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Monday, 21 July 2014

Classic Film Review: The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)

The Happiest Days of Your Life stars Alastair Sim as Wetherby Pond, the headmaster of a boys boarding school which is unexpectedly told on the first day of term that another school is going to be billeted with them. He is annoyed enough before the school arrives, led by Margaret Rutherford as Muriel Whitchurch and full of girls. Chaos ensues but the pair will have to work together when Pond's potential new employers come to look around at the same time as some anxious parents want to see the school where their girls are staying. Can they make the school simultaneously appear like an all-boys school and an all-girls school?

I found this film hilarious. It takes a little while to set the scene but once it gets going it's brilliant. The supporting cast includes John Bentley as Richard Tassell, Gladys Henson as Mrs Hampstead and Joyce Grenfell as Miss Gossage, along with several other good comic performers. With all the teachers, it's difficult to get a complete sense of characterisation but that doesn't matter entirely - all the characterisation you need is employed with the two giants and this titanic battle is beautiful to watch.

It's a very British film. Of course, I don't use that as an insult, more as a warning to those who don't appreciate that type of humour. It's full of little looks and little sayings that appeal to my sense of humour, especially anything spoken by Rutherford. The scene close to the beginning where she is analysing Pond's office to see what kind of headmistress resides there is brilliant, as is Sim trying to give a lesson in the entrance hall that keeps getting interrupted. I think the thing about The Happiest Days of Your Life is that it's difficult to pinpoint particular scenes or moments - the whole film just combines to be hilarious.

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