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  Bell Bottom George False Pretences DefencesBuy this film here.
Year: 1944
Director: Marcel Varnel
Stars: George Formby, Anne Firth, Reginald Purdell, Peter Murray-Hill, Manning Whiley, Hugh Dempster, Dennis Wyndham, Charles Farrell, Eliot Makeham, Peter Gawthorne, Jane Welsh, Charles Hawtrey
Genre: Musical, Comedy, War
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The British Navy have recently developed and built a warship that will prove disastrous to the German Navy's submarines, and as a result they want to keep the design of the craft top secret. However, there is a Nazi spy cell operating in the port town where the ship is docked, and they are planning on getting the Navy's secrets back to Berlin by whatever means they can. As yet, this scheme appears to have gone undetected, so what can a civilian like George Blake (George Formby) do, especially as he has been disallowed from joining up after failing the medical? Well, you'd be surprised...

Or maybe you wouldn't be, as this was produced strictly to the formula of morale-boosting comedies that British studios churned out during the years of the Second World War. Formby was one of the biggest stars of the era, but his propaganda masterwork was not this, it was Let George Do It, which he had filmed a few years before, and by this stage the time honoured "comedian beats the Nazis" plotline was looking pretty worn out. That's not to say that Formby was running out of steam as far as his performances went, it's simply that everyone had pretty much got the idea about where these movies went.

Certainly there's nothing as satisfying as George humiliating Hitler in this, as there had been in Let George Do It, and the adventures here play it far too safe. There are a few laughs to be had, as when George is reduced to his underwear by the bad guys and complains he cannot walk around the streets like that as he'll be mistaken for Gandhi (yes, that's very likely, Mr Formby), but mostly you tolerate the shenanigans here because they were made with the best intentions. Created solely to cheer up a beleaguered nation, you could not begrudge the public the chance to forget the more pressing troubles in their lives.

Of course, watching Bell Bottom George now you can see all the signs of a production line at work here, with the usual lampooning of the officer class so the conscripts have something to sympathise with, the romantic lead for George who is won over by his gauche charms (here played by Ann Firth), and the final race to keep the villains from getting their way - a chase should do the trick. Here our hero manages to get into the Navy, which has been his dream or so we're led to believe, by a case of mistaken identity when his boxer friend, who is also a sailor, steals his suit during an air raid and George has to wear his uniform to leave his room.

So with the boxer in the infirmary after getting drunk and clonked on the noggin, George cannot make anyone accept that he's not who they think he is, and the more he gets in over his head the further he gets the chance to save the day. He stumbles upon the sound of the Nazis' code as they send out their messages from the cover of a taxidermist's shop, and thanks to future Carry On star Charles Hawtrey setting him right, he learns that the sound he has heard is not crickets after all. But what would a Formby vehicle be without his songs? The first tune he sings is to his pet goldfish, which makes the heart sink, but fortunately things improve with better ditties including the title track, so this is not entirely worth dismissing as average at best. Though it does come close.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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