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Strange Story Of England's 'Unknown' Top-ranker

(By DICK KISCH, from London)

01 his is the strange story of David Farrar, who it probably Britain's most popular film actor— though his name is hardly known in circles where

'cinema art' is discussed. The pictures in which Farrar ap pears seldom get a showing in the big London movie houses, and bis name has nexer bland in lights where major pictures are premiered. But the fact remains that some 30,000.000 honest' cash customers the British Isles regularly slap down their zacks for the pleasure of seeing Farrar rather than Stewart Granger. James Mason, Sonny Tufts. Feed Mac Murray, or Alan Ladd. , Farrar is the 'unknown' actor who plays bte hero in a constant stream of Sexton Blake thrillers turned out in the minor studios as 'quota quickies.' Almost, though not quit?, serial films, they are proving breadand butter business for the British movie industry, and receive a royal recep tion when shown in provincial houses. The extent of 'Farrar'* popularity can be gauged from the (act that he gets an average fan-mail of 800 letters a Week. In 1944 he was written to by 47,702 fans. His wife, kept count, Gaumont-British can claim only 500 letters a week for their two top rankers, Granger and Mason. In addition, there is a Dav,id Farrar Fan Club with a record membership and a special magazine — 'Fanfare' — which costs members sixpence a copy. Tbis magazine regularly opens with 'A Letter from David,' and a glossy signed photograph of the hero — who has the same calm charm as Gary Cooper. ^Vhen I asked two major film pro ducers last week whether they knew Farrar, and what film be was making, they looked blank. First producer: 'I know hie name, but I can't place him.' Second producer: 'I've never beard of him.' Yet, on the showing of box-office returns and fan-mail, Farrar should be one of Britain's top-ranking stars. (Note: Tough, Dark David Farrar appeared on the Sydney screen this year in 'Headline,' a newspaper tale: and last year in the R.*F. Air-Sea Rescue Unit documentary, 'For Those In Peril.' A giant new salvo of fllma will be fired from British studios at our screen just before Christmas. These Alms include 'Wicktd Lady,' starring James Mason end fHanferet Lockwood; and 'Caravan,' starring Stewart Granger. Ealing is launching its thriller, 'Pink String and Sealing Wax,' with Googie Withers and young .Scot Gor don Jackson. Finally^and not least— that £1.600, OO0 mammoth Tecbnlcolour production, 'Caesar and Cleopatra,' with Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains, should reach the public. A wrongly-addreBsod envelope brought her screen chance to the youngster who may bocotne 'the Mar garet O'Brien of Britain.' She Ib petite, elfish-looking Jill Gibbs, of Windsor, who is exactly 12 years old — and who is now acting in

'Lovers' Meeting,' the P.O.W. Dim on which Mick Balcon is working at Eal ing, Jill's mother posted a letter applying for a job for Jill— a letter intended for another studio, but which somehow reached Ealing by mistake. The letter was passed on to Ealing'o casting director, Margaret Bonnar. Margaret took one look at Jill's photo graph, which was enclosed, and sent a telegram to Mrs. Gibbs, asking Jill to report for a test. Jill's acting, experience previously was confined to school plays — and to a fete at Windsor Castle, when she danced before the two Princesses. Now the younggt«r ia being tabbed with that 'Margaret O'Brien, of Britain' tag. Her father, by the way, is an en gineer and designer— one of the war time 'back-room boys' who helped to design for D-Day the prefabricated harbour known as 'Mulberry.'