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Among the dozens of feature films and television productions based on the works of Daphne Du Maurier is Hungry Hill (1947), adapted from a lesser-known novel by the British author about a family feud that spans three generations of Irishmen.
The story, which begins in 1840, sets the Donovan clan against the Brodricks, who operate a copper mine on property once owned by the Donovans. "Greyhound John" Brodrick (Dennis Price) weds a local beauty, Fanny Rose (Margaret Lockwood), who bears him four children and, after her husband's death, takes control of the mine with her oldest son, "Wild Johnnie" (Dermot Walsh). As Fanny Rose ages, she clashes with Johnnie, takes refuge in gambling and drink, and sees the feud with the Donovans lead to more tragic results.
Du Maurier herself wrote the adaptation with Terence Young (later to gain fame as the director of the box office hit Wait Until Dark (1967) and James Bond thrillers such as Dr. No (1962) and Thunderball, 1965). The very young, very beautiful Jean Simmons, in her first film after attracting considerable attention in 1946's Great Expectations, appears as Price's sister. Other fine actors on view include Cecil Parker, Eileen Herlie, Siobhan McKenna, Dan O'Herlihy and Michael Denison, whose performance as a rakish Brodrick brother drew comparisons to the young James Mason.
Hungry Hill met with lukewarm critical response, although The New York Times praised some of the performances including those of Price and Simmons, along with a sequence "wherein a staid ball is turned into a lively jig session by the infectious music of a fiddler." The "spontaneity and conception of this scene," the Times reviewer wrote, "is almost sufficient cause to make one show more tolerance" than the film may have otherwise deserved.
After a film career that began in 1934, Lockwood was ending a brief but highly colorful reign as the queen of English movie melodramas that climaxed during World War II and its immediate aftermath. For many British moviegoers, she was a favorite villainess in such vehicles as The Man in Grey (1943), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Bedelia (1946), but after Hungry Hill her career was limited mostly to minor film roles and television fare.
Producer: William Sistrom
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Screenplay: Daphne Du Maurier, Terence Young, from Du Maurier's novel, with additional dialogue by Francis Crowdy
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Film Editing: Alan L. Jaggs
Original Music: John Greenwood
Art Direction: Alex Vetchinsky
Costume Design: Eleanor Abbey
Cast: Margaret Lockwood (Fanny Rose), Dennis Price (Greyhound John Brodrick), Cecil Parker (Copper John Brodrick), Michael Denison (Henry Brodrick), F.J. McCormick (Old Tim), Arthur Sinclair (Morty Donovan), Jean Simmons (Jane Brodrick).
by Roger Fristoe