It's a lucky thing for London that children read pulp serials. In 1947's Hue and Cry, it's a gang of street kids who notice their favourite serial rag has codes embedded in the story for a local criminal outfit to communicate with one another. Naturally the cops don't believe them so it's up to them to sort everything out in this beautifully shot, entertaining adventure movie.
Directed by Charles Crichton, the cinematographer was the great Douglas Slocombe who in this film captured images of a London still showing signs of German bombs.
It's in a shelled building the kids make their hideout. I say kids though most of the actors playing them are between 19 and 22. It's hard to imagine the scene of four of them attacking a woman and tying her up having the same innocence to-day it had for a 1940s audience.
One of the first stops in their investigation is the home of Felix H. Wilkinson, author of the pulp serials with the codes, who lives in a nice building with this exterior crane shot I really liked:
The children are tiny and the world is dark and huge, an impression continued when they step into the long shadows of the lobby:
And then, as they ascend among the jagged shadows of the spiral staircase, they're suddenly awed and frightened by the voice of Alastair Sim, who plays Wilkinson, talking about murder. Soon they're in his flat drinking ginger pop while he's absolutely tickled some of his public has come to call. I love this random, stuffed bird he holds as he first talks to them.
Sim gets top billing but he only appears in a few scenes. Mostly the film follows the children as they follow more and more clues and I would like to say, for the sharp eyed, there are clues within the movie that would allow you to solve the mystery before the children do. Very small clues that I missed the first time I watched and didn't noticed until I was getting screenshots a few minutes ago.
Slocombe creates so many wonderful shots but I think my favourite is this one:
I love the little hint of soft light on the foreground pillar and all the detail in the bright daylight of the background. The camera pans to follow Joe (Harry Fowler) as he walks to the right and slowly a glimpse of children fighting far below, engaged in a separate drama, comes into view:
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Molasses questions sweep across the street.
A Mister Good Bar's wrong for some moments.
The paper rider's looking from his seat.
Projected chairs permit the elements.
Stemmed cherry bait remits the door to dark.
Alarms from cars will signal Jove's return.
A spiral wing concludes at cactus mark.
But borrowed shells at night gestate in turn.
Ten cowries broke the purse's string from strain.
A deep discerning sensor set the pull.
When sage like brine was burnt into the vein
The ghosts of mice guitarists played it cool.
Above, the chocolate floated towards the sun.
A stray correlation left clocks to run.