It’s in the Air
Rejected by the R.A.F. for not knowing his right from his left, “I thought we were going to be hurled into maternity then, Sir.”
Neame camera, Dearden assistant director, Kimmins story and script.
An impulse of generosity on his part and a sense of humor in high places make him an airman.
George Formby, the Lancashire Orpheus (“Our Sergeant Major” is a student of the banjolele with a straying third finger).
“I’ll teach you to be funny!!”
Premiered shortly after the Munich Pact, with an opening scene from Things to Come (dir. William Cameron Menzies), in response there is the title number.
Britmovie has the star “never so popular at the box office than with this unsubtle military romp that makes up for the lack of plot with a cheery blend of slapstick and songs,” putting the Brit in it, as it were.
The sergeant major’s daughter brings him down to earth.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was, God save the mark, as mystified as a belted earl at an Eddie Cantor flick. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “amiable”.
The gang of counterfeiters or “slushers” have a confederate on the staff of the Daily Sun to mislead the police.
Formby is a “printer’s error” in the composing room and an amateur ‘tec.
In the superfluity of action that is the marked attribute of this film, everything is a wrong end or nearly, the Blue Star Brewery is perfectly functional on its own, and the conclusion is announced in the beginning.
Take for example the swimming pool that isn’t, or Madame Berdi’s elusive fingerprint, or Chief Ramsbottom from Lloyd French’s The Midnight Patrol with Laurel and Hardy, a very fine lift amidst a welter of good red herring.
Come On George!
A furioso set of complications to begin with establishes the unsettled thoroughbred called Maneater and brings Formby on from nowhere to groom and ride the lashworn beast. Kimmins has no trouble with this, distant owner, nasty trainer, cherished race ahead, question of a new trainer for a string of horses. Formby sells Jockey Ices at the track and looks like one but for the horse he hasn’t got, a rather wonderful contrivance puts him in the picture. The rented room is the cell of the constabulary where the sergeant loses money on tips from the stables, his lovely granddaughter does the decorating, and there’s the kid with a catapult.
“Standard comedy vehicle,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “well mounted.”
The fleas that went over the top are back again at the fair. “Blimey,” says the kid at the sight of a babe in arms on the first date. “The Flying Phantom, favourite entertainer of the crowned heads of a dozen continents,” performs.
George Perry (Forever Ealing) sees Kimmins off to Naval Intelligence after this, “and also the legendarily abysmal Bonnie Prince Charlie” (he blames Alexander Korda for it).
Dr. Angus McGregor goes into Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste, “the horse is man’s best friend.” The other horse is Viking. “What a to-do!”
Geoff Andrew (Time Out) says, “OK if you like that sort of thing.”
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Kimmins’ masterpiece is very first in the lists of Hitchcock’s followers on The 39 Steps, another is the version by Ralph Thomas, whose The Clouded Yellow might well show the influence of this. A metaphor of the war in the Pretender’s struggle with the Hanoverian king, a memory of retreat and flight and a promised return.
The beautiful Technicolor always has a mind to historical paintings (Krasker cinematography, Scaife camera, Korda and Shingleton design). The rare vistas of Scotland are at the outset an understanding of Hitchcock’s location filming.
“What a paucity of drama and of genuine excitement”, exclaimed Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. Halliwell’s Film Guide reports “an ill-fated attempt at a British historical epic.”
Happily the girl changes her mind, otherwise this should be Rydell’s On Golden Pond or Bergman’s Saraband. Certainly it is an incomparable nightmare, and that is the point.
She might have married some twit from the backland of crime, reformed or not, but a sock on the jaw convinces him that eternity is a fitting place for his proposal.
And she marries a patents lawyer, even if he isn’t an Englishman.
The Hitchcockian fervor of dead bodies and their eventual unearthing is quite secondary to the nightmare per se.
The Captain’s Paradise
The gag structure is a notable parody of The Razor’s Edge (dir. Edmund Goulding). The ship is the Golden Fleece, out of Gibraltar. Milton, Browning and Chesterton are cited, Dickens at the close (A Tale of Two Cities). “How the other half lives” is the basis of the gag. Malleson’s resemblance to Hitchcock in the role of the bereaved uncle is also notable, likewise Arnold’s evocation of Gershwin in the theme.
“A genius,” the captain’s successor proclaims him, so that there are no misunderstandings.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times woke up, as he very occasionally did, and enjoyed himself, “let not your mind be troubled...” Variety agreed, “good clean fun and satire.” Geoff Andrew likewise, “not exactly sophisticated” (Time Out Film Guide). “Over-dry”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “the idea is much funnier than the script,” also.