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A Fire Has Been Arranged (1935)

 |  Comedy, Crime
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 36 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 2 critic

A pair of friends robs from a jewelry shop, and buries their loot in a field out in the country before they get caught. They spend ten years in prison, and when they're let out they go back... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Chesney Allen ...
The Buddy Bradley Rhythm Girls ...
Bud Flanagan ...
Harold French ...
Mary Lawson ...
Hal Walters ...
C. Denier Warren ...
Shuffle (as Denier Warren)
Robb Wilton ...


A pair of friends robs from a jewelry shop, and buries their loot in a field out in the country before they get caught. They spend ten years in prison, and when they're let out they go back to the burial ground, only to find out that it's no longer a bucolic pasture but the site of a large department store. Despite that setback, they're still determined to dig up their stash. Written by

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Comedy | Crime





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Pleasant Moments
Music by H.E. Henner (i.e. W.L. Trytel)
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Enjoyable forgotten British comedy
18 December 2004 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Although not exactly a forgotten classic, A Fire Has Been Arranged is an enjoyable little number, especially for lovers of Music Hall and Vaudeville comedy. Flanagan and Allen were two of the biggest stars of the halls in their day and their signature song 'Underneath the Arches' was one of the most popular songs of the Thirties and Forties. It's only given an instrumental rendition under the main titles here, although they do perform its sequel, 'They're Building Houses Where the Arches Used to Be,' at the end – their only number in the film. Very much working class Jewish Cockney humor, they specialized in playing less than honest chancers grifting their way through life.

Here they play two of a trio of jewel thieves who emerge from prison to find that the empty field where they buried their ill-gotten gains is now the site of a department store. Luckily for them the owners have been cooking the books for years and are now facing ruin unless a fire can be arranged, only for things to go awry due to a stopped watch and a lapsed insurance policy. A lot of the comic opportunities the premise offers are missed in favor of recreating many of their music hall routines and verbal patter ('She works in a school.' 'Teacher?' 'No, I didn't need to.'), and there are some painful musical numbers from assorted well-spoken English chorus-girls to endure along the way, but once it gets into its stride it's rather enjoyable. The boys even get to do a great skit with a whistle ('I've got one and you've got one too') that predates Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on First' routine as well as a neat con trick in a bar that's worth keeping in mind for future use. Many of the gags are real groaners, but there are plenty of slightly surreal moments (such as a hurried negotiation with a Jewish garage owner called Patrick Murphy) that prevent things from getting too stilted.

The major surprise is Alastair Sim in an early supporting role. One of the greatest comic actors of all time, with a brilliant gift for raising a laugh from simply pronouncing certain words, he hasn't found his stride here and still seems to be learning on the job. His vocal delivery is slightly more hurried (and, possibly due to early sound recording limitations, at a slightly different pitch) and he tries too hard in a couple of places – not exactly disastrous, but not the comic perfection he would later bring to even the briefest cameo.

If the premise sounds familiar even if you're certain you haven't seen the film, that's because it was reworked by Carry On producer Peter Rogers some twenty years later as The Big Job (where it's a police station instead of a department store) and, unacknowledged, as the Martin Lawrence vehicle Blue Streak.

The UK R2 DVD from DD Video, while free of extras, boasts a very good print indeed, and with the film a real rarity these days may well prove your best bet if you want to check it out for yourself.

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