I Could Go On Singing

UK 1963, 100 mins
Director: Ronald Neame

Introduced by Dirk Bogarde’s nephew, Ulric van den Bogarde (Tuesday 28 June only.)

A contemporary review
Movie stars have been rather out of fashion ever since Hollywood discovered the Actors’ Studio, and an audition by Lee Strasberg became a smarter testimonial than the hunting cries of the fans on the neon-lit pavements. It’s good to be reminded, though, that there are still occasions when the star can do it all on his (or more often her) own; can take the picture by the scruff of its neck in the first sequence, and hang superbly on to the end. I Could Go On Singing is of this order. The plot (script by Mayo Simon) comes out of that drawer of serviceable show business remnants labelled ‘can a star also be a good wife and mother.’ The co-star (Dirk Bogarde) is generously self-effacing; the minor players (Aline MacMahon, Jack Klugnian and a likeably direct child actor, Gregory Phillips) know their places and keep to them. Direction, by Ronald Neame, is so flat as to be almost ironed out.

The total purpose, object and achievement of the film is contained in Judy Garland’s performance; and even performance, here, is a word to be used diffidently, since the essence of her quality – as actress, if not as singer – has always been her ability to seem not to be performing. What other actress, playing a big emotional scene, would keep dabbing so ineffectively at a tear-stained face with the back of a distracted hand? What other actress would get quite such an edge of nervous tension into the moment when she first walks on to the Palladium stage, keyed up to confront not just an imaginary audience in a film, but any audience, any time? Playing, as in A Star Is Born, a part which draws obviously on her own experience, Judy Garland gives one a sense of the strain of life as Judy Garland. It can’t be too easy to direct her; and the film’s method, with some of the songs and duologues shot in long and almost uninterrupted takes, suggests a wariness of breaking a mood, snapping that taut line of emotional concentration.

As a film, I Could Go On Singing is threadbare, as well as being pinned down to those mid-Atlantic attitudes which make so much play with a helicopter tour of London (ending, on a wild stroke of extravagance, in the churchyard at Stoke Poges), or a camera reverently tracking over the frontage of the Savoy. But Judy Garland imposes her own kind of urgent truth, in the spontaneity and the raw nerves and the fortissimo slamming home of the songs. There is no counterfeiting this sort of talent.
Penelope Houston, Sight & Sound, Spring 1963

Director: Ronald Neame
Production Company: Barbican Films
Executive Producer: Stuart Millar
Producer: Lawrence Turman
Unit Manager: John Peverall
Production Supervisor: Denis Holt
Assistant to the Producer: Rose Tobias Shaw
Production Assistant: Marion Rosenberg
Assistant Director: Colin Brewer
Continuity: Pamela Davies
Screenplay: Mayo Simon
Based on a story by: Robert Dozier
Director of Photography: Arthur Ibbetson
Camera Operator: Paul Wilson
Editor: John Shirley
Art Director: Wilfred Shingleton
Set Decorator: John Hoesli
Miss Garland’s Costumes: Edith Head
Additional Costumes: Beatrice Dawson
Wardrobe: Evelyn Gibbs
Make-up: Harold Fletcher
Hairdresser: Pearl Tipaldi
Main Title/Graphic Design: Maurice Binder
Music: Mort Lindsey
Title Songs: Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg
Music Supervisor: Saul Chaplin
Sound: Buster Ambler, Red Law
Dubbing Editor: Christopher Lancaster
Studio: Shepperton Studios

Judy Garland (Jenny Bowman)
Dirk Bogarde (David Donne)
Jack Klugman (George Kogan)
Aline MacMahon (Ida)
Gregory Phillips (Matt Donne)
Russell Waters (Reynolds)
Pauline Jameson (Miss Plimpton)
Jeremy Burnham (young hospital doctor)
Eric Woodburn
Robert Rietti
Gerald Sim (assistant manager at Palladium)
David Lee
Leon Cortez (the busker)
Al Paul
Laurie Heath (Bobby Evans) *
Tony Robinson (the poet) *

UK 1963
100 mins

* Uncredited

Judy Garland: 20th-Century Icon
Wed 1 Jun 18:20
The Harvey Girls
Wed 1 Jun 20:45; Sun 5 Jun 18:10; Wed 22 Jun 20:30
Listen, Darling
Thu 2 Jun 17:50; Sun 5 Jun 13:30
Love Finds Andy Hardy
Thu 2 Jun 20:20; Sat 11 Jun 18:00
Meet Me in St. Louis
Fri 3 Jun 15:20; Fri 10 Jun 18:10 (+ intro by BFI London Film Festival and Flare Programmer, Grace Barber-Plentie); Sat 18 Jun 20:40; Sat 25 Jun 12:00
Judgment at Nuremberg
Fri 3 Jun 17:00; Sun 19 Jun 17:20
For Me and My Gal
Sat 4 Jun 17:50; Tue 14 Jun 18:10
In the Good Old Summertime
Sat 4 Jun 20:30; Fri 17 Jun 14:30
The Clock (aka Under the Clock)
Sun 5 Jun 15:40; Tue 7 Jun 18:10
Girl Crazy
Fri 10 Jun 20:40; Sat 18 Jun 15:20; Thu 23 Jun 14:30
The Pirate
Sun 12 Jun 15:50; Sun 26 Jun 18:40
Summer Stock (aka If You Feel Like Singing)
Sun 12 Jun 18:30; Mon 20 Jun 18:00
Judy’s Jukebox Singalong
Sat 18 Jun 18:00
A Star Is Born
Sun 19 Jun 14:40; Sat 25 Jun 14:50
I Could Go On Singing
Tue 21 Jun 20:40; Tue 28 Jun 18:15 (+ intro by Dirk Bogarde’s nephew, Ulric van den Bogarde)

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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