'The Maggie' is one of Ealing studios lesser known comedies. The film has tended to be overshadowed by the likes of 'Whisky Galore', 'The Man in the White Suit', Kind Hearts and Coronets', 'The Ladykillers', and other such films from this studio. It is however a 'gem' in the true sense of the word. The film has everything..Humour, tragedy,anger, pathos, romance.The lot! A wily old skipper of a Western Isles 'Puffer' and his motley crew lead all who come into contact with them a fine old time! It leaves one wondering if their way of doing business was not 'de rigeur' for the time! The story is about how Captain Mactaggart,the Skipper of a clyde 'puffer' - small coastal all purpose freighters- who , through an 'admin.' error takes on a cargo for a wealthy American businessman. The story that follows is all about the American chasing the Puffer around the western isles of Scotland trying to get his cargo back.I first saw this film when it came out in the early 1950s and have watched it over the years what by now must be hundreds of times and never fail to spot something new and never cease to enjoy it. The production costs of this basically simple film entertainment would probably not cover the wages of the tea boy working on todays blockbusters. This is a wonderful, warm movie,a real 'comfort film' and if I had to rush and save a single movie from my extensive DVD collection this would be the one! It is certainly my desert island movie ! You'll be hard pressed to find a better 90 minutes worth of entertainment!
Post Script to my review: There is one moment early on in the film where the 'Maggie' is stuck on the subway in the Clyde. The skipper is standing on the stern, several degrees off the horizontal, and a large crowd is observing his plight from a bridge over the river. A voice calls out 'Are ye hanging on Captain Carlsen? Now this comment will probably be lost on newcomers to this movie but possibly not to those over a certain age. What this comment refers to is an incident in the South West approaches in December 1950 into January 1951 when a cargo ship, the 'Flying Enterprise' foundered. The crew were lifted off the stricken vessel but her Danish skipper, Captain Carlsen,insisted on staying with his ship. He remained with her for some two weeks in perilous conditions but was eventually recovered just before the ship finally sank. At the time the incident was a huge media item. The Captain hung on to his ship. Hence the comment in the movie 'Maggie' which was made not too long afterwards. Like 'Gone with the wind', 'Casablanca' 'Genievieve' et al, you could not have a sequel. Rest assured there will never be a 'Maggie 2' !
Until recently I had never heard of The Maggie, and so was not expecting the film to be a match for Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers, Whisky Galore and so many others. Now that I have seen it, I am at a loss as to why it is not universally regarded as one of the Ealing all-time greats.
The story concerns a wealthy American, Calvin B Marshall, played by Paul Douglas, who is trying to get his costly furniture and fittings transported from Glasgow to his new holiday home on the remote Western Isle of Kiltarra. Inadvertently, the contract is given to the most devious and dishonest captain in the coastal trade, MacTaggart, master of a barely seaworthy rustbucked of a puffer called the Maggie, which looks as if it will be lucky to make it out of the Clyde. As a result, Mr Marshall spends the rest of the film endeavouring to get his cargo back, in a battle of wills against a crew determined to fulfil the contract or sink in the trying. As Marshall says at one point, "if there's such a thing as a triple bluff, I bet MacTaggart invented it". Needless to say, of course, MacTaggart is way ahead of the game and calmly pulls a quadruple bluff on him!
The acting is quite simply superb. You can feel nothing but sympathy for the cargo's owner, who is an honest, reasonable man - in fact a highly successful businessman, but one who has never faced anything remotely comparable with MacTaggart. And Alex MacKenzie as the captain is simply superb. He barely utters a single honest word from start to finish, but you cannot help sympathizing with him just as much as with Mr Marshall. There is a brief moment when Marshall corners the crew in a pub, and the expression on the captain's face is simply priceless. And for those who think that child actors are nothing short of a disaster should look out for Tommy Kearins as the puffer's "wee boy", Dougie. He gives an outstanding performance.
I think I have seen most of the Ealing comedies, and have loved almost every one of them, but for me this one beats them all.