Thursday, 10 May 2018

Spotlight on George Formby's Get Cracking 4

Dinah Might

George’s potential squeeze in ‘Get Cracking’ is Dinah Sheridan, aged 23 and at the start of her career. Dinah will always be best known to me (and probably much of my generation) as the mother in the 1970s film of ‘The Railway Children’ and to see her so early on in her life is a happy curiosity. But she does seem to be rather an odd choice for the role of Mary Pemberton. Both George and the actor who plays Mary’s father (Lancashire born Frank Pettingell) sound as northern and as common as can be, while she talks like she has half a pound of plums in her gob and it’s just too noticeable and incongruous. I have to really try hard to believe that snooty Mary fancies dippy George. Lovely as she is, I can’t think why they chose her. I wonder if it was an attempt to appeal to the officers as well as the privates in the Home Guard audience?

"I can't tell a word you're saying"
A much better bit of casting is the glorious appearance from one of my favourite bit-part actresses, Irene Handl. She ramps up the dizzy, wandering in and out of the Home Guard office wittering on about “our Ben”, a mythical character who is always elsewhere. My favourite part is where she comes in seeking the teapot, and finds that their Ben, the tidy soul, has put it in the filing cabinet (under T of course). She adds a great bit of down-to-earth fun to the film and it would be much duller without her. Here we see on screen the forerunner of those Carry On characters that Irene was to so memorably play over a decade later on.

Her role also serves to re-inforce the message that these Local Defence Volunteers were ordinary men with other lives running parallel. Much is made at the beginning of the film of the trouble of fitting guard duties around social lives – you can’t put so and so down for Tuesday because that’s his night at the flicks and so on. The Home Guard had jobs, meetings to attend, courting to do and dippy sisters chasing round after them. It puts the British in a good light – that men were doing this job out of choice, and not because it had been dictated to them.

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