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Time, Gentlemen, Please! is now part of a collection of British
comedies called the Long Lost Comedy Classics. A collection of films
that disappeared off the radar but now having been re-found, have been
transfered to DVD courtesy of Hollywood Classics LTD. Others in the
collection are The Love Match, Orders Are Orders, Make Me An Offer,
John & Julie and Miss Robin Hood.
The Prime Minister is due a celebration visit to the idyllic village of Little Hayhoe, where a Utopian state of employment exists on account of its very productive factory. However, there is one fly in the ointment, the local tramp, Dan Dance. A free spirited man, Dan likes to sleep out in the fields and booze in his ample free time. This is something of an embarrassment to the village dignitaries, who quickly hatch a plan that sees him become the sole resident of the antiquated almshouse. But when the old Reverend suddenly passes away, a new and more radical one takes his place. And thru his reading of the ancient almshouse rule book he finds that Dan is entitled to considerable financial gain. Financial gain that will turn Little Hayhoe upside down.
At the time of writing this review, only two other IMDb reviews exist, both users have rated this film as a 10/10 movie. You can add me to their number wholesale. Quite simply this is possibly the finest British comedy not to have come out of Ealing Studios or to have been written by the supreme Boulting brothers. Directed by Lewis Gilbert (Sink the Bismarck!) the film is adapted from an R.J. Minney (Carve Her Name with Pride) novel called "Nothing To Lose" and Produced by Herbert Mason out of Southall Studios.
So you have your quintessential English village setting with the usual array of quirky characters. The political types are as usual a shifty bunch, and the rest are happily going about their business accepting the normality of their safe existence. Enter Eddie Byrne as Dan Dance. Eddie Byrne would go on to have a long and fruitful career in TV and Cinema, starring in such pieces as Reach for the Sky, Dunkirk, The Mummy & Star Wars, he was always working and always value for money. He was also from my home city of Birmingham, something that makes me doubly proud after witnessing his turn in this gem of Britania cinema. His Dan Dance is someone who we all can identify with, even someone we secretly admire and yearn to be as his carefree approach gives him stress factor zero. At first we think Dan is an Irish character to have the PC brigade going full tilt with their complaint Biro's, but it's quickly checked as Dan, courtesy of the excellent Byrne, shows himself to be the most sharpest and aware tool in the box. With joyous results.
The script positively crackles with deft humour, wry digs at political snobs are plenty, the greedy are given short and humorous shrift. And some scenes, I kid you not, are laugh out loud funny. I rewound it to watch a second time straight after and caught even more craftiness within it. If you are like me and you adore the likes of Whiskey Galore! and The Titfield Thunderbolt, then it's pretty much a sure thing you will love this one too. Supporting Byrne are Hermione Baddeley, Dora Bryan, Sid James, Raymond Lovell, Marjorie Rhodes, Thora Hird and Sydney Tafler. With Anthony Hopkins' lovely and uplifting score rounding out the tip top production.
The DVD transfer is excellent, practically scratch free, so it's now hoped that with its new availability it will get a whole new audience. It deserves it because this one can blow away your troubles for a day at least, and, more importantly I feel, can serve as a reminder of just how great old time cinema really was. 10/10
"Time Gentleman Please!" is honestly as good as Titfield Thunderbolt,
Genevieve, or School For Scoundrels, even Whisky Galore. Rarely seen
due to copyright and distribution disputes it has finally been
The film opens at the Ministry for Productivity and Industry (With Ian Carmichael - who else?), where we discover that Hayhoe, a little village in rural Essex, has 99.9% employment, and will be visited by noneless than the Prime Minister himself.
But this is not the main theme of the piece. We move quickly to the charmingly rural village of Hayhoe itself where the snooty council are discussing what to do about Dan Dance - the local colorful character and vagabond - played by Eddie Bryne in only his fourth film in terms of the upcoming visit. (Bryne went on to have a very long and prolific career and is probably most recognized as General Willard from all three early Star Wars movies.)
To tidy the place up Dan is placed as the sole proprietor of the local alms houses and then discovers.... well, you have to watch as see. the film is about Dan and his wonderful ways.
Fantastic charm to this, not unlike Jacques Tati's "Fête du Jour", the village and villagers, the ones who weren't professional actors, give this a wonderful timeless quality of stepping into a forgotten world. Above all though, it's genuinely funny, and I mean laugh out loud funny - great performances, excellent timing throughout, and unbelievably charming; and one of the best plots in any British comedy: the twists and turns are great; without resorting to mania.
With Sid James, Dora Bryan, and Hermione Baddeley to name just a few you know you're in for a treat - and what a treat - this honestly is one of the best of its genre: a lovely, charming, funny British 1950s comedy, and not a mean word or bone in it a real "U" rated film of the sort that you will just wish they could make today... but how? And you'll wish you could be in the Swan at Hayhoe for a pint.
I've already added it to one of my favourite films of all time - and one of the top five British comedies - in a word: wonderful.
Good luck finding it - it's a travesty that it isn't seen more regularly - but if you're lucky enough to see it - do!
The title of this superb comedy needs to be explained to people who are not British. When pubs all had to close by law at 11 PM, the publican would call out to the assembled customers: 'Time gentlemen, please!' which meant there was only five minutes left before he stopped serving and commenced closing the pub. Even now that hours have been changed so that pubs can stay open longer if they want to, this phrase is often still called out. The title is thus an amusing reference to the central character of this story, who is a keen drinker and a lazy layabout named Dan Dance, whose favourite haunt is the pub where he might persuade someone to buy him a drink. He is meant to be an elderly man, and the one flaw in this otherwise excellent film is that he is played by the 41 year-old Eddie Byrne, with a false beard and eyebrows, which means that he is far from being the charming old rogue called for in the script, as one is conscious the whole time of how ridiculously unconvincing he looks in the part, being 30 years too young for it. The best performance in the film is by the wonderful Dora Bryan, one of the finest natural comediennes ever produced by the British cinema, and who is still with us, unlike most of the other actors in this long ago and far away production. The story is set is Lower Heyhoe in Essex, a mythical village which, typically for 1952, has no traffic. It is announced that the British Prime Minister is going to make a tour of all the towns in the country where unemployment is lowest, and top of the list is the unexpected Lower Heyhoe, where employment is discovered to be 99.9%. The embarrassing 0.1% which keeps the village from a perfect score is provided by Dan Dance, who sleeps in a haystack and hasn't a care in the world, and hates work above all other things. This makes for wonderful situations and comedy. Sid James for once is an unsympathetic character, playing a grumpy publican who hates Dance. One of the most delightful character cameos is by Jack May, who plays a regular of the pub who uses an old Victorian ear trumpet, and at one moment of panic turns it round and blows it as a trumpet. May appeared in 17 films but there is no other biographical information about him on IMDb, except that his last film was in 1959. May looks uncannily like a rather haggard version of my old friend John Michell, and they could be taken for close cousins. It is sad that such a talented character actor has left no information at all behind as to who he was, when he was born, and when he died. The plot of the film concerns the need to tidy away the embarrassing Dan Dance before the Prime Minister arrives. So examination of an ancient document reveals that the village's empty almshouse would be the ideal home for him, and he will receive the princely sum of one shilling and sixpence per day, upon condition that he will be in the premises, with the gate locked behind him, by 9 PM. (This leads to many comic episodes such as Sid James holding back to clock in the pub to try to make him be late.) No drinking or smoking is allowed in the almshouse! Then the vicar dies and a new vicar comes to the village, scrutinizes the old document, and realizes that Dance as the only inmate is entitled to a huge sum of money. Many of the people who had despised him as a layabout now suck up to him. He then gets elected to be the new head of the village council. The satire and the jokes continue, as the conflict between the stuck-up snobs and the ordinary people of the village becomes increasingly intense. It is all good fun, and an excellent old British comedy.
The local layabout looks as if he will let the village down when the
prime minister visits, until he unexpectedly comes into money.
This is a rather nicely crafted comedy that pokes fun at many things including village life and the way local council administration was (and often still is) carried out; pompousness, hypocrisy and short-sightedness commonly abound in those that 'run the village'.
The village itself has high employment because of the local weaving industry. However it is so sleepy that the local bobby has time to stop the traffic in order to let passing dogs cross the road, and a visit to the cinema requires a trip by motorcycle to the nearby town.
The fictional village of Little Hayhoe is represented by the actual village of Thaxted, in North Essex, which is seen in nearly all the exterior scenes (and some of the interior ones) in this film. Thaxted has many medieval buildings including the guildhall and one of the most magnificent churches in Eastern England, often dubbed 'the Cathedral of Essex'. In a strange parallel with the film, the wealth that originally paid for this fine church was also from cloth manufacture; Thaxted was a centre of the wool trade in times past.
Amazingly Thaxted (as seen in the film), 65 years on, remains almost completely unchanged to this day; even 'The Swan Hotel' is still there, and is still a focus of village life.
This is a cracking film in its own right, but of course has a special interest for anyone who lives in the Thaxted area.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are only two reasons why this film has not collected the highest of highest ratings from me. Reason number one is that the plot takes an extremely long time to get going. The first twenty minutes or so are not only downright boring, but they are enacted by a very unlovable cast of principals. But all this is absolutely necessary, so don't go to sleep or put the excellent Slam Dunk DVD into fast forward, because the initially repulsive character so brilliantly enacted by Eddie Byrne does a U-turn. In both guises, he is well supported by the lovely Jane Barrett, a prolific TV player who made only a handful of movies. The rest of the actors consist of some very familiar faces, but many of them very successfully undertake unfamiliar roles. This is all to the good because it is only the Eddie Byrne character that changes face when the plot is suddenly and unexpectedly put into motion by the death of the local clergyman. I particularly warmed to Sid James and Raymond Lovell. Sid is gloriously repulsive in an unusual role as one of the chief villains. Raymond, of course, plays hissable villain number one, and it's nice to see him backed against the wall when the local clergyman unexpectedly passes away and is replaced by a newcomer who has no affiliations whatever with the the smug officers of the local council. A last word: In my opinion, Lewis Gilbert's direction here is easily the best of his entire career.
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