The Happiest Days of Your Life DVD
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Directed by Frank Launder
Produced in 1950
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Michael Brooke happily goes back to school on our behalf for this classic British comedy.
Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell left such an indelible mark on mid-20th century comedy that it's hard to believe that they only made one film together – especially as it's one of the funniest entries in any of their filmographies.
When the Ministry of Education merges two schools as part of a wartime efficiency drive, an administrative oversight leads to the all-male Nutbourne College sharing a building with St Swithin's Girls' School (Sim's despairing description of this state of affairs as "a most appalling sexual aberration" is rendered doubly delicious by his flawless enunciation of every syllable). Worse, a coincidence of scheduling means that two vitally important inspections are being held at the same time, by people who expect each school to be firmly single-sex.
Director Frank Launder (who went on to helm the St Trinian's cycle) wisely begins with a slow, almost straight-faced build-up, meticulously planting comedic cluster bombs to be triggered later on as the film's high-speed farce mechanics click into gear. As the warring head teachers Wetherby Pond and Miss Muriel Whitchurch, Sim and Rutherford strike sublime comic sparks: the former is the epitome of put-upon harassment (he's not so much a misogynist as someone who feels that his life would be altogether more agreeable without a female presence of any kind above the level of domestic staff), while the latter has no truck with traditional gender roles and is only too happy to usurp Pond's authority at every opportunity. (Rutherford has a field day with a part that was specifically written for her, and which she'd already honed to perfection on stage).
However, it's relative newcomer Grenfell as gawky, lovelorn PE teacher Miss Gossage who manages the almost inconceivable feat of upstaging them both, whether enthusiastically banging a gong ("A tap, Gossage, a tap! You're not introducing a film", admonishes Miss Whitchurch), staging impromptu lacrosse matches at a second's notice or trying to chat up a horrified Nutbourne teacher ("Call me Sausage").
Ealing's contemporaneous comedies may have been subtler and more socially relevant, but for laughs per minute they can't hold a candle to this.
Michael Brooke on 31st March 2009
Author of 135 reviews
Classic comedy starring Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford as rival head teachers of boarding schools - one all boys, the other all girls - billeted together due to wartime restrictions. The two head teachers are soon battling for the upper hand with each other and the Ministry. Things come to a head as a group of governors from the prestigious school to which Wetherby Pond has applied to be headmaster pay a visit at the same time as parents of St. Swithin's students unexpectedly come for a tour.
Miss Whitchurch: "Many of our gels come from the colonies - St. Swithin's has always specialised in outposts." Pond: "Madam, I am not in the least interested in where they come from, or whether the Sun never sets upon them. The point is they can't stay here!"
Publisher: Optimum Releasing
Length: 81 mins
Cat No: OPTD1552
Format: DVD B&W
Amusements 11 films
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