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The Man in Grey

November 2, 2010

159. The Man in Grey
Directed by Leslie Arliss
UK, 1943
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


In 1943 (present day at the time of production), a young man and woman meet at an estate auction. They discuss the possibility of their family history being intertwined. The main plot is told in flashback:

In the Regency age; Clarissa Richmond (Phyllis Calvert), a beautiful, rich, and kind young lady attends a boarding school. She meets a new teacher, Hesther Snow (Margaret Lockwood). Hesther is a bitter and distant woman due to a poor and difficult early life.

The two become friends despite Clarissa being warned about Hesther’s disagreeable nature. However, they drift apart when they leave the school. Clarissa becomes unhappily married to the cruel Lord Rohan (James Mason) while Hesther becomes an actress. Years later their paths cross again, and while Clarissa finds she has a chance at true love, Hesther plots to have the money and social standing she’s always wanted by seducing Lord Rohan and displacing Clarissa by any means necessary.

Essential Scene:

Hesther (Margaret Lockwood) has arranged for her former co-star, Peter Rokeby (Stewart Granger), to be of use within the Rohan household. She knows of Clarissa’s feelings for him.

Hesther creeps down the stairs after spending the night with Lord Rohan. Rokeby catches her walking by his room. They have a back-and-forth regarding Hesther’s scheming.

Hesther: You say you love her, well, so do I him, and if anyone comes between us, so much the worse. I’ve no quarrel with those that don’t interfere, but if you love her, keep her from getting in my way.

Peter: Pretty speech, and dead in character. Has anyone ever told you what a slut you are?

Hesther: Oh you can insult me if you wish but I tell you–

Peter: For once you’ve spoken the truth, my dear. I do believe you would stop at nothing.

Hesther: Then remember it!

Peter: There’s one factor you’ve overlooked… me! You see, I’m not a gentleman. I swear by god that if she comes to harm through you, I’ll break that lovely little neck of yours with less regret than I’d stamp on a snake.

[He smiles and then slaps her across the face]

Peter: Goodnight.


Although quite enjoyable, I saw The Man in Grey as a bit of a early soap opera. This being the classic type of melodrama, the heroine was very very good and the villains were very very bad. I had to stop myself from hissing at the screen every time Margaret Lockwood came into shot.

But this love of a bit of theatricals is very understandable when you think of the year it was made. The Brits didn’t need gritty realism in their films, they were living that every day and films were an escape. So although the style isn’t really to my taste, I can see why it was needed.

My only real complaint is that James Mason was underused as the uncaring Lord Rohan.

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