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The Duchess , the Hall Porter and the Singing Chambermaid
on 28 June 2007
Frankie Howerd plays Darling, a hall porter in a posh hotel yearning for a more glamorous life. When a former resident leaves him a fortune, he heads off to the French Riviera, but pines for home. However, the hotel has gone bust without his indispensable services, and Darling and the staff must attract investment from a trio of wealthy businessmen by making the hotel look like a bustling success again - even if it means pretending to be the guests.
A shock-headed Howerd gives an engaging performance, aided by the likes of Dennis Price, Esma Cannon and Alfie Bass, though the script by Alfred "Upstairs, Downstairs" Shaughnessy is a bit weak, especially in the French scenes, and some of the set-pieces (e.g. the photographer's studio) just fizzle out. Dorothy Bromiley is game as switchboard operator Rose, but the love plot is perfunctory and unconvincing. Still, it all livens up nicely in the latter part, with Howerd and co trying to be both staff and guests at the same time, and Francis in full drag as a duchess. Irish chambermaid Ruby gets to sing a couple of numbers (well, she is played by Ruby Murray).