on 19 February 2004
Sometimes overlooked, this is a charming and very funny self-mocking episode of a bygone era. Set in about 1949 (the 1948 Railways Nationalisation is mentioned in a gag) this has a wealth of amusing characters, great dialogue and hilarious scenes when confusion reign. Initially the confusion is on the part of the St. Swithuns mistresses, as they arrive at what they think is a girls school; boxing gloves in the common room, and the school motto "Guard Thine Honour" puzzle and horrify them.
Alastair Sim as Wetherby Pond (what a name!) is superb as he generally politely stands up to the women.
The sadly recently deceased Bernadette O'Farrell adds the glamour element as the beautiful Miss Harper, and the failed attempts of the lovely Joyce Grenfell as Miss Gossage ("call me sausage") to woo English master Richard Wattis (a superb sardonic performance) are brilliant.
I love this film, and I must have first seen it in about 1975 when it was only 25 years old, yet even then it was a relic of a lost age.
on 5 June 2009
Another film that was long overdue for DVD release.
When a typical, English boys' school returns from summer holiday, the masters were prepared for some extra boys, from another school. They intend to make the usual "arrangements" and make the most of a bad situation. When the mistresses arrive from the girls' school that has been mistakenly assigned to the school, nobody, at first, suspects anything is out of the ordinary, because, initially, their paths never cross.
However, it is an entirely different story when the headmisstress (Margaret Rutherford) meets the headmaster (Alastair Sim) and they begin the task of trying to work with (or is it around) each other. Of course, the headmisstress is practical and resourceful, whereas the headmaster is annoyed and less inclined to be accepting of his lot. However, despite calls to the ministry, they have to get on with things and make the best of a bad situation.
Things then take a turn for the worse, when parents from both schools are invited on the same day. A plan has to be formulated quickly and the once staunch adversaries become allies, in trying to keep the two sets of parents apart.
With pupils dashing around on roller stakes, rugby balls falling from a cupboard, goalposts being changed, classes moved and the same pupils appearing in multiple classes, the worst, inevitably, happens and the dignified deception turns into a fantastic farce!
Watch for Alastair Sim, when he is asked to give an explanation for what's happened. A classic one-liner: "Can't you see I'm trying to find one?"
It's a great farce and a great film. A wealth of superb actors and some lovely locations make this a film to be enjoyed frequently!
on 10 May 2009
I loved this movie when as a child I first saw it. As with so many old movies, I never managed to see it again for many years. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a lunatic farce starring Sim, Rutherford and Grenfell at their best!
During WW2, two schools are told they must share one building. Each Head assumes the other school will be of the same sex as their own, but not so. At first the Heads are horrified but eventually they have to work together when parents are due to descend to see the schools of their darlings at work, and pupils and teachers work together in hilarious scenes moving from room to room so parents can see lessons and games.
Priceless old movie, one of the very best. Would give it 6 stars if I could!
"Gaming? Nicotine? Fisticuffs? We're moving in a descending spiral of iniquity!" So says the head of St. Swithen's upon inspecting the master's common at Nutbourne. The faculty and students of St. Swithen's have been ordered to share facilities at Nutbourne to avoid German bombs during World War II. Then there's the masters' library. "The Diary of Samuel Pepys? Abridged...well, that's something to be thankful for. What's up here? The Memoirs of Casanova? Wasn't that the book we caught Jessica James reading in the closet? Decameron Nights! Well, really! What ever else this place may or may not be, it's no place to bring carefully nurtured girls!"
Yes, a terrible mistake has been made by the Ministry of Education. Nutbourne is a school for boys. St. Swithen's is a school for girls. And what makes this one of the best post-WWII British comedies, Nutbourne's head master is Wetherby Pond...played by Alastair Sim, while St. Swithen's head mistress is Muriel Whitchurch...played by Margaret Rutherford.
"St. Swithen's?" says Pond. "You don't mean to say that yours is a school for boys and girls?" he asks one of the early girls. "Only girls" she says cheerfully. "Does this mean, sir," asks one of Nutbourne's teachers, "that we are to expect 100 young girls?" "It means that not only have the ministry made a mistake in sending a school here at all, but that it is guilty of an appalling sexual aberration!"
Margaret Rutherford's Miss Whitchurch, as positive and immovable as a battleship, intends to make the best of it, by briskly taking over Nutbourne if possible. Alastair Sim's Pond is exasperated up to his big bald head and is determined to salvage his school. In the meantime, there are 100 young girls and 170 young boys to be fed and places found for them to sleep (along with all their teachers). The cooks and caretakers, totally put upon, walk out. Miss Whitchurch and her girls, however, are up to the cooking tasks. "Come now, Angela," she says to one girl who is trying to stir something in a big pot, "haven't you made porridge before?" "Yes, but no one ever had to eat it." "That's a defeatist attitude, my dear. Stir it well and don't shilly shally."
Things are hardly going well when Pond discovers four governors from a school he hopes to lead are arriving at any moment to see for themselves how well led Nutbourne is. And Miss Whitchurch learns that four wealthy and influential parents have just arrived to see how their daughters are doing in the new -- boy free, they were told -- facilities. The only solution? Miss Whitchurch and Pond, their teachers and their students, concoct a split-second shifting of classes to give the allusion that Nutbourne has no girls and that St. Swithen's has no boys. After the parents inspect a dorm and leave for a class, the girls in the beds duck under and the boys who'd been hidden under leap up into the beds, just as the governors walk in. The boys are observed at rugby and, as soon as the governors turn their backs, the goal posts are taken down, nets for lacrosse are put up, and just then the parents walk over to observe the girls. One parent spots her daughter in a science class, then moments later sees her in a choir practice, then moments later.... "There's Angela again," she says to Miss Whitchurch. "Why so it is," she replies, hustling the parents out to avoid the governors who are approaching just around the corner. "The child's quite ubiquitous."
When we leave Nutbourne, everything has been discovered. The students are milling about. The teachers are dazed (except for two who are kissing.) The Education Ministry has just sent several more busloads of students. The parents are speechless but the governors are not. "We're waiting for an explanation," one says sharply. Pond holds his head and shudders. "Can't you see I'm trying to think of one."
The film moves from one complicated and ridiculous situation after another, braced by a very funny script and two hugely comedic performances by Rutherford and Sim. Sim's droll exasperation and Rutherford's implacable determination are so well matched that's it's a shame this is the only movie they ever made together. Joyce Grenfell as Gossage, St. Swithen's tall, awkward, loping sports teacher, gives them some competition. If you keep your eyes open, you'll also find some amusing references director Frank Launder works in, including a gong at Nutbourne that looks just like a midget version of J. Arthur Rank's, a faint echo of the zither theme from The Third Man and a shot stolen from David Lean's Oliver Twist, except this time the little boy walks up holding his porridge bowl and says, "Please, sir. I don't want anymore."
Frank Launder and his partner, Sidney Gilliat, were responsible for some of the best films produced in Britain during the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. They wrote, produced and directed, sometimes doing one, sometimes the other. In one way or another they were responsible for such first-rate films as Green for Danger (with a masterly droll performance by Sim), I See a Dark Stranger, The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, Wee Geordie, The Belles of St. Trinian's, The Rake's Progress and many others. With The Happiest Days of Your Life, Launder wrote and directed while both produced. It's one of their best.
on 24 August 2009
This film transports us back to a time where innocence was valued, especially in children.
Classic performances from Sim, Rutherford and especially Joyce Grenfell as Miss Gossage.
Today such fun would be considered dull, but I enjoyed being indulged in farce and
occasional double entandre with perfect comic timing from some past masters.
When you watch films like this, you wonder why we need surround sound, Hi-def and 3d,
what we really need is well written and acted films with great character actors and actresses.