where a man with a taste for business and art could invent both himself and a body of work Not that Korda always found a balance between the two He was just as capable of making schlock with no redeeming features as he was of overly indulging the creativesA desperately un-Hollywood conviction that the success of a movie lay with the creative vision of
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