Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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World War One
Shorty and Brown talk outside Ozone Villas in their trench.
Ostensibly at night, but filmed in day light. British (white South African) troops huddle in a trench. Man looks through binoculars. Brown and Shorty crawl out of trench with their rifles. Soldiers clamber into smoking shell hole. The two soldiers crawl on all fours across no-man's land. They reach a demolished wall and continue gingerly. Brown and Lofty approach shell hole in side of ruined farmhouse. Brown enters, followed by Lofty. Chicken frightens men! Brown indicates Lofty should be quiet, he laughs and Lofty covers his mouth. Brown and Lofty look around gingerly. Brown spies footprints going up stairs. Brown motions "shhh" with his finger. Brown starts to walk upstairs. Close ups of his feet walking slowly upstairs. Brown looks purposeful as he walks past camera. He sees a cloud of dust upstairs and presses himself against the wall. Shadow of German soldier appears holding pistol. Brown steps back. Light in room upstairs is switched off. Pistol of German soldier appears through doorway, followed by the man. Brown fires his rifle. The soldier falls back into the room. Brown rushes in and fights with a second German soldier. They wrestle. German tries to strangle Brown. Brown punches German. Brown pulls German's pistol out of his holster. He shoots the German who falls. Brown collapses back against the wall. German is not dead and reaches up with a pistol, but Brown spots this and shoots him. Brown laughs, picks up the German's helmet. Brown pulls the pin from a grenade, throws it, and runs from the room. He jumps down stairs and there is an explosion as Lofty and Brown fall down. They are covered in dust.
"Billets" - British soldiers at rest. Lofty looks closely at a hen in a cage with an egg. He takes the egg happily, throws it in the air, but it smashes as he catches it. Brown laughs. Lofty is angry and threatens Brown with his elbow. The men all laugh as Lofty cleans his hand on his uniform. Corporal enters, followed by officer. Men stand to attention. Officer addresses Brown, his recommendation for his D.C.M. has been confirmed. Officer and compound leave. Bob and Lofty congratulate Brown and shake his hands. The men in close up. Soldier enters and shouts "Leave!". Men jump up delighted. Brown puts his arms around Lofty and Bob. Lofty thinks longingly of his girl, fried fish and winkles. Bob thinks of evening dates, a dance around a bottle of champagne. Brown adds "and a girl". The men nod.
Crowded railway platform. Civilians and soldiers mingle. Soldiers appear to have detrained. Some of the soldiers wear kilts. They are in happy mood. Australian walks by and salutes lazily. Soldier kisses his infant son as he cuddles him. Bob shakes hands of Brown and Shorty as they wish him well.
Shorty's girl Rose leaps into his arms. They hug and kiss. Shorty and Brown talk happily. Fade out.
Fade in. Back of Brown's father. Pan up to reveal portrait of his son in dress uniform and pan back again. Father goes round room. The room is beautifully panelled. His wife enters. They clutch hands. He smiles. She looks worried. She says their last able-bodied man has joined up. He bridles and glances at the portrait of their son. Brown walks up steps of country house. Elderly butler goes to meet him. They shake hands and Brown puts his hand on butler's shoulder. Butler says they wouldn't take him - he is too old and points at his grey, bald head. Brown looks around him before entering. Butler announces Master Jim's entrance. Mother displays melodramatic surprise and moves to go towards Brown, but her husband restrains her. Brown gives butler his hat. He departs. Brown and mother hug. Close up of father looking seriously unhappy. Brown looks up. Father says, "So you're going to the front at last?". Brown and mother stand looking to where father stands out of sight. Brown tells his father he joined up in August 1914, and has been in France nearly two years. Gather's gaze drops to Brown's D.C.M. medal ribbon. Mother smiles and looks at her husband. Father smiles. Father and son are reconciled. Fade out as father looks to heaven as he and son hold hands.
In a garden Bob runs away from two children. Beryl sits and waits. Children run in the wrong direction. Beryl stands up. She walks to a tree and leans against the trunk. The children catch up with Bob by the tree. They fire pretend guns at him. He playfully falls down dead. Beryl sees the image of Bob change, he is dead in no-man's land. Melodramatic anguish. Bob's image dissolves back to the present again. Bob gets up. He holds Beryl's hands as she has a far away look in her eyes. He kisses her. The children point and laugh. Bob stands away from Beryl and gives each child a coin and sends them on their way. Beryl clutches her hands under her chin as she leans against the tree. She looks wistful. They kiss.
On sofa in house. Brown and mother sit. They talk happily. He kisses her hand. Maid enters room, and delivers message. She leaves. Brown kisses mother's hands. He stands and kisses the top of her head. He kisses her face and lips. Father enters room as Brown leaves. He happily puts his hands on his shoulders, as they talk. He pats Brown on the shoulder. Father leans on side of settee as he talks to his wife. He sits next to her. They hold hands and laugh. Brown, in formal wear, sits on a high backed and high sided settee. He reads a book. He checks his watch and throws the book away. He gets up and leaves room. Next to a candelabra he picks up a telephone and makes a phone call. Maid takes a telephone cover (an ornate dolly!) off a telephone. Phone conversation. Brown learns that Beryl has gone to the Ritz Carlton Phone call ends. Brown puts ear piece back on hook. He straightens his bow tie, bows to his portrait on the wall, waves to it and leaves panelled room.
At restaurant or night club many couples are dancing. Brown enters doorway in distance. Many of the men are in uniform. Couples heads in close up as they smooch. Band and conductor. Beryl and Bob sit talking at a table. Another woman and man introduce themselves. Bob stands up and shakes hand of man. Women talk. Brown's face in close up. His eyes look about. Beryl's head is lit from behind. Beryl shows friend her engagement ring. It is admired. Brown's face, frowns and his eyes move about again. As ring is shown to male friend, it is only now Brown realises that Beryl's fiance is Bob. Other couple depart. Bob sits down. They are happy. Bob holds Beryl's hand and looks at ring. Brown's head sinks and his eyes lower. Bob kisses Beryl's hand. Beryl shows ring to people on another table and nods her head. Brown leaves room through curtain as couples dance. Brown takes one last look into room. Bob and Beryl laugh happily. He picks up champagne glass, but she touches him on the back and he puts it down again. They laugh. Conductor and orchestra. Bob stands up, Beryl stands up, Bob picks her coat off the back of the chair. They leave night club. He puts wrap round her shoulders. People dance in foreground. Orchestra. Fade out.
Fade in. Shorty and Rose. He looks straight ahead. She is asleep on his shoulder. She wakes up. The look into each other's eyes and kiss before taking a deep sigh.
Brown at his parents home. He sits by the fire. Profile of Bob and Beryl on a couch. He bends and kisses her hand. Brown is reminiscing. He takes Beryl's card out of his wallet. Cut back to Beryl and Bob. He takes her rose out of his wallet. Their four hands and the rose. They look at each other. Brown clutches her card to him. Bob kisses Beryl's hand again. Brown tears up card and throws bits to floor. He looks depressed.
Brown in uniform sits in front of fire with his mother. She kisses his hand. He stares blankly, but snaps himself out of his mood. He smiles, looks at his mother and holds her hand. Father enters smiling, and walks over to them. He stands behind sofa and puts his arms round his wife and son. A happy family picture. Maid enters and announces car is waiting. The happy mood is broken up. Mother cries. She flings herself at her son. He hugs her and kisses her cheek and on the mouth whilst father looks miserable. Brown comforts his mother and puts his arm round her. Father and son shake hands and talk. Railway station. Some soldiers in train doors. Lots of saying goodbye. The soldier alternately kisses his wife and teenage daughter. Soldier wears silly hat. Shorty and Rose's farewell. Rose kisses Shorty. Brown walks through crowd. Bob and Beryl walk through crowd. Brown sits on one end of a luggage wagon. He smokes. Beryl and Bob talk at other end of luggage wagon. Scotsman in a kilt walks off. Brown overhears Beryl's voice. Brown ducks back behind laundry basket on the trailer. He does not want to be seen. He gets up and walks off.
(Battle of the Somme?)
"Zero Hour", at night, the men in their trench. Shell burst. Brown looks at Bob next to him. The men go "over the top". They clamber out of their trench. Shells explode. Lots of smoke. Indistinct figures of British soldiers run by. British troops jump into a German trench. Bob is bayoneted by a German soldier. Bob collapses, and grimaces on floor. Brown stands over his writhing body and fends German soldier off with rifle and bayonet. Another British soldier wrestles a German to the ground and bayonets him. Bob's writhing legs seen between Brown's legs. German soldier fires pistol and hits Brown below the heart. He clutches his wound. Brown collapses on Bob. Shorty appears and German's disappear. Shorty talks to Bob then talks to Brown. He cradles him. Brown asks if they got Bob. Shorty shakes his head. Brown's head drops. He takes his ring off and gives it to Shorty with an instruction to give ring to Bob. Shorty takes ring. Brown dies. Shorty cradles Bob and tells him Brown is dead. He gives him Brown's ring. Stretcher bearers run in and put Bob on stretcher. They carry Bob off. Shorty returns to Brown's body and kisses Brown on the forehead. Shorty gets up looking very unhappy. He suddenly becomes very annoyed and angry and picks up rifle and marches down trench. Brown's dead body. Lots more explosions. A makeshift cross made of two barbed-wire entwined pieces of wood. Fade out.
Fade in. Red cross flag over entrance to a makeshift hospital, which is Brown's parents home. Inside the hospital ward. Some soldiers sit at tables, others lie on beds. Nurse wheels soldier in bath chair / wheel chair through ward. Two soldiers play when one walking wounded with crutches fences with wounded man in bed with crutch. Nurse intervenes and holds crutch down. Man with crutches sits down.
Bob sitting in bed. Bandage round head and with arm in sling. He looks at Brown's portrait on the wall. He looks at his ring which he now wears. Brown's father enters. Man with bandaged head sits up in bed. Father sits on chair next to Bob's bed. They talk. They look at the portrait. "A most extraordinary likeness to the bravest man I ever knew", says Bob. "Did he call himself Brown?". Father sees the ring on Bob's finger. Bob tells story of how his life was saved. The truth is out. Father stands and puts a hand on Bob's shoulder. Wife enters with Beryl. Beryl and Bob kiss. Wife still smiles as husband looks stern. Husband tells wife. They are very unhappy. He consoles her with his arm round her. Bob tells Beryl about Brown saving his life. She looks at portrait. Bob shows Beryl Brown's ring. She takes his hand and kisses the ring. In her little cloche hat Beryl looks up and thanks Jim Brown. The two hold hands and look dreamily.
Poem plays out over drawing of graveyard.
THE END - Aaaaaahhh!
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