The corrupting influence of power is the overriding theme of politically motivated drama Fame Is The Spur that could be taken as a screen biography of the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald.
Adapted from Howard Spring’s novel, Fame Is the Spur is a narrative told in flashback of the life and political times of Hamer Radshaw (Michael Redgrave), a boy born into the slums of 1870s Manchester who learns to fight for the common good against the elitist enemy of Conservatism. Hamer’s grandfather repeatedly tells him of the people’s struggle at the battle of Peterloo, giving him a sword from the battle that symbolises the struggle of the common man.
Later, with his sword and his wife Ann (Rosamund John) at his side, Hamer is elected as a Labour MP, rousing striking miners against their greedy employers to stand up and be counted. But, as Hamer is embraced by the trappings and complications of top level politics, his passion for controversy declines, and when Ann becomes involved in the Suffragette movement, Hamer disapproves of her actions.
When the Labour government is elected in 1924, the corrupting influence of power becomes more pronounced as Hamer then refuses to help an old school mate and fellow socialist, Arnold (Hugh Burden), who is fighting for the cause of the Hunger Marchers. And when Hamer is finally rejected by the electorate, he takes the ultimate step to betray his roots by accepting a peerage; his grandfather’s sword rusting in its case just as Hamer’s revolutionary ideals have been blunted by the seducing arm of power.
The BBC produced a classic serial version in 1982 with Tim Pigott-Smith in the lead.
UK / GFD – Two Cities – Charter / 116 minutes / 1947
Writer: Nigel Balchin, from the novel by Howard Spring / Cinematography: Gunther Krampf, Harry Waxman / Music: Alan Rawthorne / Producer: John Boulting / Director: Roy Boulting
Cast: Michael Redgrave, Rosamund John, Bernard Miles, Carla Lehmann, Hugh Burden, Marjorie Fielding, Seymour Hicks, Anthony Wager