A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS (1956)
Article #1365 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-9-2005
Posting Date: 5-8-2005
Directed by Carol Reed
Featuring Celia Johnson, Diana Dors, David Kossoff
A young boy living in the market streets of London comes by a one-horned goat who he believes to be a unicorn.
This movie is not in fact a fantasy. I don’t even think it’s really a fantasy in spirit, either. It’s more of a slice-of-life movie, with the fantasy hovering at the edges but never coming front and center. Yes, there is a certain amount of ambiguity as to whether the goat may or may not have the magic powers of a unicorn; once the child has come to the conclusion that the smallness of the horn would only yield half wishes, this is pretty much what happens throughout the rest of the movie. However, director Carol Reed does not focus on any magical happenings; in fact, he doesn’t even focus on the ambiguity of the premise. Rather, the ambiguity becomes a part of the welter of images, emotions and characters that make up this movie.
Emotionally, it doesn’t seem to have a primary feel; it covers a wide range of human feelings, from joy to grief to anger to disappointment to pride to fear, and it does so with a memorable array of characters, from the somewhat stoic tailor to the woman hoping her boyfriend will finally buy her a ring make his proposal to her to the bodybuilder who longs to become Mr. World to the veteran wrestler whose career was ruined by alcohol to the huckster hoping to make a buck off of a damaged ring. Yet, hope runs through the movie; there is always the belief that something better will appear around the corner, and this is what keeps the characters alive and moving throughout the movie. Even the character whose wishes most often fail to come true remains the most unflappable; the imagination and belief of the child of the story serves to make him very resilient in this regard.
There were two particularly striking things that caught my attention in this well-acted and excellently mounted movie. The first is the performance of David Kossoff as Kandinsky, a tailor who wishes for nothing more than a steam press to spare him from the endless ironing. The other is the sound design; all through the movie we hear a welter of noise and conversation from the people milling in the streets, and it gives the movie a texture quite unlike any other. The movie also features a prominent performance from former boxing champion Primo Carnera.