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Few people outside Britain will have heard of Richmal Crompton's famed creation of the 20s & 30s called "Just" William (Brown), that impossible well-meaning tearaway & troublemaker - "Peck's Bad Boy". He featured in over 2 dozen highly prized(dust covers obligatory)books and was the Harry Potter of his day. With his dedicated disciples,Ginger,Douglas & Henry they invariably upset their families and anyone who happened to innocently become implicated in their many determined & well-meaning acts of altruism. Set in some vague Southern English country village at some vague period between the decades known to their creator,each book comprised several chapters,each recounting a different "adventure" for him & his gang and their unfortunate "enemies", young and old, to the exasperation of Mr Brown and the despair or frustration of the rest. Because of the images created by Miss Crompton,and her dedicated illustrator, despite several attempts on radio,film and TV, to my mind only this first version came near to bringing the popular characters to life. Dicky Lupino was the nephew of famed Ida Lupino of the famed Lupino dynasty. He was my age and for a brief spell during early WWII I was at school with him and was he some problem! To defeat the merciless regime of the Christian Brothers took some nerve and by petulance or temper,he managed it! Also in the cast was the 11-year old Roddy McDowall before he migrated to Hollywood as an evacuee. This moderately entertaining episodic film also leaned heavily on the strangely cast very stout and irasible Fred Emney,a popular variety comedian of the time, as Mr Brown. Happily,as a devotee, I have this on video although it took 3 decades to get it. Although the books still have a dedicated following,and despite his famous connections,chubby Richard was hardly heard of again except for a fleeting appearance as a taxi driver taking on Myrna Loy in London in the 1960 Doris Day thriller, Midnight Lace. Whatever Happened To......? PS Since submitting the above I have discovered there is a dedicated & informative website that also includes bios on Richmal Crompton and even better,directions on availability of other William videos. Satwalker 99 Brendan Kent UK
I hadn't seen this for decades until just now, remembering it as a not
very good film with some very good moments. The big trouble for William
fans like me is we've all got our own conceptions of William and his
world making it impossible for film-makers to please even most of us.
This is an episodic film taking bits out of many of the books with some
wildly inaccurate characterisation, but with something that should
override all complaints: It was filmed pre-War and therefore couldn't
help but be faithful to the original atmosphere. It doesn't matter
whether the Brown's are living in a mansion - the family and class
relationships are all there. Thankfully a lot of the jokes are too!
The main thread is William and the Outlaws are obsessed with catching someone they perceive to be Dynamite Dan and his evil cohort, who rob Mrs Bott of a pearl necklace (Mr. Bott has no part, being deceased). Roddy McDowell played Ginger, Aubrey Mather the baddie - who wasn't very long following him to America as an evacuee. Basil Radford as Uncle Percy was a bit wasted, and Fred Emney was not my idea of William's father - at one point at the breakfast table he calls Mrs Brown "an idiotic little woman". I've got a record his Dad made in 1912, now he was funny. Dicky Lupino playing William was OK if maybe too soft-looking and a stone chunkier than the ideal; Douglas was Scottish! A story that was banned from being published by Macmillan in the '90's, William and the Nasties is touched on, and a baby show where you want it to lead to a conclusion with the enormous title "That was what she said before she saw the baby!" but the opportunity was missed.
A lot was packed into this however, so it's a shame to nit-pick on comparisons with the books - it's a fair 1930's b&w British family comedy on its own merits, worth a look in. How do you tell when someone has shaved off a false beard is one of the many profound questions thrown out from William we'll never know the answer to.
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