BSFF2012: Time Travel and Romance
Before Richard Burton, Hywel Bennett and Michael Sheen, Ivor Novello was the top Welsh totty among film lovers. MGM found him “too English” for Hollywood, but in Britain he was known as the “handsomest screen actor” – although some scoffed at his pretentious choice of screen name – Novello was born David Davies.
Novello never admitted he was gay – because you can’t admit to something you haven’t hidden. This may have led to some of the more homophobic criticism of his work – detractors persistently jeered at his androgynous appeal and shameless vanity. Siegfried Sassoon famously sneered at him, only to be not-so-famously shagged and dumped by him during Novello’s stint in the West End hit “The Rat”.
This year’s BSFF offers the rare opportunity to see Ivor “Dave” Novello in THE MAN WITHOUT DESIRE (1923). Novello primed himself in between takes with the music of Wagner, driving himself into a melodramatic reverie that fuelled a characteristically unfettered performance to fit the German expressionist style.
One might imagine that the BBFC would turn their noses up at a sci-fi fantasy about impotence – but it was accepted without objection. Authentic Venetian locations are the backdrop for the story of a silly Count who loses the will to live when his lover is murdered, and has a magician chum place him in suspended animation – only to find himself in need of Viagra 200 years further down the family tree. Fans of “Dr Who” will surely enjoy the time travel romance, and Novello’s androgynous, asexual lead.
Showing this afternoon! Queens Theatre, Emmanuel College at 5.30. Book tickets here.
- British Silent Film Festival 2012 by Rosy Hunt (Editor-in-Chief)
- BSFF 2012 Closing Event: Highlights of the British Silent Film Fest by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- The Lodger by Gavin Midgley (Associate Editor)