In Ronald Neame’s film of Joyce Cary’s classic novel, Alec Guinness transforms himself into one of cinema’s most indelible comic figures: the lovably scruffy painter Gulley Jimson. As the ill-behaved Jimson searches for a perfect canvas, he determines to let nothing come between himself and the realization of his exalted vision. A perceptive examination of the struggle of artistic creation, The Horse’s Mouth is also Neame’s comic masterpiece. —The Criterion Collection
Ronald Neame was the son of photographer/director Elwin Neame and the actress Ivy Close. He joined Elstree Studios in 1927 as a messenger and call boy, moved up to stills photographer, and was an assistant cameraman on Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929), the first English sound film. He served as a camera operator in the early ‘30s, and was elevated to director of photography in 1934. His most important films as cinematographer were Pygmalion (1938), Major Barbara (1939), In Which We Serve (1942), and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942). In 1943, Neame formed a partnership with editor-turned-director David Lean and producer Anthony Havelock-Allan in Cineguild, an independent production company set up with support from England’s Rank Organisation, through which the David Lean movies This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and The Passionate Friends were made. Neame turned to directing in the late ‘40s with Take My Life (1947), and after… read more
A good hearted comedy about an eccentric old artist in search of his true creative vision. Its got a lot of good laughs, and Guinness is completely believable as a painter who lives in incantation with the subjects that inspire his art. Maybe some aspects of it prevent it from being truly timeless, but it is still a fairly sharp viewing that elegantly fuses the two essential elements of comedy; misery and humor.