Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Happiest Days of Your Life
Dir: Frank Launder
Around ten minutes into Frank Launder's The Happiest Days of Your Life I had the feeling that I'd seen it before. I hadn't, but it wasn't long before the penny dropped. The Happiest Days of Your Life is based on the play by the great John Dighton who was responsible for many British comedy greats including Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit and also 1953's Roman Holiday, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. His films were very popular at the time and The Happiest Days of Your Life did rather well in a post-war Great Britain, and much like every other institution of the era, the British Film Industry needed more hits like it, and some as it happened, just like it. So, four years later Frank Launder wrote and directed The Belles of St Trinian's, a film about a chaotic boarding school with unruly pupils and colourful teachers to match. It also stared Alastair Sims, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis and Guy Middleton who all had parts in The Happiest Days of Your Life with Ronald Searle providing the cartoons for the titles as he did in the 1950 film. The story is ever so slightly different to be honest, the St Trinian's staff get away with it, while in The Happiest Days of Your Life they don't and the comradery between teacher and pupil is non-existent. I think I liked Alastair Sims in his duel roll in The Belles of St Trinian's more so but then you couldn't have it without his performance as Wetherly Pong here. I love everything he ever did but the big pull has to be Margaret Rutherford's Miss Whitchurch. Joyce Grenfell is also brilliant, in a role she would come quite accustom to later in her career. Any film that has either Alastair Sims, Margaret Rutherford or Joyce Grenfell in it has already won me over, and I do love it when Richard Wattis, who I've always considered my favourite whatshisname, appears in a film I didn't know he was in. The content is nothing special if I'm being honest, it is the killer script and performances that make it good. While the story actually comes apart somewhat towards the end, it is left with the best line in the film as conclusion. Very satisfying and fascinating to see where a great British comedy institution actually came from.

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