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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was another of Julius Hagen's Real Art Twickenham Studios attempts
at an entertaining and decent British film in the middle of the
"quota-quickie" period. Whether or not the viewers of today would guess
that is another matter though! I've always wished I could see Betty
Balfour's original 1921 version because this one owes too much to
American film (especially Warner Brothers musicals) that it's almost
spoilt. But at least one can revel in the larger than life characters
played by Balfour, Stanley Holloway, Gordon Harker, Ronald Shiner and a
plethora of minor British actors.
Cockney flower girl and London copper with thick Yorkshire accent fall in love while her dodgy dad and his dubious friends fall into trouble. Everything comes to a head with the theft of GBP 20, then and now a gargantuan amount to many people including myself. In case you worry all's well in the end after lots of singing and dancing: it opens with One Way Street an unintentionally poignant British take on 42nd St and finishes with a reprise of Have You Ever Had The Feeling You're Flying looking at all the floating balloons did they hope to film the finale in colour? In between all this PC Clod gives a nod and a plod to Forgotten Man with The Song Of The Law. Over the years many people thought the Cockney Holloway was indeed a Northerner on the back of his success with The Lion And Albert and many other dotty monologues. What an indisputably mind-bogglingly wonderful film this would have been if only he could have sung With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm in the Tower Of London scene! Balfour was allegedly 32 years old but her whole demeanour was of a staidly middle-aged firework. Fairly pointless filling bits were given to Hagen's stock toff actors Michael Shepley and O. B. Clarence.
I've seen it a few times now since first running across the excellent print on UK Channel 4 in 1992 so I must like it for what it is, a jolly and inconsequential piece of nonsense. Still hoping to see the original though I recommend it at the very least for a fascinating window on Britain 1935 and a window on how cynical we've all become!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw Squibs at a film festival in, I think, Syracuse about 25 years ago. I remember being much taken with it especially Stanley Halloway. I must have really liked it as I bought the tape, which I immediately tucked away until last week when I watched it. Since this viewing was not of a pristine print shown on a large screen in front of an appreciative audience, it did not have quite the impact but it was close. I could not find a review of this on BritMovie or other sources, which surprised me because it's such an engaging film. I did learn that it was a remake of a 1921 movie with the same title and also starring Balfour. In this musical, Balfour plays a Cockney flower girl (Amelia "Squibs" Hopkins) who has a dead-beat father with a gambling problem (Sam Hopkins). The stalwart cop, Constable Charley Lee whose affection she eventually reciprocates, loves Squibs. But the father almost ruins everything by dipping into the office funds to bet "on a sure thing" at the races. Squibs and the Constable try to come up with the 20 ponds Sam needs to avoid being arrested for embezzlement. But they couldn't do it. As it happens, though, a couple of newspaper reporters come to tell Squibs she has just won the lottery! Squibs and her Constable marry and, one hopes, live happily ever after. Other than the opening music, which was very jarring, I liked the music throughout. I didn't really care for Balfour but she did do one really nice ditty called (perhaps) "Have You Ever Had a Feeling?" It was a pretty big production number with street vendors, passersby (including a drunk) and even store window mannequins joining in the refrain. I also tried to find out more about this tune but could find nothing. As Constable Lee, Halloway also has a good number a marching song to the "sons of the law". On a date, the Constable takes Squibs to the Tower of London and in one of the movie's most amusing scenes, dons a Beefeater's hat and collar and does a funny tour guide spiel. I also much enjoyed the antics of Gordon Harker as Sam Hopkins. The scenes with him in the public market are marvelous. He meets a fellow he knows who just got of jail; they chat for a bit and then Harker says: "Well, see you when you come out the next time." I occasionally had a hard time understanding Balfour, no doubt due to the accent. However, I did not have this trouble with Harker and Holloway. I wish I had a better print of this but even so, I'll be watching this one again.
Betty Balfour was supposedly 33 when she made this bright musical comedy with a great cast.Quite frankly she looks more like 45.So it's little surprise that this remake of one of her twenties starring vehicles did not put her back on top.She had previously been third billed to Jessie Matthews who was now the top star.Sadly little remained of her career which spiralled into despair.Not the first nor the last to suffer this fate.There is an excellent supporting cast which includes Stanley Holloway doing one of his monologues.Gordon Harker plays her father.Ronald Shiner in one of his many small roles on the way to stardom.Balfour was clearly a great talent but her time had come and gone.
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