Film of the Month

Under Your Hat (1940)

When the male half of a showbiz couple is secretly enlisted to get a stolen item back from a glamorous spy, his suspicious wife follows him in disguise.

Under Your Hat was a massive hit on stage for Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge. After its two-year run it was adapted for the screen and fetched up in cinemas from September 1940. But 1940 was a very different time to 1938 so Under Your Hat seems a strange throwback to an earlier, safer era. The glamorous spy is Russian, travel to the Continent is unproblematic and there's not a jackboot in sight. Maybe the producers thought a bit of reality would stem the laughter, but Formby and Hay soon proved there were laughs to be got fighting Hitler.

Hulbert and Courtneidge are at the top of their game. It's clear from their precision in the comic dances that they've done these moves hundreds of time, and if that wasn't enough of a giveaway their timing with the comic dialogue demonstrates their experience of how to milk a laugh. For once in their film career they're playing a married couple and their affection for each other shows. Director Maurice Elvey doesn't do much more than point a camera at them but that's all that's needed.

Under Your Hat may have marked the end of Hulbert and Courtneidge's careers as major film stars, but it's solid entertainment with decent production values. What it lacks is a big laugh at the end. Hulbert's about to crash land a plane with no experience and the next we know they're into the closing number back at the film studio. It feels like a cheat, as though something was lost in the translation of the script form stage to screen.

Script adapt.: Rodney Ackland, Anthony Kimmins, L. Green. (o.a. Jack Hulbert, Archie Menzies, Geoffrey Kerr, Arthur Macrae)

Director: Maurice Elvey

PlayersJack Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge, Leonora Corbett, Austin Trevor, Cecil Parker, Charles Oliver, H.F. Maltby, Glynis Johns, Myrette Morven, Tony Hayes, Mary Barton, Paul Sheridan, roddy Hughes, The Rhythm Brothers, Don Marino Baretto's Band 

Under Your Hat at Amazon UK