Archive B

The Boatswain's Mate (1924)

When a pub landlady declares she will only marry a hero, an old sailor persuades a friend to stage a burglary from which he can rescue her.

Predictable short comedy but extremely well played.

Script adapt.: Lydia Hayward (o.a. W.W. Jacobs)

Director: Manning Haynes

Players: Florence Turner, Victor McLaglen, Johnny Butt, J. Edwards Barker

Bob's Your Uncle (1941)

Railway porter and Home Guard tea boy Albert Modley has to make a success of a fund-raising concert in order to win his girl.

Modley was the latest in a long line of Northern comics producers hoped would be the next George Formby. It didn't happen, possibly due to the wisp of a plot which only served as filler from one sketch to the next. Modley himself is fine though maybe lacking a certain sharpness of character for cinema. It's difficult to work out who he is as a character and so it's hard to anticipate what he's going to do or be surprised by what he does. The sketches mostly work though and it's good to have a cinematic record of a well-known act.  

Script: Oswald Mitchell, Vera Allinson

Director: Oswald Mitchell

Players: Albert Modley,  Jean Colin, Wally Patch, H.F Maltby, George Bolton, Bert Linden, Clifford Cobbe, Johnnie Schofield

Bobbikins (1959)

It's got Max Bygraves and a talking baby. Sound dreadful? That's because it is.

Script: Oscar Brodney

Director: Robert Day

Players: Steven Stocker, Shirley Jones, Billie Whitelaw, Barbara Shelley, Charles Tingwell, Lionel Jeffries, Rupert Davies, Michael Ripper, Ronald Fraser

The Body Vanished (1939)

While holidaying in the countryside, a Scotland Yard man and his reporter friend are told of a murder at the local manor house, but when they get there the body has disappeared.

Dull entry to the mystery genre, only notable for a higher-than-average quota of comedy yokels.

Script: Ian Walker

Director: Walter Tennyson

Players: Anthony Hulme, C. Denier Warren, Ernest Sefton, Eve Foster, Wilfred Noy, Frank Atkinson, Hamilton Keene, Cyril Chamberlain, Charles Patton

The Bohemian Girl (1922)

An abducted baby grows up to be a gypsy and falls for a Polish officer.

Snappy version of the old story which moves quickly enough not to make it too obvious there should be songs somewhere along the line.

Script adapt.: Harley Knowles, Rosina Henley. (o.a. Michael William Balfe)

Director: Harley Knowles

Players: Gladys Cooper, Ivor Novello, C Aubrey Smith, Ellen Terry, Constance Collier, Henry Vibert, Gibb McLaughlin

Bond Street (1948)

Posh Hazel Court is getting married and we learn the stories behind four items in her trousseau bought in London's Bond Street. Unfortunately none of the stories are worth telling. There are some unintentional laughs to be had from the one in which Jean Kent shelters a murderer and falls in love with him, but it's mostly dreary.

Script: Anatole de Grunwald, Terence Rattigan, Rodney Ackland

Director: Gordon Parry

Players: Roland Young, Derek Farr, Kathleen Harrison, Kenneth Griffith, Leslie Dwyer, Paula Valeska, Joan Dowling, Patricia Plunkett, Ronald Howard, Adrienne Allen, Mary Jerrold, Robert Flemying, Ian Carmichael, Joan Hickson

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)

Despite being born in Scotland and serving in a Highland regiment before turning to acting, David Niven was the epitome of Englishness on screen. He was therefore a rotten choice to play Bonnie Prince Charlie; and Margaret Leighton was no one's idea of Flora MacDonald either. Add to the film's problems lack-lustre direction, an over-reverential script and an appalling mis-match between the location shooting and the cardboard studio sets and you get one of British cinema's biggest flops. Only worth watching for a cheap laugh.   

Script: Clemence Dane

Director: Anthony Kimmins

Players: Jack Hawkins, Judy Campbell, Morland Graham, Finlay Currie, Elwyn Brook-Jones, John Laurie, Franklin Dyall, Herbert Lomas, Ronald Adam, James Hayter, Simon Lack, Bruce Seton

Boots! Boots! (1934)

A gormless boot cleaner at a hotel causes chaos, but rescues the hotel show with his ukulele act.

George Formby's film debut was as a child jockey in a silent film, but his debut as the character we all know and love occurred in this ultra-low-budget film. Filmed on a shoestring in a studio above a garage near Regent Street in two weeks, its success made London film producers realise the box office potential of the Lancastrian star.

For years all that was left of Boots! Boots! was a rough-looking truncated print. Indeed it was assumed that there was no longer version but a longer, better-kept version has been discovered and now we can see Boots! Boots! in all its original glory. You can read the story of its recovery here.

One mystery solved by the rediscovery is that of Betty Driver, now of Coronation Street fame, appearing in the cast list but not appearing in the film. For many years it was assumed that Formby's formidable wife Beryl had her removed from the film, but she's now there appearing in the hotel show and seeming like a Gracie Fields tribute act.

Beryl Formby appears in the film as George's love interest. She's rather a good feed for him and comes across as a pleasant, if nondescript, ingénue rather than the battleaxe that history recalls. What little plot there is centres on her being revealed at the end of the film to be a long-lost heiress, but it's so slight as to be pointless.   

Formby himself is nowhere near as likeable as he would be in his later pictures – maybe it needed the intimacy of a really well shot close-up to bring out his charm. In this film, he's more of an anarchic figure than a hapless one. However, once he has a ukulele in his hands, he transforms into the entertainer most of us love.

Seen in the previous dodgy prints, Boots! Boots! was a bit of an ordeal to sit through, but the rediscovered print makes a huge difference. It's still primitive comedy, but there are now pleasures to be found here.

Script: George Formby, Arthur Mertz

Director: Bert Tracey

Players: Arthur Kingsley, Tonie Forde, Lilian Keys, Donald Reid, Constance Fletcher, Wallace Boscoe, Myfanwy Southern, Harry Hudson and his Band, Bert Tracey, Dan Young

Script: George Formby, Arthur Mertz

Director: Bert Tracey

Players: Arthur Kingsley, Tonie Forde, Lilian Keys

Bottoms Up! (1959)

A headmaster has to improve his pupils' grades.

If you're old enough to remember the sitcom Whack-O then you won't want to miss this film version. If you're not old enough you might have trouble fathoming why the programme was so popular.

Script adapt.: Michael Pertwee, (o.a.) Frank Muir, (o.a.) Dennis Norden

Director: Mario Zampi

Players: Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Howard, Martita Hunt, Sydney Tafler, Raymond Huntley, Reginald Beckwith, Vanda (Hudson), Melvyn Hayes, John Mitchell, Richard Briers, Gordon Phillot, John Stuart

A Boy, A Girl and A Bike (1949)

A stolen bike leads to trouble for the members of a Northern bike club.

Jean-Luc Godard once famously said that all you needed to make a film was a boy, a girl and a gun. It's doubtful he would have been terribly impressed with this film. Even at the best of times the luminaries of the French New Wave had a downer on British cinema, but this really would have pressed all the wrong buttons. It's a prime example of the cinéma de papa the Cahiers crowd despised: twee, staid and sentimental. Yet it does have its merits.

The chief merit is the scenery. The Yorkshire Dales look lovely. The production involved extensive, and costly, location shooting. It concentrates on the scenic bits but you do get glimpses of what it looked like when the towns were full of factory chimneys puffing out dark smoke. Only the jarring difference between the location work and the studio close ups mars this attempt to capture provincial life.

The script also tries to capture real life, though writer Ted Willis is hampered by the list of subjects that he didn't have a chance of getting past the censors: sex, politics, religion - the usual stuff of real-life drama. Instead he's left with the less dramatic bits of life to play with: petty theft and day trips. You have to look very carefully for hints of a more earthy life. Diana Dors plays a character who could best be described as the village bike, if you pardon the pun. She's used by the local men when they need entertainment and ignored the rest of the time. Dowdy and with low self-esteem, she's a long way from the glamorous Dors who would brighten up the 50s.

Toward the end of the film, the local toff gives up his pursuit of the lovely Honor Blackman and secretly helps find a house for her and her previous partner. There's virtually no motivation given for this sudden change of heart, so we're left to speculate that he's got her up the duff and is palming her off onto the nearest gullible idiot.

These are plot lines the kitchen sink dramas would explore a decade or so later, but they're only hints here. A little more frankness would have done wonders for the film. 

The actors don't help much. They do their best but Willis doesn't give them much to get their teeth into. Most of them are Southern imports and don't have much of an idea of the life they are meant to be portraying. There's a blaze of non-specific Northern accents adding to the inauthenticity.

A Boy, a Girl and a Bike flopped at the box office. It may have been the rather dull title that put audiences off, or word of mouth relating the unexciting nature of the action. For modern audiences the film now has a great deal of nostalgic appeal depicting, as it does, a life that no longer exists. If it ever did.

Script: Ted Willis

Director: Ralph Smart

Players: Patrick Holt, John McCallum, Anthony Newley, John Blythe, Leslie Dwyer, Thora Hird, Margaret Avery, Barry Letts, Megs Jenkins, Maurice Denham, Alison Leggatt, Julien Mitchell, Amy Veness, Hal Osmond, Cyril Chamberlain, Vera Cook, Joan Seton, Lyn Evans, Margot Bourke, Dennis Peck, Vera Williams, Geoffrey Best, John Howlett, Jennifer Jayne, Patrick Halstead

Boys in Brown (1949)

Life in borstal for some of British cinema's "toughest" young actors including Richard Attenborough, Dirk Bogarde and Jimmy Hanley. Based on an original play by cuddly comic actor Reginald Beckwith.

Pressbook for Boys in Brown

Script adapt.: Montgomery Tully. (o.a. Reginald Beckwith)

Director: Montgomery Tully

Players: Jack Warner, Patrick Holt, Andrew Crawford, Barbara Murray, Thora Hird, Michael Medwin, Graham Payn, John Blythe, Alfie Bass, Cyril Chamberlain, Stanley Escane, Robert Desmond, Martin Tiffen, Philip Stainton, Tony Quinn, Elspeth March, Frederick Leister, Edward Judd

Boys Will Be Girls (1937)

Leslie Fuller is in line for a big legacy, if he cleans up his act and stops drinking, smoking and swearing. If he fails, his cousin Nelly Wallace gets the lot. And she's determined to catch him out.

Enjoyable star comedy which gives music hall legend Wallace her best film role. The title's a bit of a mystery though, since it seems to imply a bit of drag and British comics aren't slow to get in a dress. However, the nearest Fuller gets to that is donning a kilt - and a dog soon has that off him.

Script: Clifford Grey, H.F. Maltby

Director: Gilbert Pratt

Players: Leslie Fuller, Nellie Wallace, Greta Woxholt (Greta Gynt), Constance Godridge, Sybil Allen, Georgie Harris, Judy Kelly, D.J. Williams, Tonie Edgar Bruce, Syd Crossley, Syd Courtney

The Brave Don't Cry (1952)

Following a cave-in, over a hundred miner are trapped.

Low-key, restrained docudrama dramatising the Knockshinnock mining disaster. Probably the best film Group 3 released.

Script: Montagu Slater

Director: Philip Leacock

Players: John Gregson, Meg Buchanan, John Rae, Fulton Mackay, Russell Waters, Wendy Noel, Jack Stewart, Andrew Kerr, Jameson Clark, Archie Duncan, Jock McKay, Eric Woodburn, Anne Butchart, Mac Picton, Jean Anderson, John Singer, Chris Page, Kelty MacLeod, Hal Osmond, Guthrie Mason, Howard Connell, Russell Hunter, Sam Kydd

Break the News (1938)

A failing double act courts publicity by having one "murder" the other. But the plot goes wrong.

The interesting teaming of Jack Buchanan and Maurice Chevalier is let down by a below-par script.

Script: Geoffrey Kerr. (o.a. Loic de Gouriadec)

Director: Rene Clair

Players: Jack Buchanan, Maurice Chevalier, June Knight, Marta Labarr, Gertrude Musgrove, Garry Marsh, Felix Aylmer, C Denier Warren, Robb Wilton, Gibb McLaughlin, Athole Stewart, Guy Middleton, George Hayes, Charles Lefeaux, Wally Patch, Wallace Douglas, D.J. Williams, Elliot Mason, J. Abercrombie, William Fazan, Mark Daly, George Benson, Joss Ambler, Hal Gordon, H.R. Hignett

The Bridal Path (1959)

Bill Travers is up in the Hebrides in need of a wife, but he's related to everyone he knows. So it's off to the mainland for the lad in search of a bride. It's all a bit tasteless considering it's by Launder and Gilliat. Nowhere near their best standards but Travers is a babe.

Script adapt.: Frank Launder, Geoffrey Willans. (o.a. Nigel Tranter)

Director: Frank Launder

Players: Bernadette O'Farrell, Patricia Bredin, George Cole, Fiona Clyne, Gordon Jackson, Charlotte Mitchell, Dilys Laye, Eddie Byrne, Duncan Macrae, Joan Benham, Annette Crosbie, Terry Scott, Molly Weir

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

British POWs are forced by the Japanese to build a railway through the Burmese jungle. One of the all time great war movies, with Alec Guinness' performance the stand-out.

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Pierre Boulle

Director: David Lean

Players: William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne, Ann Sears, Andre Morell

Brief Ecstasy (1937)

Helen Norwood (Linden Travers) and Jim Wyndham (Hugh Williams) have a fling before he goes to India. She then marries middle-aged Professor Paul Bernardy (Paul Lukas). Four years later Wyndham returns

The film contrasts the love Helen feels for her husband with her lust for Jim. Few films of the period are as concerned with sexual desire as this one, but it doesn't really work. French director Edmond Greville tries to put an erotic charge into the proceedings but is undermined by the sheer Englishness of the script and cast, and the whole thing degenerates into hysteria. It's worth comparing this to Brief Encounter where English repression is the subject of the film and not its fatal flaw. Still some moments remain, notably in the first section where Helen and Jim are circling each other ready for their first shag. The night-club scene is particularly memorable: as a singer performs we segue from the start of the evening to the end. Linden Travers never looked better on screen.

Script: Basil Mason

Director: Edmond T. Greville

Players: Marie Ney, Renee Gadd, Fred Withers, Howard Douglas

Brief Encounter (1945)

Some find it silly, but for those who are willing to give themselves up to it this is cinema's most masterly exploration of middle-class repression.

Script adapt. : Noel Coward (o.a.), David Lean, Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allan

Director: David Lean

Players: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everley Gregg, Valentine Dyall, Irene Handl

Brighton Rock (1947)

Richard Attenborough is the razor-wielding gang member in this Graham Greene tale of guilt and retribution. Few films of the period catch the seedy atmosphere of gangland so well.

Poster of Brighton Rock

Script adapt.: (o.a.) Graham Greene, Terence Rattigan    

Director: John Boulting

Players: Carol Marsh, Hermione Baddley, William Hartnell, Nigel Stock, Wylie Watson, Harcourt Williams, Reginald Purdell