The Headmistress of St. Trinian's, the renowned establishment for the education of young ladies, faces a few problems with her students. The unruly schoolgirls are more interested in men and mischief than homework and hockey. But greater trouble than ever beckons when the arrival at the school of Princess Fatima of Makyad coincides with the return of recently expelled Arabella Fritton, who has kidnap on her mind.
One of the best British films of its time and still with plenty to offer. Alistair Sim plays a double role as headmistress Millicent Fritton and her brother Clarence.
Millicent's character is a staunch believer in traditional values, yet is not above a little skulduggery where the future of her school is concerned and happily turns a blind eye to the nefarious antics of her pupils. Clarence she disapproves of because he has 'black market values' and heads up a gang of dodgy geezers, which includes Sid James.
The central plot revolves around the sixth and fourth form girls who are each trying to get possession of a prize racehorse, owned by the father of a new pupil. The sixth form are trying to prevent it from racing for Clarence's benefit and the fourth form, along with Miss Fritton, want it to win because the school funds have been placed on it at 10/1.
Assisted by George Cole as small-time spiv 'Flash 'Arry' and informed upon by Joyce Grenfell as Policewoman Ruby Gates, who is undercover as gym teacher 'Creepy Crawley', all is resolved, with many a flour-bomb and ink-blot being exchanged along the way.
Though nowadays the notion of schoolchildren creating fear and destruction is all too true, in its time it was considered an hilarious idea and while some comic value is lost as a result, there are golden performances and wry moments to savour.
Choose your fate: The terrible tykes of the fourth form, playing practical jokes that involve axes, or the...ummm...well-developed girls of the sixth form, who discovered some time ago cigarettes, gin, sex and how easily men can be led astray. The problem is that one set comes with the other. They are all there at St. Trinian's, that remarkably easy-going English school for girls led by headmistress Millicent Fritton (Alastair Sim). As Miss Fritton is fond of pointing out, "In other schools girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world, but when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared." Miss Fritton sounds something like a melding of Julia Child and Eleanor Roosevelt, and definitely has Sim's droll and deadpan comic genes.
In The Belles of St. Trinian's, a sly, chaotic comedy from the team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, St. Trinian's is, as usual, on the brink of financial disaster. Salvation may be at hand, however, when a rich sheik sends his daughter to join the fourth form and receive a proper English education. The sheik also is a horse owner and one of his prize racers, Arab Boy, is being trained near the school for a race. It's only a matter of time before the fourth-form girls form a racing pool and bet heavily on Arab Boy, with Miss Fritton adding to the pool what funds the school has left. (Much of the fourth-form girl's money comes from the gin they make in chemistry, then bottle and lower by rope to Flash Harry (George Cole), a Cockney fixer, for distribution. "It's got something...I don't know quite what," says Miss Fritton on sampling the stuff, "but send a few bottles up to my room.")
Miss Fritton, however, has a brother, Clarence Fritton (who, by some coincidence of casting, also is Alastair Sim), a bookmaker who not only has placed a bundle on another horse, but who also has a daughter. And he has placed the precocious Arabella in the sixth form to keep him informed. Soon the sixth form has kidnapped Arab Boy, the fourth form has taken the horse back, Flash Harry has joined forces with Miss Fritton, the sixth-form girls are determined that Arab Boy will not leave the second floor of St. Trinian's, Clarence and his Homburg-wearing gang have arrived, parents are driving up for Parent's Day and the Ministry of Education has arrived in the person of a very proper inspector. Total war breaks out at St. Trinian's. It's hard to say which is more dangerous, the African spears or the flour bombs.
Alastair Sim as Millicent Fritton turns in a tour de force performance. Miss Fritton is a tall woman with a stately bosom, fond of long gowns with embroidered lace and Edwardian hats with lots of feathers. She takes everything in stride, even a fourth-former pounding at something in chemistry class and, after hearing an explosion a few minutes later, the results. "Oh dear. I told Bessie to be careful with that nitro-glycerine!" She is firm in believing that St. Trinian's is "a gay arcadia of happy girls." Sim was one of Britain's great eccentric actors. Other than the sheer chaos of all the little (and not so little) girls doing terrible things, he delivers much of the film's pleasure.
Inspired by cartoonist Ronald Searle, who caricuatured his hideous Japanese POW camp guards as horrible little English school-"gels", St Trinians is typically English. It also contains every filmic cliche known to man, and then some!
Despite which, its' charm,mirth and general appeal remain undimmed. A distinguished cast totters between completely inspired anarchic lunacy, surreal interruptions from staid educational Civil Servants, the inimitable Spiv, Flash Harry, and occasional realisations that they are actually supposed to be the voice of authority-well, intermittent realisations, anyway!
Not only should it never have worked, despite Alistair Sim,Joyce Grenfell, Beryl Reid, Hermoine Baddeley and George Cole in the cast, it should, after 54 years, be fit for the dustbin. Is it hell! I've just laughed my socks off at it for the 99th time this weekend, which is not bad for someone who never attended such an establishment(good job, with MY five-o-clock shadow!!).
Please give yourself a treat soon and relive a truly funny film-it's an enduring gem;as Shirley Bassey sang-Diamonds are Forever!
The opening section of this film is very funny. After the school holidays end the St Trinians girls return to their school. This causes panic in the local town. Shops are being boarded up, the local Policeman starts taking tablets and in the end the town is deserted. This is the best section of the film and you wouldn't expect it to maintain such a high standard. However it nearly does and laughs are to be had throughout the whole film.
The cast are a joy. The inimitable Alistair Sim stars as both Head-Mistress Millicent Fritton and her bookie brother Clarence. A young George Cole is Flash Harry. Amazingly Cole's character is very Arthur Daley like. I wonder if this was the original inspiration for Minder? With Joyce Grenfell, Irene Handl and Joan Sims as well the cast alone should have you watching.
The plot revolves around a race-horse owned by the father of one of the pupils. Naturally it is stolen and various factions of the St Trinians girls are involved. If you haven't seen the film for many years, this a great reminder of a classic period for British films. Wonderful comedy from a different era.