The Stars Look Down (1940) starring Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Emlyn Williams, Nancy Price, Allan Jeayes, Edward Rigby directed by Carol Reed Movie Review

The Stars Look Down (1940)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Michael Redgrave in The Stars Look Down (1940)

Life's the Pits

Like his father Davey Fenwick (Michael Redgrave - The Lady Vanishes) has worked down the mines but having won a scholarship to university in Tyneside sees it as an opportunity not to escape his working class background but get an education so that he can help them at a higher level rather than just backing his father during strikes. In Tyneside Davey comes across fellow former miner the ambitious and crooked Joe (Emlyn Williams) who having been dating Jenny (Margaret Lockwood - The Slipper and the Rose) sees her as too much like hard work. Having offloaded her on Davey he has his head turned and after they marry finds himself taking up a position as a school teacher rather than finishing his education as Jenny believes she was born not to work. But from Jenny's callous ways, the return of Joe who she still has a thing for as well as trouble at the pits Davey needs to consider what he really wants.

At the time "The Stars Look Down" was reportedly the most expensive movie made in Britain and you can understand why when having filmed at a real life colliery they then reconstructed it at a studio. But there is more to it than just the sets which makes the movie seem a cut above other movies from the era. Whilst there is not a huge amount of characters the supporting cast is much larger and has a very natural feel to the point I half expect that some of those in supporting roles were in fact miners and locals from when they shot on location.

Margaret Lockwood in The Stars Look Down (1940)

Anyway as to the storyline and "The Stars Look Down" attempts to be two things; one is deliver a social drama about the plight of the working class man but combined with a story of a romance involving an ambitious woman and an ambitious man. Now for some this will be great because of the social drama but to be honest I have always had a problem with this sort of movie. Whilst this tries to entertain with the romance and devious nature of certain characters all the observations of real life drags it back from the escapism which I prefer and makes it often border on the gloomy.

Whether or not the storyline fully engages you one thing is for certain and "The Star Look Down" is a polished production. I've already mentioned that at the time it was reportedly the most expensive British production and the look is fantastic and I am not just on about the mine sets as those in a room are full of atmosphere from rain running down the window to the street light casting shadows into a room. And it also features some above average acting with Michael Redgrave showing what a fantastic actor he was when it came to playing working class types. But both Margaret Lockwood and Emlyn Williams are just as good in their roles with Williams bringing to life the cheeky con artist with a devilish side.

What this all boils down to is that "The Stars Look Down" is an impressive production for when it was made and is well acted. But it is a movie despite incorporating an entertaining storyline has greater appeal to those who enjoy social dramas.