"I'm not keen on competitions as competitions, Mr. McNabb," says Geordie MacTaggart, a very big young Scot. Asks Mr. McNabb, the local minister, "Why? Where's the harm in them?" "Where's the use in them?" says Geordie.
This Frank Launder/Sidney Gilliat movie from 1955 (Launder directed. They collaborated on the screenplay and produced) is one of the most sweet-natured stories you can hope to see. There's not much drama and there's no question how the innocent romance will turn out. The movie is all character driven, and the character is Geordie. He was a puny highland lad at school who by chance heard of the mail-order Henry Samson Body Building Course. His parents encouraged him and he exercised with a passion. Now grown, he has become the biggest and strongest lad in his glen. His father is the head gameskeeper for the local laird (played by Alastair Sim). When death occurs, Geordie (Bill Travers) becomes the head gameskeeper at 21. And then Mr. Samson writes Geordie that his next exercises should be throwing the hammer. Mr. McNabb shows him how...and it's not long before the laird and Mr. McNabb have persuaded Geordie that competing in the Highland Games is a worthy endeavor...especially if he beats all those lowland Glasgow policemen. Geordie wins, but not without some charming drama. He's recruited to join the British Olympic team for the 1956 summer games in Melbourne. And there he meets the Swedish women's shot put champion, a blonde who kisses almost as well as she puts the shot. And the rest...is just as sweet natured as what has gone before.
Geordie is an honest and forthright young man, not swayed by attractions beyond his glen. He and his almost sweetheart, Jean (Norah Gerson), are obviously meant for each other if Geordie can only figure it out. With all this good-natured charm there also is the rugged scenery of highland Scotland to enjoy. Geordie must come from behind to win at the Olympics. His Black Watch kilt plays a role. And, back in his glen, the final resolution involves true love and an awful hat with artificial flowers. It takes 45 minutes to bring Geordie to compete, but the journey is well worth it as we come to appreciate the glen and the people who live there., all friends of Geordie. There's heather on the hill, mist in the glen and, when the laird is around, always a wee dram of Scotch in the glass.
This sweet-natured charmer creates smiles. Bill Travers, a big actor who can look in some roles as a man not to be messed with, carries Geordie's honest and simple character as effortlessly as Travers himself throws the hammer. Travers makes Geordie's stubborn innocence believable. Sim as the laird is, as usual, likeably eccentric, but he doesn't overdo it. The character actors all are fine, and it was especially nice to see Miles Malleson and Raymond Huntley, two of my favorites. There's even, in a small but important role, Mr. Ramshaw as The Eagle. Mr. Ramshaw, some may recall, made his acting debut in Powell and Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going
Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat were Britain's most original and successful movie teams, overshadowed only by The Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The two wrote, directed and produced, in various combinations, some wonderful movies. Try, for instance, The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich (scriptwriters only), I See a Dark Stranger, Green for Danger, The Belles of St. Trinian's, The Happiest Days of Your Life...and Geordie.