Monday, 5 December 2011

Norman Wisdom: Trouble in Store (1953)

Trouble in Store was an excellent 1953 British comedy film that starred the late, great Norman Wisdom as a department store clerk in his screen debut. For his performance, Wisdom won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer. The film broke box office records at 51 out of the 67 London cinemas in which it played. The Daily Mirror reviewer wrote of the film: "If you don't laugh at Norman's antics as the downtrodden worker in a big store, trying to get promotion as a window dresser, there is something wrong with your sense of fun."
Norman (Norman Wisdom), a lowly stock clerk at Burridge's department store, is in love with another employee, Sally Wilson (Lana Morris), though he has been unable to muster the courage to let her know how he feels. However, he antagonizes the new head of the store, Augustus Freeman (Jerry Desmonde) and is promptly fired. On his way out, Norman helps Miss Bacon (Margaret Rutherford) carry her bulging suitcases, unaware that she is an audacious shoplifter. Freeman sees Norman assisting a "customer" and rehires him.

Meanwhile, Peggy Drew (Moira Lister), the store's personnel manager, flirts with Mr. Freeman, while plotting with her boyfriend Gerald (Derek Bond) to rob the place. Norman is discharged and undischarged again and again, as his escapades somehow manage to benefit the store. He also finally becomes acquainted with Sally, chasing her down through the city streets to return her purse. His antics make her laugh.

After his latest firing, Norman is alarmed to find the handsome, suave Gerald trying to get to know Sally better. When he goes to the man's apartment to warn him to stay away from her, Norman inadvertently uncovers the robbery plot, scheduled to coincide with a big sale the next day. However, he is unable to get Sally or anyone else to take him seriously.

Sally eventually decides to bring Norman's story to the attention of the management, but tells the wrong person, Miss Drew, and is tied up for her efforts. Norman finds her and together, they foil the thieves. Freeman takes Norman back into his employ...but not for long.

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Published by


Volume 21, No.240, January 1954, page 13


In the great West End department store Norman holds a humble position in the stock room. His ambition is to become a window dresser, but all his attempts to advance himself end in chaos, as do his efforts to win Sally, who works in another department. When he helps a lady burdened with suitcases to leave the store, she proves to be a professional shop-lifter; at the Staff Social he sets himself on fire, and ruins his boss's speech; his zealous gallantry wrecks Sally's bicycle. Finally, however, he discovers a plot to rob the store, and, in the nick of time, forestalls the thieves and wins Sally.

This is the first film to star Norman Wisdom; and it is regrettable that so little attention has been given to the plot, which is no more than a series of incidents with the store as their setting. Norman Wisdom brings to the screen his well-known stage personality, "the little man against the world," and with it its basic weakness - its dependence on a first-rate script, which he lacks in this film. There are laughs, but the film is still not as funny as it should be. Margaret Rutherford's shoplifter and Jerry Desmonde's store manager are polished performances.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.

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