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What Mad Pursuit (Star Quality)

Noël Coward
The Noël Coward Collection, BBC Video 7 DVD set £49 99
(2008)

This 55 minute comedy first seen in 1985 was adapted by Stanley Price from the play Long Island Sound, in turn created from a short story with the same title as this film.

It opens with some lovely pre-war footage of the Queen Mary docking at 42nd Street in New York, still very recognisable despite the passage of years.

One of its inhabitants was lauded English novelist Evan Lorrimer, played by the very urbane Paul Daneman. After lunching in Manhattan with an admiring circle of ladies, one of them, the glamorous if middle-aged (seemingly far older than the 42 that she admits to) Louise Steinhauser (Caroll Baker), takes him under her wing and to her country house on Long Island.

There he encounters her exotically named husband Bonwit played by Clive Swift and a well-known Broadway actor, Neil Cunningham's Lester Gage, a man as indiscreet as he is camp.

Lorrimer's quiet weekend out of town turns out to be anything but in this thinly fictionalised satire on the American smart set in the 30s.

The jetlagged writer who wants nothing but eight hours of solid sleep finds impediments that become increasingly unlikely. The foghorns on the Sound do a pretty good job of keeping him awake, as does his knack of falling upon illicit assignations. He also almost falls prey to his hostess' desires. All in all, his simple wish can never be granted.

The play builds to a pitched battle in the living room involving members of both sexes, the married merrily attacking those who are trying to filch their spouses. A worse fate then befalls the Coward character who clearly felt that American hospitality and lionising were not all that he had anticipated.

There is not too much depth to What Mad Pursuit but it is a pleasant enough little comedy with a couple of songs thrown in for luck.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher