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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Classic Film Review: The History of Mr Polly (1949)

Starring John Mills as the title character, The History of Mr Polly is an adaptation of a story by HG Wells. Alfred Polly is a somewhat directionless dreamer who we first encounter being sacked from his job for being late (he was busy reading elsewhere). When his father dies he comes into a little money and finds himself marrying a woman he barely knows and starting a shop. Fifteen years later, their marriage is stale and painful so Alfred decides to kill himself. When he can't do that right, he just leaves but as he walks away from one problem he walks straight into another.

This is a very episodic film which flits around a fair bit with various jumps in time. As such, it can be difficult to know anyone but Alfred Polly himself. The supporting cast is huge but each have their own little moments to shine. My personal favourite was Uncle Pentstemon played by Moore Marriott, an Albert Steptoe figure who seems to appear just at funerals and weddings. Sally Ann Howes also marks her mark as Christabel, a schoolgirl who climbs over a wall and makes Alfred fall head over heels in love with her. Unfortunately, she isn't quite as serious as he is.

There are some wonderful little moments in this film and Mills is perfect as Alfred. Nevertheless, the time shifts do make it tricky to warm to, although the scenes where he tries to kill himself are nothing less than hilarious. I enjoyed this one for the comedy and Mills combined together. Watch out for the 'bit of arson', the barge crossing and the nightgown chase.

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