Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bank Holiday Film Festival, second course

Carrying on with this season's theme, let's move on to the business of elections themselves.

the Tory candidate flanked by his supportersLeft, Right and Centre (1959)

"Westminster. The House of Commons. Every nation, they say, gets the government that they deserve. And that is a sobering thought. Beneath that noble roof, my friends, sit six hundred MPs, made up for the most part of Conservatives and Socialists. One might sum up the enormous difference between the two by saying that whereas the Conservatives philosophy is 'the exploitation of man by man' with the Socialists it is exactly the other way round."
A nice, gentle romantic comedy of the late 1950s wrapped up in a light drama of the politics of the Butskillite era. A slight confection, not the cream of the crop from the Launder and Gilliat stable, nor the best film of the year but any film featuring Ian Carmichael, Alistair Sim, Richard Wattis and Eric Barker has to be worth a look. And assuredly it is.

(It's also Gordon Harker's last film. I'm a big fan of his. He's Hardy the chauffeur.)

the TV panel game What On Earth Is ThatThe plot revolves around the Parliamentary by-election at the small town of Earndale, a straight fight between the Conservatives and the Socialists. Suave TV personality Bob Wilcot (Ian Carmichael) - "penguins are very much my cup of tea" - is standing as prospective Conservative MP. His motives are not idealogical: his uncle, Lord Wilcot (Alistair Sim), needs the publicity for his stately home and its myriad commercial ventures. Taking the train down he finds himself sat next to a pretty young woman and they hit it off quite nicely. It is only after getting off the train and being photographed carrying her bags that he learns that Stella (Patricia Bredin) is none other than his opponent.

"I never thought any daughter of mine would put up for parliament. We've always been such a respectable family! Well, good luck Stella!"

"My name is known in almost every home."
"You could say the same for almost any detergent."

They find that despite everything they can't find the heart to attack each other as tradition demands, much to the dismay of their election managers. Richard Wattis, as the Conservative agent Harding-Pratt, and Eric Barker as the Socialist agent Bert Glimmer, are wonderful supports. Both provide suitably cynical and knowing foils to the rather innocent candidates.

Wilcot's arrival at the stately pile is a treat and a half. We're first of all met by a fun fair. Stepping through the turnstile ("Complementary pass, 'is lordship's orders"), he fnds the hallway is turned into an amusement arcade, including "What the butler saw" machines. My own favourite is "Special offer. Lord Wilcot's Own Parsnip Wine. Puts the 'NIP' in 'Parsnip.' Only 3/6 a bottle."

"Accrington and Stockport parties this way please!"

"Robert, we are all governed by dead ideas but when it comes to party programmes an idea has to be not merely dead but to have lost all meaning before it has any chance of being adopted with any real enthusiasm. Remember that my boy. It will get you absolutely nowhere."

Perhaps more convincing than the blossoming romance between the two candidates is the burgeoning friendship between the two election agents as they try to put the kibosh on that relationship so that they can get on with the business of mud-slinging, abuse and general jiggery-pokery.

"Mister Wilcot may know how to fix an injured penguin but will that help a single old age pensioner?"


Gadjo Dilo said...

And there was me thinking that spin-doctoring had been invented by Peter Mandelson et al. But once again, Kevin, this is an era of films that passed me by and I must hope that others will leave more erudite comments.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Ah, Gadjo, you have missed many treats.

And as for spin-doctoring and playing with images, I still reckon that Stanley Baldwin is one of the masters.