A wealthy old man dies and leaves his holdings--including a brothel and a gambling den, racing greyhounds and a sleazy bar--to his eccentric Aunt Clara. Clara vows to "clean up" her new ... See full summary »
A wealthy old man dies and leaves his holdings--including a brothel and a gambling den, racing greyhounds and a sleazy bar--to his eccentric Aunt Clara. Clara vows to "clean up" her new establishments, but complications ensue when she visits the crooked gambling den--just as it's being raided by the police. Written by
Margaret Rutherford was amazingly endearing. Despite her tiny stature and her lack of physical attributes to recommend her, indeed despite the largest flabby chin ever possessed by a woman in the history of the cinema, her ponderous physique, her wobbly face, and countless other handicaps to elegance, she had a magic which transcended all these limitations and made her loved by the public. She specialized in a subtle, under-stated form of self-deprecation, on the strict understanding (a kind of conspiracy between her and the audience) that she didn't really necessarily mean it, and that she might be very much cleverer than she appeared on the surface. And in this film, she had the opportunity really to 'let her rip' and do all that business as an integral part of the story. Rutherford was not a 'Ha! Ha! Ha!' comedienne, she was a subliminal comedienne who mixed gentle wit with profound satire, as effortlessly as drinking one of her customary cups of tea. She was made for this story and this story was made for her, which may be why the producers chose to film it with her, of course. In the film, she is the elderly inattentive aunt of a rich rogue who owns some questionable businesses connected with gambling, prostitution, risqué parties, and other things which once appeared shocking but which are now routinely indulged in by ten year-olds. (In other words, this film was made in 'The Innocent Fifties'.) The nephew dies and leaves it all to her because she is the only relative who is not a grasping sycophant after his money. So enter Margaret Rutherford, who quietly sets about setting all things to rights, enabling the four prostitutes to retire in comfort and give up their trade, rectifying the situation regarding her nephew's illegitimate daughter (played by a pert and cheerful young Jill Bennett), rewarding the worthy, cleansing the Augean Stables, and generally getting everything ship-shape. The film is peppered with numerous famous character actors of the time, such as Ronald Shiner, A. E. Matthews, Fay Compton, and Nigel Stock. Everybody's favourite barrow boy, Sid James, is terribly funny as an East End bookie at a greyhound race track who is driven to hysterical exasperation by Rutherford. Matthews is excellent as the rascally nephew. Shiner somewhat over-clowns as a butler, and relies too much on grimaces. It is all very good fun indeed, for those of a gentle disposition who do not require comedies to be full of side-splitting laughter and pratfalls. As always with these movies, they are of considerable interest to social historians, if there are any out there who are genuinely interested in human history rather than in statistics and data. Calling all humans interested in human history! Do you view me, over?
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