Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Ealing Greats - The Ladykillers: 1955

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Released in 1955, the black comedy The Ladykillers was the last of the great Ealing comedies (although two more, very minor, comedies were released before the studio was wrapped up). It was also director Alexander Mackendrick's last film in Britain before leaving to plough even darker waters in Hollywood with his cynical masterpiece The Sweet Smell of Success (US, 1957).

The story - five criminals, posing as musicians, successfully carry out a robbery, then find themselves defeated by their apparently harmless landlady, and ultimately driven to destroy each other - came in a dream to writer William Rose (who also wrote Mackendrick's previous film, The Maggie (1954)), and Mackendrick was immediately taken by its dark humour.

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Alec Guinness gives probably his finest comic performance as the increasingly unhinged criminal mastermind Professor Marcus. The role was originally intended for Alastair Sim, and Guinness plays the part with more than a hint of Sim about him. But the film really belonged to the 77-year-old Katie Johnson as the apparently dotty but utterly indefatigable Mrs Wilberforce.

The casting is perfect across the board: Herbert Lom, in his first comic role, brings genuine menace as hardman Louis (as Mackendrick noted, "he acted as though he didn't know he was funny"), while Cecil Parker as the Major and the huge ex-boxer Danny Green as ex-boxer One-Round seem so right it's hard to imagine others in the roles. Peter Sellers got his first major film part as Teddy Boy Harry (he also voiced Mrs Wilberforce's parrots). Sellers and Lom would later play against each other in severalPink Panther films.

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Like Mackendrick's earlier The Man in the White Suit (1951) and Mandy(1952), the subtext of The Ladykillers was the stultifying conservatism of contemporary Britain. Mrs Wilberforce and her similarly aged friends represent the continuing weight of Victorian England holding back progress and innovation (that this innovation is represented here as robbery and murder gives some indication of the ambiguity ofMackendrick's vision).

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The Ladykillers was a big success in Britain and in the US, where it was nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar. Rose, however, left the production midway, following arguments with Mackendrick and producerSeth Holt, leaving them to complete the script from his notes. When he finally saw the film, three years later, he was forced to admit that the results improved on his own vision.

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THE

MONTHLY FILM BULLETIN

Published by

THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE

Volume 23, No.264, January 1956, page 3

LADYKILLERS, THE (1955)

Mrs. Wilberforce, a rather vague old lady living alone in a tumbledown house near King's Cross station, decides to take in a lodger. The weird Professor Marcus applies, is installed, and frequently visited by four sinister friends. Mrs. Wilberforce happily accepts the explanation that they are keen amateur musicians, whereas in fact they are planning a daring robbery in which the old lady herself is to be unwittingly involved. The stolen money is hidden in her house, but when she discovers its existence the gang realises it is necessary to kill her. They cannot agree, however, who shall do the deed, and begin to fall out over the issue. The result is internecine warfare, and with Marcus' death, the gang has ceased to exist. The police genially disbelieve the old lady's story, and she is left vaguely wondering what to do with £60,000.

This comedy thriller is the best film to come from Ealing Studios for some time, and the combined talents of William Rose (writer) and Alexander Mackendrick (director) have produced a witty and original diversion. If once or twice the handling is a little too broad and comedy topples into farce - the pursuit of Mrs. Wilberforce's parrot and Frankie Howerd's "guest" appearance as an outraged barrow-boy - the style as a whole is agreeably subtle and sophisticated, and the confrontation of elderly respectability and raffish criminality provides many extremely funny episodes. Alec Guinness creates a splendid portrait of Marcus, outwardly absurd but at times genuinely frightening, and Katie Johnson strikes just the right note of frail obstinacy as Mrs. Wilberforce. The collection of old ladies at the tea party is masterfully assembled.


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.

Jamie and the Magic Torch: 1976

Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles
Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles Jamie and the Magic Torch - titles

Jamie, Jamie,

Jamie and the Magic Torch.

Down the helter skelter, faster and faster

Towards Cuckoo Land.

Wordsworth, Wordsworth

Following hard behind.

Ready for adventure,

Always there to lend a paw .....or hand

Mr. Boo and all the others too,

The strangest people you've ever seen.

And the torch with its magical beam

If I hadn't really been there

I'd think that I was dreaming

Jamie, Jamie

No two nights are the same.

And life is one long glorious game with Jamie.

Jamie and the Magic Torch

This super little animated classic began life on ITV back in the days when children could watch a little television just after Schools and Colleges finished or when morning television for the grown ups had finished at midday. Jamie and the magic torch concerned the adventures of Jamie and his dog Wordsworth. Wordsworth took care of the torch to ensure that no one else found out about it. Each episode would being with Jamie's mother making sure he was tucked up in bed. She would then turn out the light thinking him asleep and say "Sleep well Jamie." The very second she had gone, Jamie would open an eye and Wordsworth would appear from beneath the bed. Wordsworth would hand the torch over to Jamie and he would shine it onto the bedroom floor. A large colourful hole would appear in the floor opening up the window to a new world. Jamie would go first followed by a slightly reluctant Wordsworth. A new adventure always began with Jamie and Wordsworth going down the helta skelta into Cuckoo Land. At the bottom Jamie and Wordsworth would fly out of the base of a tree onto a soft trampoline. Both Jamie and Wordsworth would spend time there each night, sorting out the problems that the people of Cuckoo Land may have got themselves into. Jamie and Wordsworth could not stay too long in Cuckoo Land as they would always have to return just in case his mother discovered them missing. At the end of each episode, Jamie and Wordsworth would go back up the helta skelta and they would find themselves back where they started in Jamie's bedroom. Jamie would quickly get into bed and then close his eyes upon which we would hear his mother say "Settle down now, Jamie. Come on Wordsworth, out of there."

To my knowledge, three seasons of Jamie were made each containing 13 episodes. The first season was shown in 1976 but it continued to be shown right through to the early 1980s. Each episode lasted a little over ten mins.

The Characters
Jamie
Jamie

Wordsworth
Wordsworth (Jamie's Faithful dog)

The Magic Torch
The Magic Torch

Mr Boo
Mr Boo

Jojohelp
JoJo Help

Strumpers Blunkett
Strumpers Blunkett

Bulli Bundy the big Rabbit
Bulli Bundy

Officer Gotcha
Officer Gotcha

The Yoo Hoo bird
Yoo Hoo Bird

Wellybob the backwards cat
Wellybob the Cat (Does everything backwards)

The Credits
Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits
Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits
Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits
Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits
Jamie and the Magic Torch - credits


Greatest one hit wonders - Brian & Michael: 1978

Brian & Michael are a British music duo best known for their 1978 UK Number One Hit Single, "Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs." Without any further chart entries they remain one hit wonders in the UK. They comprise two members, Michael Coleman and Kevin Parrott.
The duo had originally been members of a Sax style Soul band called The Big Sound, working mainly in Denmark, Sweden & Germany, but also touring Israel in 1967. The Big Sound had previously backed singer Karol Keyes, now known as the actress, Luan Peters. In Denmark

the band were the backing group to the Danish singer, Rock Nalle.

The act Brian and Michael was originally called Burke and Jerk, a comedy duo composed of Brian Burke and Mick Coleman, formed in 1976, some nine years after Coleman had left The Big Sound. During the intervening years Parrott and Coleman had stayed friends, and Coleman had followed Parrott's recording career as lead guitarist with Manchester rock band Oscar, who were signed to DJM Records.

When Coleman first wrote "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs", he took the song to Parrott. The latter borrowed the estimated £1000 to produce the record which was recorded at Pluto Studios in Stockport, in the same building as Strawberry Studios. Pluto Studios was owned by the former Herman's Hermits guitar player Keith Hopwood. The song was recorded over three sessions starting on 25 September 1977. The brass band on the recording was Tintwistle Brass Band, from the village in Derbyshire where Parrott lived at the time.

Coming Home from the Mill Art Print

Parrott tried without success to get a release with several record label, but eventually secured a recording contract with Pye Records. However, Brian Burke left the act just a couple of weeks after "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" was released on 25 November 1977, citing "family reasons".

Parrott left Oscar after 10 years, and teamed up with Coleman again, in the live act to try and keep up the promotion of "Matchstalk Men", and had to be billed as 'Brian'. The first run of records had already been pressed as Brian & Michael before Burke had left the act.

Waiting for the Shop to Open Art Print

After their success, Brian and Michael released a follow-up single, "Evensong", and an album, The Matchstalk Men, followed by a second album named I Can Count My Friends on One Hand. Similarly, backing singers, St Winifred's School Chior released an unsuccessful album entitled The Matchstalk Children.

Coleman and Parrott remain in the music industry as songwriters and record producers for themselves and other acts. Other chart success as writers/producers were with "The Sparrow" (The Ramblers, No 11 in 1979), and Clare and friends' "It's 'Orrible Being in Love when You're Eight and a Half" (Number 13 in 1987). Coleman also wrote the hit song "Hold My Hand" for Ken Dodd.

The Schoolyard Art Print


Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs

The Lyrics

He painted Salford's smokey tops
On cardboard boxes from the shops
And parts of ancoats where I used to play
I'm sure he once walked down our street
Cause he painted kids who had nowt on their feet
The clothes we wore had all see better days

Now they said his works of art were dull
No room all round the walls are full
But Lowry didn't care much anyway
They said he just paints cats and dogs
And matchstalk men in boots and clogs
And Lowry said that's just the way they'll stay

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now canvas and brushes were wearing thin
When London started calling him
To come on down and wear the old flat cap
They said tell us all about your ways
And all about them Salford days
Is it true you're just an ordinary chap

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now Lowry's hang upon the wall
Beside the greatest of them all
And even the Mona Lisa takes a bow
This tired old man with hair like snow
Told northern folk its time to go
The fever came and the good lord mopped his brow

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street that were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

video

Those old TV Times - 1977

Below is a collection of TV Times covers and Souvenirs from 1977.


By 'eck chuck. There's a wedding in't street! Len Fairclough weds Rita Littlewood.

David Soul from the Starsky and Hutch days.

A young Richard O'Sullivan from Robin's Nest.

The late, great Benny Hill.

Just William.

Anthony Valentine as Raffles.

Joanna Lumley as Purdey from The New Avengers.

Sean Connery as James Bond 007 in Thunderball.

Eamonn Andrews - This is your Life.