Black Sheep of Whitehall (1942)

  |  Comedy

Black Sheep of Whitehall (1942) Poster

Professor Davis, who teaches at a correspondence school, discovers that a Nazi Agent is trying to prevent a trade treaty being signed between England and South America. The agent is posing ... See full summary »


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27 December 2005 | marktreut
| Will Hay at his best, with John Mills to match him
This World War Two comedy starred popular comedian Will Hay, pitting himself with top straight actors like John Mills and Felix Aylmer.

When he is forced to vacate the office of his debt-ridden correspondence "college", "Professor" Will Davis goes to the Ministry of International Commerce at Whitehall, London, in order to confront his one-and-only student, PR man Bobby Jessop. To get Davis off his back, Jessop proposes to get him a job at Whitehall.

Jessop then leaves in order to fetch another Professor Davys at the train station. This Professor Davys is a leading economist who has returned from a long stay in South America in order to advise the government on a trade treaty with the South American nations, which could be crucial to Britain's war effort.

Will Davis is mistaken for the expert and gets involved in a series of interviews, giving answers based on gambling, con jobs, double entendres or just plain ignorance! Jessop later returns with "Professor Davys" and the confusion is sorted out, though it has left the BBC interviewers in a state of mental collapse! Jessop then discovers that the man he brought with him is in fact Crabtree, a member of a group of Fifth Columnists working for Nazi Germany.

Jessop promises Will Davis a job if he helps him track down the real Professor Davys, who is being held in a safe house by Crabtree's associates. Assuming a number of disguises, Will Davis and Jessop set off to foil the plot before the treaty is compromised! Full of puns, pursuits, running around and double-entendres, this is a wonderful comedy which pokes fun at espionage, the medical and transport services and bureaucratic red tape.

Hay and Mills had worked before, most notably on "Those Were the Days" (1933). They make a great pairing, with Mills being allowed to display his fair share of comedy ability, matching Hay with witty put-down talk.

Thora Hird features at the beginning as Will Davis' secretary, who is owed, rather than paid, to deal with the equally unpaid bills! And we get plenty from Shakespearean actor Felix Aylmer.

Wartime audiences must have enjoyed seeing broadcaster Leslie Mitchell driven to a nervous breakdown while interviewing Hay! Mitchell was the first commentator for the new BBC Television Service when it began transmissions on 2 November 1936. He also provided the commentary for the Movietone News shown at the cinemas.

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