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The Great McGonagall (1975)

William Topaz McGonagall, the world's greateset poet. Unfortunately the whole of the rest of the world disagreed. His talent made him a sort of Victorian Chris Evans but without the cash.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
William McGonagall
...
Julia Foster ...
Mrs. McGonagall
...
Mr. Giles / MacDuff / Hercules Paint / British Soldier / Policeman / McLain / Sheriff / Judge
...
Mr. Stewart / Second-Lieutenant Rotlo / Supposed John Brown / Gentleman / Revolutionary / Cardinal / Policeman
Valentine Dyall ...
Army Sergeant / Lord Tennyson / Doctor / Native Messenger / Policeman / Fop
Julian Chagrin ...
Prince Albert / Rev. Gilfillan / Publican / Balmoral Policeman / Stagehand / Ruffian / Mr Stewart's Assistant / British Soldier / Fop
...
King Theebaw / Policeman / Clerk of the Court / Mr Stewart's Assistant / Zulu Chief / Ruffian / Fop
Charlie Young Atom ...
Postman / Policeman / Sleeper in the Snow / Theatre Announcer / Drinker (as Charlie Atom)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Luie Caballero ...
Man with parrot
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Storyline

The tale of an unemployed Scotsman, William McGonagall whose ambition was to become England's Poet Laureate. One minor drawback is that his poetry is terrible. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Comedy

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 June 1978 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

El gran McGonagall  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

William Topaz McGonagall was, in fact, a real poet. He is considered the worst poet ever, and Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers read his poems to one another frequently. See more »

Quotes

Queen Victoria: I am Queen Victoria, and I am very big in England!
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Soundtracks

When the Saints Go Marching in
(uncredited)
Traditional
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User Reviews

"Oh Beautiful Bridge o'er the silv'ry Tay...."
1 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There is a classic volume edited by Wyndham Lewis and another entitled "The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse". The book illustrated the worst poets and poetry (in the opinion of the editors) in modern English literature (Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and Medieval masters like Chaucer, were not included). Incredibly the editors not only included poets who were deservedly forgotten (the bland and self-satisfied Martin Tupper, or Edward Foote, who footnoted his poems to verify what he meant, or Poet Laureates like Alfred Austin) some of the great poets slipped too. Wordsworth, Poe, Byron, Tennyson, Longfellow (for "Excelcior") were in the book. I recommend it for people who want to enjoy the pratfalls of poesy (which can be very odd indeed).

Oddly enough William MacGonigal is not included in the collection. Yet he is generally chosen as the example of the worst poet of Victorian Britain. He was the only one who never realized it. He was a dreamer - one day he was in bed and suddenly realized he wanted to be a poet...a great poet. He then proceeded to write poetry, and would do so until he died. There was absolutely nothing anyone of his serious contemporaries ever saw in his work to grant it merit. He certainly was not in the same category of Tennyson or Wordsworth or Byron (despite their occasional lapses). Yet he actually tried to become poet laureate. Given that (after Tennyson died in 1892) Alfred Austin finally got chosen (Wilde, Kipling, and William Morris were not considered politically correct enough for different reasons - Austin was a good Tory policy propagandist), MacGonigal could have served that political occasion job. He would have enjoyed it.

Today, actually, his poetry sells well (some say it sells better than Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, or Robert Browning). It has a beguiling beat, likened to calypso in rhythm. His fairly simple line of English vocabulary is quick to grasp among people struggling to learn our language. And (unlike Tennyson and most of the others) a movie was made about his life. Spike Milligan finally got the lead role in his career (remember "Postman's Knock" - I suppose not) that was worth remembering. Sellers was given an interesting cameo as Queen Victoria. Not a great film, but an interesting one.


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