Thursday, March 21, 2024

All 19 Ealing Comedies ranked by the Guardian

Andrew Pulver has ranked all 19 Ealing Comedies for the Guardian. In the process, he notices some films that even I have not seen. But I've seen most of them, so here are a few thoughts on his reviews and rankings. 

Following his counting up the list up from 19th and last place, my first comment is that Hue and Cry is ranked far too low at 16th place. The film a celebration of the way boys ruled London and its bombsites - this would never be seen in such a positive light in a British film again - and there are fine performances by Jack Warner and Alastair Sim.

I can't make much of a case for The Magnet, which stars an 11-year-old James Fox, being placed much higher than the 14th place where Pulver has it, but he gets some things about the film wrong. Fox did not go near a drama school until he was 16: the accent he has in the film is that of a prep school boy of the day, and this is just what he is playing here. Parts of  The Wirral were very posh in 1950. 

Barnacle Bill is at 13. Pulver, quite fairly, says Alec Guinness never gets out of third gear in this film, but then Guinness in third is better than most actors in fifth. When you see his walk at the start of the film you believe absolutely that he is a former Naval officer. The film also sees Ealing take the side of teenagers against the stuffy establishment of the seaside resort where it is set. And where else will you see Guinness boogying with Jackie Collins?

Harry Secombe's star vehicle Davy is too high at 10. As Pulver admits, he isn't much of an actor and the film's approval of his character's surrender of his operatic ambitions for the sake of the family variety act is a bit Ealing-by-numbers.

I'm pleased to see the The Maggie (which is rather like a harder-edge Local Hero) in seventh place, which is one above the more celebrated The Titfield Thunderbolt. For me, the latter film's awareness of its own quirkiness is a sign of the studio's decline. The train must be saved because its quaint, not because it helps anyone get to where they want to go.

From now 6 down to 1, Pulver gets it pretty much right:

6. Passport to Pimlico

5. Whisky Galore!

4. The Man in the White Suit

3. The Lavender Hill Mob

2. The Ladykillers

1. Kind Hearts and Coronets

They are all celebrated films, though maybe The Man in the White Suit deserves to be even better known. Its satire hits the spot more accurately than the Boulter  Brothers ever managed, perhaps because it doesn't star Ian Carmichael.

It's also worth noting that Kind Hearts and Coronets, with its period setting, is far from being a typical Ealing film. And Pulver gets it right in saying that Dennis Price is its real star.

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