The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider. (The plot has nothing to do with New Year's Eve. There is a "Happy new year" toast, but this is purely a reference to Miss Sophie's birthday.) The problem is that due to Miss Sophie's considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged manservant James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn. Miss Sophie decides on appropriate drinks to accompany the menu: Mulligatawny soup (Miss Sophie orders dry sherry), North Sea haddock (with white wine), chicken (with champagne), and fruit for dessert (with port) served by James, who finds himself raising (and emptying) his glass four times per course. That takes its toll, increasingly noticeable in James's growing difficulty in pouring the drinks, telling wine glasses from vases...Written by
Shown on new years eve in many countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Austria. See more »
After James burps, Miss Sophie takes hold of her chair's armrests probably in anticipation of James almost tipping her chair backwards. See more »
By the way... Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Same procedure as every year, James.
Well, I'll do my very best!
[They rush up the stairs to the bedroom]
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Several versions of this sketch were recorded/broadcast or released on DVD/video:
the original B&W version with an audience as produced by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) in 1963. 18 minutes
a changed B&W version where an english spelling error in the intro narration was digitally removed. Shown on German TV since the end of the 90s.
a changed B&W version without the audience sound. Shown by Danish TV who also omit the introductory narration, bringing the sketch to a 14 minutes runtime
a computer colorized version produced by the NDR in 1999. Due to massive protest from fans this version is almost never shown
an alternative B&W version as produced by Swiss TV. This version has no intro narration and misses some gags. This version can be recognized by the much simpler set decoration (no table cloth, smaller/simpler pictures on the walls, much smaller stairs). Released on DVD in Germany. 11 minutes.
Laughter is the best medicine and you can't do better than this
Miss Sophie (May Warden) believes that her birthdays should be celebrated even though she has outlived her dearest friends. So on her ninetieth the party becomes a fantasy and James the butler (Freddie Frinton) has to go along with the make-believe. With only two players, it is in my opinion one of the funniest short TV movies ever to hit the screen. I laugh even at the thought of it. Freddie Frinton does a superb job as the butler serving the three courses with the accompanying drinks. He not only impersonates each of the four imaginary guests (which he does in such admirable style that at the end we feel we know each of them so very well) but the arrangement is that he must quaff down all the drinks as well. His antics as the alcohol starts to take effect have to be seen to be believed. Miss Sophie, a lady of some standing(graciously played by May Warden although she doesn't look 90) seems to be totally unaware of her butler's inebriated condition. This contrast probably heightens the humour of the piece. She keeps insisting that the party should "proceed as usual". If by the end of the birthday party you have not fallen off your seat with uncontrollable laughter, then the very suggestive final punchline should do it. In short, a wonderful little movie and a lasting memorial to Freddie Frinton who died in 1968 just 5 years after the film was completed.
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