My Learned Friend 1943

director: Basil Dearden   Will Hay  


Genre

Country

Great Britain

Cast

Synopsis

Will Hay, veteran star of the Music Hall, popular broadcaster, successful amateur astronomer and for many years a top money-spinner in British films, was one of the cinema's genuine originals, a comic genius fit to rank with such acknowledged all-time greats as W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. His popular stage act, in which he played an incompetent school-teacher, inspired by Beachcomber's immortal Doctor Smart-Allick, was the basis for several of his earlier films, and this pioneer anti-hero, compounded in equal parts of guile, cowardice, shabby gentility and incurable optimism, was wisely changed little when Will Hay branched out as station master, fireman, prison governor or District Commissioner in later pictures. In My Learned Friend (1943), a surprisingly sophisticated black comedy from the pens of Angus MacPhail and Len Dighton, Will Hay plays William Fitch, a monumentally incompetent barrister who finds himself conspicuously failing to prevent a deranged former client from murdering those he holds responsible for a recent gaol sentence. A series of bloody encounters in such diverse locales as a thieves' kitchen in London's East End, a run-down Christmas pantomime in Booth, and a bizarre lunatic asylum, culminate in a spectacular climax in which Will Hay, in Beefeater disguise, finds himself - like some latter-day Richard Hannay - suspended in space while desperately holding back the hands of Big Ben in a despairing bid to save the Houses of Parliament from imminent destruction. The film is blessed with a super-abundance of memorable supporting players including Claude Hulbert, archetypal 'silly ass' of countless 'thirties comedies; Mervyn Johns in an unnerving role as the maniac murderer Grimshaw; Maudie Edwards as a robust Principal Boy, Ernest Thesiger as a crafty lunatic, and Charles Vector as the vicious 'Softy' Wilson. As Will Hay's last film, In My Learned Friend can be seen to constitute a fitting tribute to a unique player beloved of generations, and a total joy to behold. JACK IBBERSON

Other Releases

Formats

Available on VHSAvailable on Betamax

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Distributor EMI
Catalogue Number EVH 20209
Release Series
Release Date 1980
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Printed Classification
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