All but forgotten now, as are all too many of the surprisingly influential comedies and musicals from Cicely Courtneidge and husband/writer comedian Jack Hulbert, this beautifully set and filmed period piece from the sure directorial hand of Victor Saville (who brightened EVERGREEN and FIRST A GIRL and wouldn't call it a career until after 1954's SILVER CHALICE) gives Courtneidge one of her best chances to stand out as an actress running the gamut of experience from having her husband stolen away on their wedding day by a crooked "press gang" for the Queen's (Anne's) wars to enlisting herself (disguised as a boy) to find him, being nearly shot as a deserter, and then proving herself the equal of all around as she ultimately rescues not only her husband but Marlborough himself!
There's plenty of surprisingly subtle comedy for those familiar with Courtneidge's frequently over the top canon, as her infectious grin telegraphs her more outrageous schemes and triumphs. Those who find the film "silly" can be excused for seeing what they look for and ignoring the clear influences of such serious comedic forerunners as Richard Brinsley Sheridan's THE RIVALS and Bernard Shaw's ARMS AND THE MAN (oh, if only someone could find a print of Shaw's own scripted 1932 film version which Saville and Courtneidge had clearly seen - lost when GBS declined to renew his unusual 5 year license on his screenplay when he found that advances in film technology by 1937 made it *sound* archaic)!
This is, on almost every level, a fascinating historical comedy which stands up to such comparable adventures as the same year's better remembered SCARLET PIMPERNEL. Perhaps the simple fact that schools today treat the Napoleonic Wars at greater length that the earlier War of Spanish Succession raises our expectations for one film and lowers them for the other. The ...PIMPERNEL has a somewhat "starrier" cast, but all other things being equal, I think I actually prefer this delicious vehicle for Ms. Courtneidge and company.
Well worth a serious look. There's a lot of excellent movie making here.
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