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Passport to Pimlico
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38 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Not always on target, but still an enjoyable slice of typically Ealing whimsy

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
2 May 2004

When an unexploded bomb goes up in a street in the London area of Pimlico, it exposes a cave containing goblets, gold, art and other valuable artefacts. The gold is immediately claimed by the crown, but expert Professor Hatton-Jones comes forward with a royal charter that proves the area is legally Burgundy. With their newfound independence, the residents scrap rationing, opening hours and adopt an altogether more continental lifestyle. However Whitehall cuts them off, leaving Pimlico overrun by undesirables seeking refuge from England's laws. Things get harder as the political tensions between the two `countries' increase.

In true Ealing fashion, this is a gently comic satire on the British way of rule. In Pimlico, the residents are fast to turn their back on England in favour of a life outside of rationing and rules. Needless to say things don't go quite as they planned. As a satire, it doesn't totally work as not all it's points and digs are on target - in fact at times I wasn't sure what it was aiming at. However this is not to say that it isn't consistently amusing because it is. The basic plot is enjoyably slick and reminded me in essence of The Mouse That Roared. The laughs are rarely belly laughs but it produced a consistent chuckle in me as it was rather disarming and enjoyable. The more fanciful it becomes the more whimsical it feels - it never gets silly because the tone is so well pitched throughout to avoid it being daft at any point.

I nearly fell off my seat when I read another review on this page that said the cast were a bunch of unknowns! If you don't recognise at least six or seven faces with ease then this must be your first ever British comedy made pre-1960. Holloway, Huntley, Tafler and all the leads are all as good as ever and the bonus of Margaret Rutherford and some really memorable dialogue just makes things better. Even for those only familiar with the Carry On chapter of British comedy we have Charles Hawtrey in a young looking appearance here. Everyone handles the material very well and many of them are blessed with some sparky dialogue.

Overall this is an enjoyable little film that has digs at the British government and way of life but ultimately acknowledges England as the best place to be - for all it's rain, low temperatures and taxation, it's better than going it alone! A witty little film that will please any audience that is in the mood for a bit of Ealing whimsy (and who isn't?).

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26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Next Stop, Burgundy!

Author: Ron Oliver ( from Forest Ranch, CA
17 January 2000

This very funny British comedy shows what might happen if a section of London, in this case Pimlico, were to declare itself independent from the rest of the UK and its laws, taxes & post-war restrictions. Merry mayhem is what would happen.

The explosion of a wartime bomb leads to the discovery of ancient documents which show that Pimlico was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy centuries ago, a small historical footnote long since forgotten. To the new Burgundians, however, this is an unexpected opportunity to live as they please, free from any interference from Whitehall.

Stanley Holloway is excellent as the minor city politician who suddenly finds himself leading one of the world's tiniest nations. Dame Margaret Rutherford is a delight as the history professor who sides with Pimlico. Others in the stand-out cast include Hermione Baddeley, Paul Duplis, Naughton Wayne, Basil Radford & Sir Michael Hordern.

Welcome to Burgundy!

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19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

An endearing look at London life that is gone but not forgotten

Author: (stuart-70) from North Yorkshire
16 August 2000

Brace yourself for a shock - according to a recently-discovered and authentic legal document that is centuries old, Brooklyn belongs to Iceland! Consequently, people travelling to and from Brooklyn must now carry a passport or visa, declare items of value at the Brooklyn Customs points, and perhaps even converse in Icelandic!

It is a similar, mind-bending assumption (with hilarious practical implications) that British viewers have to make when watching "Passport to Pimlico" (a London district near Buckingham Palace, no less). In the film, much of Pimlico (or "Burgundy" as it is now called) looks like a bomb-site, which it probably was still at that time in the aftermath of World War II.

As one of the so-called "Ealing comedies", it ranks alongside other films in this group like "Kind Hearts and Coronets" and "The Lavender Hill Mob" which parody - but in an affectionate way - various aspects of British social life. Conversation is always very parochial and petty. At the same time, this film preserves certain other conventions of the time - for example, there really was a restriction on how much money people could take out of Britain which lasted until the 1970s. In "Passport to Pimlico", people travelling on the underground railway have to declare there currency at the "Burgundy" Customs points. Above all, Margaret Rutherford stands out as the unworldly history professor with sweeping convictions. This charming films preserves a way of life which, though long gone, is not forgotten.

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17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

charming and wacky old British film

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
10 June 2005

I commend pictures that try something different. Many films just seem like re-treads of old ideas, so that is the big reason I so strongly recommend Passport to Pimlico.

The movie is set just after WW2 and the post-war shortages and rationing seem to be driving Londoners "barmy". The film centers on a tiny neighborhood in London called Pimlico. They, too, are sick of not being able to buy what they want but can see no way out of it. That is until they accidentally stumble upon a hidden treasure and a charter which officially named this neighborhood as a sovereign nation many hundreds of years ago! With this document, they reason, they can bypass all the rationing and coupons and live life just as they want, since it turns out they really AREN'T British subjects! Where the movie goes from there and how the crisis is ultimately resolved is something you'll need to see for yourselves. Leave it up the brilliant minds of Ealing Studios to come up with this gem!

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A fun comic romp with real-life allusions.

Author: BadWebDiver from Perth, Australia
21 November 2004

This is a very funny Ealing comedy about a community in central London who, through an unusual set of circumstances, discover they are not English, but are an annex of the French province of Burgundy.

The film features comic actor Stanley Holloway (best known as Alfred Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY), as well as a host of other classic comic actors of the period.

The story was apparently based on a news item at the time, when the Canadian Government "officially" gave a hotel room to a visiting European member of royalty. The idea actually reminded me of the real-life case of the Hutt River Province in Western Australia, where a landowner "seceded" from the Australian Government due to a wool quota dispute. (It was never acknowledged by the Western Australian or Australian Governments).

This is a great script that plays with a lot of political and economic issues, rather like the TV show "Yes Minister"; as well as being a great little eccentric character piece as well.

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20 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

perfect political satire

Author: plaidpotato from United States
6 December 2002

Very funny, well-crafted, well-acted, meticulous attention to detail. A real window into a specific time and place in history. Could almost believe this was a true story in a parallel universe. Interesting how Passport to Pimlico anticipates the Berlin airlift. A definite 10.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

clever little story of independence

Author: TheNorthernMonkee from Manchester
9 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS Many different comedy series nowadays have at one point or another experimented with the idea of obscure independence. In an early episode of cartoon "Family Guy" the Griffin family find their home is an independent nation to the United States of America and the story progresses from there. Way back in 1949 however, the Ealing Studios produced a wonderful little film along the same idea.

After a child's prank, the residents of Pimlico discover a small fortune in treasure. At the inquest it becomes clear that the small area is a small outcrop of the long lost state of Burgundy. Withdrawing from London and the rest of Great Britain, the residents of the small street experience the joys and the problems with being an independent state.

Based at a time when rationing was still in operation, this story is brilliantly told and equally inspiring. Featuring performances by Stanley Holloway, Betty Warren, Philip Stainton and a young Charles Hawtrey, the film is well stocked with some of the finest actors of their generation. These actors are well aided as well by a superb little script with some cracking lines. Feeling remarkably fresh, despite being over 50 years old, the story never feels awkward and always keeps the audience entertained.

Ealing Studios was one of the finest exporters of British film ever in existence. With films like "Passport to Pimlico" it's not difficult to see why. Amusing from start to finish, the story is always fun and always worth watching.

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

"It's just because we are English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundians!"

Author: ackstasis from Australia
20 December 2007

Say what you like about the cinematic importance of the Ealing Studios comedies of the late 1940s and early 1950s, but nobody can deny that pretty much all of them have a lot of heart, and always provide 90 minutes of solid, quirky entertainment. My #7 film from the studio is 'Passport to Pimlico (1949),' directed by Henry Cornelius {in his directorial debut}, which tells the peculiar story of a small London district that unexpectedly becomes its own separate nation. After a bomb left over from WWII accidentally detonates underground, a local resident of Pimlico discovers a stash of treasure belonging to Charles VII "The Rash", the last Duke of Burgundy. Also discovered is an ancient document declaring that the small district, in actual fact, is the last existing slice of Burgundian land, effectively making it a country of its own. The small band of friendly residents are initially excited about this discovery, but have some misgivings when criminals and black-market dealers realise that the London police have absolutely no jurisdiction in the streets of Pimlico. While the British government entangles the issue in lengths of red-tape, the newly-realised nation of Burgundy tries desperately to sort itself out.

The scenario behind 'Passport to Pimlico' really isn't as ludicrous as it initially sounds. The screenplay, written by T.E.B. Clarke {who also wrote 'The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)'}, was inspired by a real-life occurrence during World War Two, when the Canadian government decreed that a maternity ward belonged officially to the Netherlands, to accommodate the birth of Princess Juliana's child {under Dutch law, a royal heir had to be born in the Netherlands in order to be eligible for succession to the throne}. It also appears that some of the events in the film were based upon the Berlin Blockade (June 24, 1948 – May 11, 1949), in which Western forces bypassed the Soviet blockades to sectors of Berlin via airlifts of food and other provisions. In this film, the British government's attempts to starve-out the troublesome Burgundians prove unsuccessful after crowds of sympathetic Londoners bombard the district with supplies, even air-dropping a fully-grown pig with a parachute.

Though the story occasionally drags, 'Passport to Pimlico' proves worthwhile thanks to its unique storyline and a collection of entertaining characters. Police Constable Sid Spiller (Philip Stainton) is probably the film's funniest, particularly when he first realises the implications of Pimlico becoming its own nation ("Blimey, I'm a foreigner!") and when, working undercover to procure water for the reservoir, he must elude a drunk who simply insists on being arrested. Other notable players include Stanley Holloway, Betty Warren, Margaret Rutherford and Hermione Baddeley. Notably, Clarke's screenplay was nominated at the 1950 Oscars, and the film was nominated for Best British film at the 1950 BAFTA awards – in the latter category, Cornelius' film lost to Carol Reed's masterpiece 'The Third Man (1949),' but it was in good company. Also nominated were the other Ealing classics, 'Kind Hearts and Coronets,' 'Whisky Galore!' and {a favourite of mine} 'A Run For Your Money.'

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Immigration? Parliament? Well...not yet.

Author: Critic-50 from Palm Harbor, Florida
19 May 2001

A bustling and, it is implied, unscrupulous gaggle of Britons waddles its way into the freshly, sloppily partitioned nation of Burgundy. For the new Burgundians, opportunity knocks on one door, while confusion beats down another. The cacophonous Nazi explosion that created Burgundy (and buried Pimlico) is now rivaled by the vociferous crowd, swarming through the former British district like Bedouins over the dunes of Arabia.

T. E. B. Clarke's screenplay, "Passport to Pimlico," in its superior comedic handling of legal, logistical and practical civil nightmares, is one of best political parodies ever filmed. Like Clarke's later "The Lavender Hill Mob," "Passport" holds its knot to British underpinnings of dignity and grace under pressure; what remains so comedic about both stories, however, is the loss of such maintained hegemony. The direction, by veteran Henry Cornelius ("I Am a Camera," dramatic basis of "Cabaret"), is sure, confident in a way that resembles the careful work of a helmer filming a story of his own, which, in fact, he is (a conceptual collaboration with Clarke). It has been said that the two based their outline of "Passport to Pimlico" on the Canadian government's gift of a provincial `room' to the Netherlands.

"Passport" is a great, funny, touching film, well known to subject historians and critics, worthy of popular re-discovery.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

It's just because we ARE English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundians

Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
3 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My former Cambridge contemporary Simon Heffer, today a writer and journalist, has put forward the theory that, just as British film-makers in the eighties were often critical of what they called "Thatcher's Britain", the Ealing comedies were intended as satires on "Attlee's Britain", the Britain which had come into being after the Labour victory in the 1945 general election. This theory was presumably not intended to apply to, say, "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (which is, if anything, a satire on the Edwardian upper classes) or to "The Ladykillers" or "The Lavender Hill Mob", both of which may contain some satire but are not political in nature. It can, however, be applied to most of the other films in the series, especially "Passport to Pimlico".

Pimlico is, or at least was in the forties, a predominantly working-class district of London, set on the North Bank of the Thames about a mile from Victoria station. It is not quite correct to say, as has often been said, that the film is about Pimlico "declaring itself independent" of Britain. What happens is that an ancient charter comes to light proving that in the fifteenth century the area was ceded by King Edward IV to the Duchy of Burgundy. This means that, technically, Pimlico is an independent state, and has been for nearly five hundred years, irrespective of the wishes of its inhabitants. The government promise to pass a special Act of Parliament to rectify the anomaly, but until the Act receives the Royal Assent the area remains outside the United Kingdom and British laws do not apply.

Because Pimlico is not subject to British law, the landlord of the local pub is free to open whatever hours he chooses and local shopkeepers can sell whatever they please to whomever they please, unhindered by the rationing laws. When other traders start moving into the area to sell their goods in the streets, the British authorities are horrified by what they regard as legalised black-marketeering and seal off the area to try and force the "Burgundians", as the people of Pimlico have renamed themselves, to surrender.

Many of the Ealing comedies have as their central theme the idea of the little man taking on the system, either as an individual as happens in "The Man in the White Suit" or "The Lavender Hill Mob", or as part of a larger community as happens in "Whisky Galore" or "The Titfield Thunderbolt". The central theme of "Passport" is that of ordinary men and women taking on bureaucracy and government-imposed regulations which seemed to be an increasingly important feature of life in the Britain of the forties. The film's particular target is the rationing system. During the war the system had been accepted by most people as a necessary sacrifice in the fight against Nazism, but it became increasingly politically controversial when the government tried to retain it in peacetime. It was a major factor in the growing unpopularity of the Attlee administration which had been elected with a large majority in 1945, and organisations such as the British Housewives' League were set up to campaign for the abolition of rationing. I cannot agree with the reviewer who stated that the main targets of the film's satire were the "spivs" (black marketeers), who play a relatively minor part in the action, or the Housewives' League, who do not appear at all. The satire is very much targeted at the bureaucrats, who are portrayed either as having a "rules for rules' sake" mentality or a desire to pass the buck and avoid having to take any action at all.

I suspect that if the film were to be made today it would have a different ending with Pimlico remaining independent as a British version of Monaco or San Marino. (Indeed, I suspect that today this concept would probably serve as the basis of a TV sitcom rather than a film). In 1949, however, four years after the end of the war, the film-makers were keen stress patriotism and British identity, so the film ends with Pimlico being reabsorbed into Britain. One of the best-known lines from the film is "We always were English and we always will be English and it's just because we ARE English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundians". There is a sharp contrast between the rather heartless attitude of officialdom with the common sense, tolerance and good humour of the Cockneys of Pimlico, all of which are presented as being quintessentially British characteristics.

Most of the action takes place during a summer drought and sweltering heatwave, but in the last scene, after Pimlico has rejoined the UK the temperature drops and it starts to pour with rain. Global warming may have altered things slightly, but for many years part of being British was the ability to hold the belief, whatever statistics might say to the contrary, that Britain had an abnormally wet climate. The ability to make jokes about that climate was equally important.

There is a good performance from Stanley Holloway as Arthur Pemberton, the grocer and small-time local politician who becomes the Prime Minister of free Pimlico, and an amusing cameo from Margaret Rutherford as a batty history professor. In the main, however, this is, appropriately enough for a film about a small community pulling together, an example of ensemble acting with no real star performances but with everyone making a contribution to an excellent film. It lacks the ill-will and rancour of many more recent satirical films, but its wit and satire are no less effective for all that. It remains one of the funniest satires on bureaucracy ever made and, with the possible exception of "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is my personal favourite among the Ealing comedies. 10/10

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