Folly to Be Wise (1952) Poster

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Slight Comedy.
rmax30482313 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Alistair Sim is a recently arrived Army chaplain in charge of providing the troops at a receiving center with counseling and entertainment. He walks into a situation that is a natural disaster. The soldiers are constantly leaving the base to patronize downtown pubs because that's where the action is. Sim's introduction to base entertainment is a string quartet -- four sweet old ladies sawing away at their instruments and producing a sound known to no human ear.

So, to keep the soldiers on the base, Sims arranges for a panel of smart people to provide the audience with a "Brain Trust." They'll answer any questions submitted by the soldiers and the female personnel of the base. "How is the house?" he asks. Half empty. "Ah, good -- half full!", exclaims Sim. That's the kind of guy he is.

The Brain Trust program takes up about half the film's running time. It consists of half a dozen people, mostly reluctant, who have problems of their own. The doctor is deaf. The society lady is giddy and out of it. The MP is a truculent Marxist. The artist is a drunk and his wife is having an affair with a mathematician, all of them on the panel. Sim is the "Question Master." The questions aren't the sort that "Mister Memory" answered in "The 39 Steps." They're more general. "Is there any evidence of life on the moon?" The surly mathematician replies, "No", period, and a long awkward silence follows while Sim fidgets, waiting desperately for expatiation.

The artist gets drunker, the politician more arrogant, the mathematician growlier, and a fight almost breaks out when one of the questions turns out to be, "Is marriage a good idea?" It ought to be funnier than it is. Granted that a chaplain on an army base isn't necessarily the most promising material yet more has been done with less. (What's funny about a guy who invents an indestructible thread in a textile plant?) Maybe it would have been more amusing if set in Victorian England instead of the 1950s. Sim is so rattled he almost falls to pieces while trying to field that question about whether marriage is a good idea, because marriage isn't a fit subject to discuss in front of young people. I've always admired Alistair Sim with his indecent smile and he does what he can with this role, but the lamentable fact is that there's not much to be done with it. He plays the chaplain as a well-intentioned nervous wreck. He's done better.
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4/10
A few moments of feeble fun
wilvram27 June 2019
Saw this about twenty years ago and recall thinking it was dire. With such a talented cast, I thought I'd give it another chance on its appearance on the indispensable Talking Pictures channel the other day. But for the most part it just wasn't funny with the exception of the Brains Trust in the middle, where those entertaining eccentrics Martita Hunt, Miles Malleson, Colin Gordon and the others on the panel couldn't help but raise a few smiles. That was it. A speech close to the end by Janet Brown's dim-witted boyfriend who constantly refers to women as 'judies' - did anyone talk like that? - has to be one of the most excruciating moments in British film comedy.
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9/10
Whilst being a good comedy........
john-locke14 April 2006
The Intelligence Corps Field Security Police would have in a field day writing out the report of the whole proceedings of the Brians Trust set-up for the troops camp concert entertainment. Sim plays his beleagued camp padre role beautifully well, with his typist WRAC girl, persisting in asking the crucial question about marriage to its very extreme detail answer. She typed out the suitable questions for the BT, so in practice, had editorial control of the proceedings & the direction the show took.

For those that do not remember or never heard of the Brians Trust, it was a development from a WW II BBC radio programme, which had wide audience appeal.

George Cole who plays the soldier nervously offering his "vote of thanks" to the padre for his efforts in organising the show, at the end of the film, was by this time, the adopted Barnado boy son of Sim.

For some good innocent Ealing comedy of the era, then this will kill 90 mins for you.

John Locke
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5/10
Q & A Chaos!
spookyrat14 April 2020
This black and white cinema adaption of a successful play is probably a bit better than I expected, though either side of the core "Brains Trust" component in the middle is pretty flat and run of the mill.

The Q & A is quite funny with a Labour politician and a drunken Tory artist soon at each other's throats, while the feisty Private Jessie Killegrew keeps on insisting, with the support of the growing audience, that the panel answer her question on marriage. It is literally Alistair Sim's show though and he dominates proceedings and is amusing to watch, just about turning himself inside out, trying to control his rag-tag panel, 2 members of whom are having an affair. The highlight though is the hearing-impaired MD, who suddenly does decide to overrule his earlier claim that he didn't have a sense of humour because it wasn't important. He suddenly decides to tell the audience doctor jokes, not realising quizmaster Sim has moved everyone on to other questions. I found myself really laughing along with the film audience.

The movie's stage origins are pretty obvious, though I am curious how they featured the ever increasing army base audience in the play. This is worth a look if you have the opportunity arises and you don't mind a bit of a laugh.
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Alastair Sim compensates for a weak film.....
walmington29 March 2001
On hearing of this film I was looking forward to watching it. It's the typical 1950's British film, with the added bonus of Alastair Sim. He is brilliant, but the plot is weak. Social matters are highlighted that were common in Britain then, such as the Labour party versus the Tories etc. But the plot doesn't hold together well. Over all a good enough film, but no where near the St. Trinian's series or The Green Man. Watch out for a young George Cole as a soldier as well.
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7/10
Nice one Padre
ygwerin15 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Just catching this film on a Thursday afternoon on the Talking Pictures TV Channel. I only watched it initially as I'm a huge fan of Alastair Sim, and I want to see as many of his films as possible especially unfamiliar ones.

The name of the event that the vicar wants to run is the Brains Trust, not the Brians Trust as has been mentioned elsewhere. This was a programme from my parents generation, that they would know well and I do vaguely remember it.

This has a motley collection of colourful characters and actors, including the following.

Alastair Sim personifies the Reverend William Paris, well meaning bumbling his way through the proceedings. Trying desperately to provide order out of chaos.

Janet Brown, its nice to see her in a film, I'm more used to seeing her later on as an extremely versatile impressionist, something she became famous for. Her character Jessie causes absolute pandemonium, when she asked her innocent question about marriage.

Edward Chapman is on form as the bumptious local Labour MP. I've seen most of him as Mr Grimsdale with Norman Wisdom.

Miles Malleson is perfect as the deaf old coot Dr. Hector McAdam.

Roland Culver absolutely is the arrogant opinionated George Prout, chauvinist husband who becomes maudlin when drunk.

Colin Gordon is the pompous self righteous professor Mutch.

Martita Hunt is the well meaning Lady Dodd who tries to keep her civil head while all around her disintegrates into mayhem.

The Brains Trust is meant to be a forum for erudite philosophical discussion, such was the excuse for the program. But it could simply be an opportunity for pompous big heads to bore the audience rigid.

The vicar as the self appointed master of ceremony, tries his best to pour oil on troubled waters. But he is totally unprepared for the situation as it unravelles before his eyes. Jessie is looking for answers to the eternal questions of love and happiness ever after. Unfortunately her persistence only exaserbates the situation, as she inadvertently unearthed a menage a trois.

Proffesor Hutch has unrequited feelings for Angela Prout, and resents her husbands stupid attitude towards her, feeling she would be betterJe off with him. Angela Prout has feelings for him but not in the way he hopes. George Prout is too pig headed and stupidly arrogant, taking his wife far to much for granted. Jessies question sparks an argument between Proffesor Hutch and George Prout, causing them to inadvertently wash their dirty linen in public.

While the vicar desperately needs to bring the proceedings to a conclusion, hoping never to be involved again he lamely promises to bring back a classical music ensemble for their delectation.

George Cole makes his cameo appearance as a private, to "thank the Padre for the best entertainment they have had, and hoping he will make the Brains Trust a regular event".

I have placed too many spoilers but I won't ruin the ending, suffice to say Jessie gets a pleasant surprise, and George and Angela are reconciled at last.
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3/10
Boring, slow moving and predictable.
parcdelagrange3 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Alistair Sim was one of Britains finest comedy character actors, however even his talent could not raise this abysmal piece of cinema above the level of boring and tedious.There were some great British films made in the post war years, unfortunately this was not one of them, the story line was flimsy and predictable, the acting was wooden and the characters were stereotypes of middle class 50's middle England (with a stereotype labour politician thrown in for good measure).
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5/10
The cast is fine, but even Alastair Sim can't save this humdrum comedy
SimonJack27 December 2020
Alastair Sim was a fine actor who made some very good comedy films. But this is not a good one. Sim's acting as the frustrated and befuddled Royal Army chaplain and newly appointed entertainment officer, is quite good. While it's not very funny, it's the only thing that keeps one watching this film to the end.

As others have noted, it can easily become boring or blasé. There is very little witty or funny dialog in this film. The humor is mostly in situations. The best of those is during the brain trust show that Sims' Rev. William Paris hosts. That's when George Prout (Roland Culver) and Professor Mutch (Colin Gordon) nearly come to fisticuffs in an argument on the stage.

Miles Malleson adds some humor as Dr. Hector McAdam. And, the only other funny scene is toward the end. Prout takes off in his car, pulling a house trailer. Unbeknownst to him, Rev. Paris, Angela Prout and Jessie have gone into his trailer looking for him, and they are along for the ride.

The cast are fine in their roles. Elizabeth Allan plays Angela Prout and Janet Brown plays Jessie, the WAAF secretary for the camp entertainment office. Unfortunately the screenplay isn't very good and most will have a hard time sticking with the film.
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3/10
Competently filmed and performed, but essentially a light stage play which seems very dated now
BOUF15 May 2011
Alistair Sim is the stand-out in this rather claustrophobic adaptation of a slight stage play. Mr Sim is commendably restrained, more so than in some other Launder & Gilliat comedies, but he has so little to do, and so little happens that nowadays, one wonders why the whole thing was mounted anyway. The relationship between the aspirational secretary and her 'dumb' boyfriend is nicely constructed, and he, Peter Martyn, plays his part very nicely. Otherwise all the focus is on the more upper-middle class characters, who nowadays seem like caricatures. There was a tendency in most British cinema of the 50s to adapt stage plays, but very non-cinematically; this is a typical example. In terms of film study or of entertainment, this doesn't have a lot more than competence to commend it.
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3/10
Weak, plodding and lightweight comedy
geoffm602958 September 2020
While Alistair Sim as the padre gives his usual sparkling, witty performance as the chairman of a sort of 'Brains Trust' Panel programme for the soldiers In camp, sadly nothing else sparkles in this laboured and tedious film. The storyline is based around having several local well known personalities to give their personal, but somewhat idiosyncratic views on questions sent in by the young serving men and women of the British army, ostensibly to educate and entertain. However, the whole thing falls flat on its face and fails to ignite any potential humour. The panelists are essentially stuffy, unfunny, middle class stereotypes, who squabble and exchange insults in front of the audience. There are several very good actors in the cast such as Roland Culver, Colin Gordon, Edward Chapman and Martita Hunt, but despite their talents, they're wasted in this unfunny and very dated film.
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2/10
Slow, tedious and not funny.
juliusdownes7 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I absolutely love a lot of old British comedies, including earlier black and white ones. For example School for Scoundrels, Green Man, St Trinians, early Carry Ons, Norman Wisdom, Make Mine Mink, etc. Some of them aren't as funny as we would expect nowadays but still have a certain charm. I found this movie "Folly to be Wise" the absolutely dreadful as far as film making or comedy goes. The whole affair was akin to pulling teeth and it took me three sitting to get through the movie. The plot comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, the are characterless characters and the whole affair is underpinned by an absence of comedy. Alistair Sim is a good actor, even if not a favourite of mine, and George Cole makes an early appearance.

Spoiler - Basically the premise of the movie is - Sims set up a panel of people who do a show for the local troops whereby the audience members who have previously sent in questions get them answered by the menagerie of semi-intelligent people before the audience. A lady, who is getting to thinking she is too clever to marry a "dumb" soldier asks whether it's worth getting married. This causes a bit of a fracas between the panels members and is a bit of sore point as there is an affair going on (although it doesn't imply it's being consummated) and the people are often unpleasant to each other. At the end, following a speech by the "dumb" soldier - they decide that you learn about life by living it and not reading books and - happy ending alert - she decides to marry the "dumb" soldier.
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