4 December 2004 | kinekrom
Delightful minor revue film, with a host of quirky British variety talent
This is a minor gem, perhaps the best of the genre of variety films made in Britain in the 1930s. As was common with such films, the connecting story is slight. The comedy duo the Western Brothers acquire a television set, and view the selection of variety acts on offer. These include dance band favourites Ambrose and his Orchestra, top singers such as Elisabeth Welch (singing a wrenching "Yesterday's Thrill"), Turner Layton and Evelyn Dall, and the comedians Harry Tate and Billy Bennett. But it is the more bizarre acts that make this film one to catch if you possibly can (prints are fantastically rare), including Jimmy Fletcher singing the hyper-maudlin "It's My Mother's Birthday Today" with cockney harmonica band in tow; the indescribably odd The Five Charladies; and best of all the incomparable Wilson, Keppel and Betty, performing an Egyptian dance routine to a terrific score which even manages to bring in a Scottish skirl, and has at its heart a section with a tap-dancing Gandhi which just boggles the mind. Herbert Smith, past master at directing this sort of revue film, holds it all together beautifully, and there is a touch of wistfulness as well as exuberance about the film. Variety was never so various, nor so much fun.