A Run for Your Money (1949)
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Two Welsh miners win the Daily Echo's prize for the most productive miners in Britain and head up to London to collect the enormous sum of £200 - as innocents in London they get separated and the one meets a gorgeous girl on the make, and the other a broken-down Welsh harpist. They are all chased by a bemused Alec Guinness as the gardening correspondent out of his métier.
All in all this foreshadows the great comedies of the 1950 - but it is a very lovely example of the genre - full of joy, energy, even some farce, and lots of very beautiful music - this is one to enjoy with a nice cup of tea and a roaring fire!
This is how I like comedy the best: simple, fun and effective. The two Welsh brothers (Meredith Edwards and Donald Houston playing Tom and David, respectively) are a pair of likable larrikins, though David (called by his nickname, "Dai Number 9") is naive to the point of gullibility, and Tom ("Twm") finds it difficult to say no to a drink at any time of the day. Alec Guinness has a brilliant supporting role as Whimple, the gardening-columnist who is instructed by his newspaper editor (Clive Morton) to escort the men about London. Interestingly, he is a sort of Clouseau-esquire figure, filled with a bloated sense of self-importance that is punctuated by, above all else, his terrible luck. Fittingly, and to our great amusement, the story eventually winds up with Whimple receiving the raw end of the deal, despite his best intentions. Moira Lister is adequate as Jo, the sweet-talking Londoner who tries to scam the credulous David out of the $200 prize money.
I also noticed some solid comparisons between 'A Run for Your Money' and director Frank Capra, and the sub-plot of the female con-artist finding the heart to redeem herself was reminiscent of Jean Arthur in 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).' Additionally, Capra always had a talent for celebrating of the "common man," a notable example being the singing on the night bus in 'In Happened One Night (1934).' This film follows a similar sort of path: Tom and David Jones certainly represent this noble "every-man" - they are first sighted hundreds of metres underground, as cheery, hard-working labourers in the mine, with sweaty hands and blackened faces. Director Charles Frend also uses a merry song to emphasise the magnificence of the small-town folk of Wales. On the train to and from London, the hundreds of good-natured Welshmen join each other in a jubilant chant, a symbol of their togetherness as a people. Conversely, the uptight folk of the big city prohibit music in their pubs, and, on one of the London trains, a simple request for directions leads to a heated dispute over the most efficient route to Twickenham.
Edwards meets up with an old pal from Wales in the person of Hugh Griffith who gets money from Edwards to get his beloved harp out of a pawnbroker's shop. The funniest gag in this Ealing comedy is Griffith carrying that harp around all over Londong as they search for Houston, while all the time stopping at every pub on the way.
Houston gets himself involved with a known con woman played by Moira Lister and Guinness is frantic to see she doesn't steal the prize money that the newspaper gave the brothers Jones. Houston is one naive country kid, a bit of a spin off from the character he played opposite Jean Simmons in the first Blue Lagoon movie. A certain providence watches over him.
This film would mark the last time Alec Guinness was a supporting player at Ealing. Henceforth he would be starring in these films. Honorable mention should also go to Hugh Griffith one of my favorite British players. Griffith may well have not been acting as his character is called to be soused the entire film and his appetite for the grape was legendary.
A Run For Your Money still holds up well after over 60 years and is still a very funny film. You will be talking about those Jones boys from Wales.
Now that some time has passed, I think the biggest reason I didn't love the film was that my expectations are just too high. Having seen films like PASSPORT TO PIMLICO and THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (among many others), I expected the same magic. This really isn't 100% fair--as the Ealing people can't be expected to reprise the same level of success in every film. Another reason, and this one I think they could help, was that in many ways you never really get to know the characters that well. Too often, they are running about or having adventures and I felt that I wanted more. Finally, the whole idea of a country person going to the big city and having problems with the fast-paced city dwellers has been done many times before and the idea wasn't 100% original.
Still, there is a lot to like. Just from a historical standpoint, this is a glimpse at Welsh life that simply doesn't exist any more, now that their economy is no longer based on coal and slate mining. Also, while not necessarily a great film, it is very pleasant and worth watching. So, provided you don't set your expectations too high, then it's a very good film.
That's about it. The film tries to be more charming that humorous but its charm, like its comedy, is spare. It has a lot of good-natured energy but not too much else. When Griffith accidentally smashes his harp through a shop window, he shouts angrily, "If your rotten window has hurt my harp, you'll pay for it!" It doesn't get much funnier than that.
There's nothing wrong with the performances, the direction, or any other aspect of the production -- and there are one or two nice Welsh songs -- but whimsy is a poor substitute for plot. The Ealing comedies were best when they pitted canny rustics against bureaucratic ritualists. You could cheer for the peasants. Here, you cheer for everyone and there's no tension, no spring, behind the plot. Will they make the train home on time? It's such a small matter.
A lovely down to earth story about two welsh miners going at that time to the big city (London) after winning a mining competition.
Some great welsh hymns were sung during the film (four part harmony) long gone by today's rugby supporters.
The story was written by Clifford Evans (Actor) who lived in my home town of Llanelli for a number of years.(Llanelli is mentioned by actor Meredith Edwards on the train taking them to London)
The valleys are back green again.(Happy memories of past times))
Charles Frend's film contains every possible stereotype of the Welsh you might think of - male voice choirs, mining, chapels, and families all possessing the same surname. Yet Clifford Evans's and Richard Hughes's script also accentuates the positive aspects of working class life - its emphasis on honesty, family stability and openness, as oppose to the crafty Londoners typified by Jo (Moira Lister) who befriends Dai in the hope of fleecing him of his prize-money.
The script sends up many of the class-prejudices dominating British society at that time: the snooty newspaper editor (Clive Morton) looks down on Dai for no apparent reason, while the patrons of the London pubs think of Twm and his compatriot Huw (Hugh Griffith) as nothing more than a pair of uncouth provincials. On the other hand everyone strives to be socially better than they actually are, an attitude typified by Mrs. Pargiter (Joyce Grenfell), a would-be high society shop-owner whose suburban vowels are clearly evident beneath her strangulated tones.
The script also manages to take side-swipes at bureaucratic attitudes blighting people's lives, from the tendency of shops to close at lunchtime on Saturdays (supposedly the busiest time of the week), to the officious guides at the Tower of London forcing visitors to travel one way round the jewel-festooned halls. As befits a studio dedicated to middle class mores, director Frend makes fun of National Coal Board, one of the quangoes created in 1946 as part of the Labour Government's nationalization program. Ostensibly created to improve people's lives, it still condemns most miners to the drudgery of long hours down the pit.
For social historians A RUN FOR YOUR MONEY also offers valuable glimpses of postwar London, with streets thronged with shabbily-dressed citizens, deserted tourist attractions, and cars and buses that had obviously seen better days. Yet the overall tone remains an optimistic one, attesting to people's abilities to remain cheerful even in adverse circumstances. This spirit is never better typified than in a scene taking place in a local cinema in Paddington, where the entire audience join in a chorus of "All Through the Night" performed in Welsh by Huw (on the harp) and Twm (on vocals). The spectators might not know their language, but they can join in the English refrain. Community singing is one of those rituals that transcends class and regional divisions and brings people together.
The studio even manages a little in-joke: as Dai and Twm run out of that cinema, we see that the film on show that week is PASSPORT TO PIMLICO, one of Ealing's biggest comedy hits of 1949.