22 December 2007 | robert-temple-1
Delightful British screwball comedy of the thirties
This is a most entertaining and amusing film, and evocative of simpler times and pleasures. Cicely Courtneidge is infectious in her bonhomie and mad humour, and despite having the broad gestures of a former vaudevillian, she carries the whole thing off wonderfully by sheer force of personality and good fun. Her younger sister is played by a charming young actress named Mary Lawson, who was sadly killed in a German air raid in 1941, depriving the screen of a fine talent. This film also featured Vivien Leigh in her first screen appearance, with one line. This film is set half at the circus (a real one of that time was used for the filming) and half at a girls' boarding school. For once, real schoolgirls actually play many of the girls in the film, and only a few of the leading ones are too old for their parts (Vivien Leigh was 21 playing 15.) This is a madcap comedy, wildly improbable and meant to be so, with a touch of slapstick. Cicely Courtneidge might be described as the female Will Hay, totally oblivious of decorum, with a heart of gold and ready to try to teach advanced geometry (she doesn't know a triangle from a rectangle) if it will save her twin sister her job (the sister has eloped, but no one is meant to know, while her twin waits for her to come back). Cicely plays both sisters, one with a prune in her mouth who teaches school primly, the other an outrageous extrovert who rides bareback, does trapeze acts, and plays tennis at Wimbledon where she breaks a racket and bounces balls off her head. The film is wildly anarchic for its time, unrestrained in its fun, and most refreshing in its innocence.