Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


The tenant of a certain run-down London rooming houe are a sorry and sometimes mean-spirited lot, showing repect for only one of their fellow tenants, Mr Wright, a wealthy businessman and the only person in the rooming housse who has made a success of himself.  One of the tenants, Majot Tomkin, hopes that his daughter Vivian will marry Mr. Wright.   Vivian abhors Wright and is in love with a different tenant.

Into this cauldron of incivility comes a new tenant (who happens to be an angel).  Suddenly things get better in the rooming house and tenants begin to care for one another much to Wright's resentment.

First presented as a stage play in 1908, The Passing of the Third Floor Back was a succes despite (or, pehaps because of) its overwhelming pious tone.  In reviewing the 1935 film, Graham Greene praised the film for havng toned down the "pious note" of the original play, although Greene had problems with director Bethold Viertel's attempts to reconcile the "sweetness and light" of the film with its realism.  The film was voted the fourth best British movie of 1936. The movie has also been noted for its effective use of a very limited budget.

Taking the role of the angel was Conrad Veidt, in his second British appearance after fleeing his native Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife.  Anna Lee, just 22, played Vivian.  The goddaughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lee was once dubbed the "British Bombshell."  She had a long and distinguished career both in England and in the United States, culminating in her long-running role of Lila Quartermaine in the soap opera  General Hospital.  Also featured in the film were Rene Ray as the maid 'Stacia, Frank Cellier as Wright, and John Turnbull and Cathleen Nesbitt as Major and Mrs. Tomkin.  The script was written by Michael Horan and Alma Reville (a.k.a. Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock).

The author of the play (and the susequent short story) was British humorist Jerome K. Jerome, best known for his overwhelmingly popular 1889 comic novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), which has never gone out of print and has spawned six films, at least three radio shows, a television series, and a stage play; it has influenced writers from P. G. Wodehouse to Robert A. Heinlein.

The Passing of the Third Floor Back was filmed once before, in 1918 with Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Ketty Galanta and Robert Fisher.


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