15 September 2007 | Spondonman
They've all been a terrible helluva long time gone
This turned out to be George Formby's last feature film, made just after WW2 had finished and with audiences tastes changing. Although he was playing a demobbed soldier coming home the atmosphere was still 1939, something it would be impossible to recreate much longer. Even so, the budget was tighter and some hep jazz music and a seedy outdoor striptease still crept in, not something to be expected in a Formby film pre-War.
George and pal Ronald "Fingers" Shiner (he of the proboscis insured for £20,000) go back to George's rundown pub the Unicorn and try to run it as a sound business. They find it difficult going what with an erudite painter as non-paying guest, whilst Shiner never finishes washing and drying dishes with his lady love, but the main problem is the stiff rivalry of the Lion pub across the river from them even though George's childhood sweetheart owns it. Dear old Wally Patch plays one of the baddies this time trying to close them down with various machinations. Songs: We've Been A Long Time Gone (on the demob ship), Christened With A Horseshoe (in the civilian clothes shop), It Could Be (in the Unicorn), and my favourite You Don't Need A License For That (during the show). The Alice dream sequence with the Mad March Hare song was distinctly odd but still pleasant. Some of the outdoor scenery, shot near Richmond, was nice and languid and which contrasted well with the rather threadbare interiors displayed. Favourite bit: the slapstick minute with the punters of both pubs rushing around after drinking paraffin.
After this there was a gap of seven years before Norman Wisdom took up this type of film - musical comedy with the ordinary little man fighting the odds, getting the beautiful girl and by turns hilariously good and embarrassingly bad. The Americans had Danny Kaye then Jerry Lewis. Which only proved to me that if it had been handled right Formby could have carried on making films for a good few years more. Instead of which for the next 15 years he travelled the world with his wife Beryl, did stage, panto's and TV, but a series of heart-attacks finally killed him in 1961 aged just 56. But in any case, imho this was one of George's better films and a good one to end on.