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The skipper of a tatty coastal 'puffer' boat cons an American into letting "The Maggie" carry a cargo to a Scottish island. The American soon realises he's been conned but can he stop them ? Written by
Steve Crook <email@example.com>
Here's another entertaining Ealing Comedy from the early 50's. The tale is simple, gruff but wealthy American Calvin B Thomson is desperate to get a minor flotilla of valuable goods to his fiancé on the out of the way island of Kilterra from the River Clyde in Glasgow. With no other boat available, he's inveigled by the crafty captain of an old sea puffer on its last legs to use his old boat for the trip in exchange for a much needed considerable fee.
They all eventually get there, if not with the cargo, by a somewhat circuitous route, not without some hair-brained, hair-raising and hair-pulling-out happenings along the way, the journey symbolic of the relationship between the big-mouthed Yank and the couthy crew of the old "Maggie". From the start, Thomson, played with much personality by Paul Douglas, is sceptical and mistrusting of the laid-back captain, as happy with a drink in his hand as the drink beneath him, but they never quite come to the blows you expect them to and by the time of the delivery of the story's moral, something along the lines of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em", something approaching grudging respect is fostered between them, although it needs the constant interference of the twinkle-eyed ship's boy to help them get that far.
The humour is gentle, the photography very fine indeed and the acting by all is also very good. There's a nice interlude between Douglas and a bonnie Scots lass as they discuss matters of the heart, but the main thrust of the film is the canny contrariness of the down-at-heel locals pitted against the bombast of the cash-flashing American. The story is a bit episodic and I'm not sure I didn't have a lot of sympathy for the duped American, as he's continually gulled by his transporters plus I was waiting for a bigger finish than I think I got.
Nevertheless, it was a sheer delight for me to see vintage film of two places where I have had homes, namely the River Clyde which I can see from my front window today and the Crinan Canal near where I lived for a couple of years some 25 years ago and which I revisited and walked around last year on my birthday. "The Maggie" may not be the best of the Ealing Comedies but it stays afloat throughout and gets to its ending in an acceptably ship-shape fashion.
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