The Browning Version (1951)

"Excellent"

The Browning Version (1951) Review


We all hated our grade school teachers -- at least one of them. Here's a movie that shows the flipside of that anger, showcasing Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave in the role of a lifetime) on his last, pathetic day as a teacher at a sleepy school for privileged boys.

Crocker-Harris teaches the terribly unpopular dead languages course to younger children who, almost unilaterally, don't appreciate the subject matter. Not only is Crocker-Harris moving for "health reasons," his cruel wife (Jean Kent) is having an affair with a younger professor (Nigel Patrick). And the kids hate him, calling him "Himmler" behind his back.

And yet we feel deeply affectionate for Crocker-Harris, and that's thanks to Redgrave's devastating performance, positively spot on for the difficult role he's placed in as the whipping-boy for not just the kids, but his wife, and the administration of the school. His peers seem to respect him well enough, but it's the kind of reverence that comes with age, not authority.

Directed by Anthony Asquith, The Browning Version is a study of a man who's long since come to terms with his mediocrity and who is almost too willingly slipping into the shadows. It's made all the more powerful by some stellar photography, which paints the school in deep shadows, and the black and white suits and robes that all the characters wear add further to the atmosphere of a near-afterlife. For Crocker-Harris, that's an apt enough description: The title refers to a version of The Agamemnon, translated by Robert Browning, which Crocker-Harris receives as a lone token gift by the one student who might appreciate him. When his wife tells him that it's simply an attempt to buy off a good grade from "The Croc," Redgrave never lets his disappointment show, but we know that the man has quite literally been destroyed.

I won't spoil the ending except to say that it's unexpected but far from corny, and myriad films from Dead Poets Society to Scent of a Woman owe The Browning Version a debt of gratitude for it. Check it out on the new Criterion Collection release, which features commentary from historian Bruce Eder, an old interview with Redgrave, and an interview with Mike Figgis, who directed the 1994 remake of the film with Albert Finney.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.