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A touring variety troupe, the "Dinky Doos" are in financial trouble. An encounter with three strangers - Inigo Jollifant (a romantic, song-writing ex-schoolmaster), Miss Trant (a philanthropic spinster in search of adventure), and Jess Oakroyd (a down to earth, practical man recently made redundant from his job) leads to a change of fortune. Re-launched with Miss Trant's money, they tour England, at first with little success. Inigo falls in love with the troupe's talented and pretty young girl singer, Susie Dean. The troupe is threatened with disharmony, but, due to Inigo's intervention, and the marriage of the principal dancer (Jerry Jerningham) to Lady Parlitt (whose family "own a chain of theatres"), all turns out well for Susie by the end, when she triumphs in a lavish London revue, with the other members of "The Good Companions" in the audience, cheering her triumph.Written by
Roger Mellor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Where there's an Englishman / You'll find a pot of tea. / Where there's a Frenchman / A whiff of gay Paree. / And where those hep cats meet, / You'll find a boogie beat / And where there's you / There's always me.
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This musical film remake of THE GOOD COMPANIONS (Dir:J Lee Thompson, for Associated British in 1957) features several tuneful songs by Paddy Roberts(m/l), C. Alberto Rossi(m/l) and Geoffrey Parsons(l). Miss Trant (played by Celia Johnson),and her encounter with the struggling concert party, the 'Dinky Doos', and the world of the touring theatre as depicted by J.B. Priestley was well known to English audiences since the thirties. As the setting of the story is updated from 1929 (when touring shows were highly popular) to the 1950's, when they were in decline, the musical style is also updated, and the songs are all catchy in the style of variety c1956. Indeed, the film is priceless as a 1950's British film musical which owes nothing to operetta or rock and roll - in its recording and celebration of fifties variety it is unique. It also remains faithful to the essential spirit of Priestley's novel in its celebration of show business and the theatrical life, and in particular, the metaphor of the touring theatre as an escape for the middle aged male from a society that is domesticated, drab and puritanical, epitomised in those dour apron wearing wives (played by Thora Hird and Beatrice Varley in the film) who appear at the stage door and attempt to drag their 'erring' husbands away from the chorus girls, and back to 'reality'. There is also the sense of community amongst the performers, and of communal travel by steam hauled trains through the length of Great Britain.
Eighteen year old Janette Scott, a potent symbol of a lost age of 1950's innocent screen romance, does not receive top billing, but clearly emerges as the star of THE GOOD COMPANIONS. She displays great spirit and loads of charm, especially in the 'Today will be a Lovely Day' number, and her enthusiasm is quite infectious in the skilfully staged finale. I would also single out for praise Eric Portman, who is perfect in the role of Jess Oakroyd, and brings richness and depth to the role. There is a wonderful moment at the end of TGC, when after Susie Dean's triumph, he nods leans forward and glances towards Miss Trant, who is sitting in the same row of the theatre stalls, and almost telepathically communicates with her to share Susie's moment of triumph. THE GOOD COMPANIONS is strong in character acting in a very English tradition (even a theatre manager has an individuality about him, even though he appears only briefly with one line of dialogue), and just look at the cast list of supporting actors!: Joyce Grenfell, Anthony Newley, John LeMesurier, Rachel Roberts, Thora Hird, Alec McCowen, Hugh Griffith, Shirley Anne Field, Bobby Howes, Melvyn Hayes, the list goes on and on - what a cast! It is also to the credit of the direction and writing, that with so many characters they are so clearly defined and that the narrative remains focused.
It is these qualities, together with the film's excellent production values (in its restoration, the film is one of the most visually elegant British films of its decade-the lighting of interiors is exceptional,rooms and decor are beautifully depicted-Jess Oakroyd's living room, public houses, theatre interiors, and a private dining room at the back of a seedy café which takes on a warmth all of its own because of the theatricals seated round the table). These qualities, together with the good natured charm of the young leads, make THE GOOD COMPANIONS excellent entertainment. A rarely seen, high spirited British showbiz musical,'The Good Companions' of 1957 is a 'must see' for 1950's nostalgia buffs.
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