Ealing Comedies are delightful and have a depth that is all too rare in most recent movies. “Passport to Pimlico” is a gem, with a witty T.E.B. Clarke script, tight direction by Henry Cornelius and the distinctive production values of Michael Balcon.
The fantastic series of free screenings at the Museum of London in Docklands is just so classy and special. I have never seen these movies on a big screen and the magic comes across so much better when you see the picture as the makers meant you to see it.
Pimlico becomes part of Burgundy in a glorious set of twists and turns in the plot. It starts with an unexploded bomb and children playing. It’s a Ealing comedy, so no children are harmed. Ration books, opening hours and a rich set of 1949 backgrounds – mostly in Lambeth – take you to a long-lost era. Honestly, some of the older members of the audience had tears in their eyes, from laughter and memory.
Plans to build a playground for children on a piece of waste ground – bombed to flatness during the war – are thwarted by greedy local councillors. Buried treasures are then discovered and a long shaggy dog tale of Burgundy and London follows, making you laugh out loud again and again.
With so many astonishing performances, it’s hard to pick out stars. Stanley Holloway, Betty Warren, Barbara Murray, Paul Dupuis, Jane Hylton, Hermione Baddeley, Charles Hawtrey, Margaret Rutherford, Michael Hordern, Raymond Huntley and Philip Stainton are just some of the utterly believable ensemble cast.
Yes, the story is preposterous. But it’s used as a wry frame for intelligent comment on government, borders and the nature of being English. It’s all acutely observed and still has resonance more than 60 years after this film was made.
The Museum of London team is to be congratulated for bringing such joys to Sunday afternoons. Both the main museum and the Docklands site are showing an extended series. Next up at Docklands is “Burning an Illusion”on Sunday, October 31st at 2PM but if you’re sticking to the Ealing series, “The Ladykillers” is on Sunday, November 28th at 2PM.
Meanwhile, the main Museum of London is showing “28 Days Later” on Sunday, October 3rd at 2PM. I have never shared the view of others that Sundays are boring. But they are certainly more interesting with this extraordinary series of free films that enhance your knowledge of London. While you are there, do spend some time visiting the museums, which are also free to enter. You will be very glad you did.