I stumbled across an interesting film recently on You Tube entitled ‘Left, Right and Centre.' Made in 1959, a whole trainload of familiar faces make up the cast, which is what drew me into watching what could have been a rather dated picture. I initially thought that the reason why it wasn’t more well- known must be the failure of the storyline to move with the times. After all, it stars Alistair Sim and Ian Carmichael. There is also a wonderful cameo appearance from Irene Handl. But the film, including her little piece, is really rather funny and I found one or two belly laughs in it. I also found it to be actually quite ahead of its time.
The story concerns a by election being fought in a fictional provincial English town.
Carmichael plays the
Conservative candidate, nephew of the local Lord (Sim) and smugly confident
that his name will win the election for him.
His sole opponent is the Labour
candidate (Patricia Bredin) - a young
woman fresh out of the London School of Economics and daughter of a
Billingsgate fish merchant. When the
pair fall for each other, farce ensues and this aspect of the storyline is
perhaps taking us down a well-trodden path.
What interested me so much about the film was the mockery of how politics was becoming inextricably linked with fame and money making. Before standing for MP,
character is a well-known explorer and game show panel member. With a cameo from Eammonn Andrews as the
panel show host, our Tory candidate is shown to be a vain and affected
participant in early television. On his
way to the potential constituency he is photographed on the station concourse
with an airhead model who is desperate for him to announce their engagement in
front of the waiting press. Then while
on the train, he postures and preens in front of the female passenger sat
opposite, aching for recognition. That
he hopes to cash in on people recognising him from the television is obvious,
showing that celeb-politicans are indeed nothing new. It made me wonder if the writers had anyone
specific in mind when developing this
part. As well as bringing to mind
several modern day politicians.
When Carmichael arrives at the ancestral pile that he is to stay in with his aristocratic uncle, he finds one big, considerably less than stately, money making machine. He soon discovers that his candidacy is viewed by his uncle as another grand income maximisation scheme. He reckons on the publicity machine ensuring maximum footfall through the gates. As the constituency workers engineer press coverage, it soon becomes apparent that the would be MP is simply a puppet and that his personal kudos is in fact worth very little.
These are truths that we are all now familiar with. The viewer only needs to watch a couple of episodes of ‘Have I Got News For You’ to realise what politicians have become over the past few decades. Celebrities become politicians, politicians become celebrities and behind them all are PR gurus raking it in. But back in 1959, before the revolutions of the 1960s, this is a very observant, if not visionary, tale.