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  Jumping for Joy A Day At The RacesBuy this film here.
Year: 1956
Director: John Paddy Carstairs
Stars: Frankie Howerd, Stanley Holloway, A.E. Matthews, Tony Wright, Alfie Bass, Joan Hickson, Lionel Jeffries, Susan Beaumont, Terence Longdon, Colin Gordon, Richard Wattis, Danny Green, Barbara Archer, William Kendall, Ewen Solon, Charles Hawtrey
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Willie Joy (Frankie Howerd) has a job cleaning up at this London greyhound track, but one day something happens to put his livelihood in jeopardy when he is following the dogs with his pan and brush and someone plays a trick on him using a cigarette packet tied to a piece of string. As he tries and fails to pick it up, he doesn't realise the race has started and is accidentally carried away on the mechanical hare the animals chase, much to the hilarity of the spectators, but it's enough to lose Willie his job. As he leaves the manager's office, however, he spies a dog in distress...

Actually, the bit where Frankie Howerd gets scooped up by the hare and rides it around the track is the funniest in the whole movie, so if you're hoping for even better entertainment you may well be disappointed, and probably won't be indulging in the activity of the title. This was one of the attempts to find vehicles for Howerd to turn him into a British movie star, something which, as with much of the comedian's career, went in fits and starts, though in this case it was more the stage and the small screen which suited his particular stylings. Nevertheless, if the cinema wasn't quite his most comfortable home, he did fine with what he was offered.

Though it had to be said it was the Carry On movies he appeared in which truly showed his sense of humour at its best, because there was very little in Jumping for Joy which was in any way saucy or camp. There were a few decent laughs after that opening sequence, but it was too obvious that they were trying to fit Frankie into a British comedy flick template better occupied by Norman Wisdom - the director here, John Paddy Carstairs, spent most of this decade at the helm of that comic superstar's productions. Like those efforts, this took a basic set-up which would appeal to the masses, or at least be familiar to them, and attempted to mine some chortles out of it.

If nothing else, this supplied a very good look at the now-demolished White City Stadium, which was built as an Olympic venue but more often was seen hosting the greyhound races, though it was used for other sporting events and concerts as well. But seeing it here you got a solid idea of what it was like in its heyday, packed with gamblers and bookies and according to this a number of less scrupulous characters as well. Willie adopts an young, ailing dog to impress the girl (Susan Beaumont as, er, Susan) he likes but finds himself thrown out of his bedsit for his act of charity because the landlady doesn't allow pets. This does allow him to meet the co-star in this story, the rather shady Captain Jack Montague, played by Stanley Holloway.

After working out a scam to pull on the gamblers at the stadium, or rather Montague works it out and Willie foolishly goes along with it, this is the cue for somewhat shambolic adventures where they get mixed up with a spiv who has a far better plan to make easy cash that's even more illegal than what the two bumblers were up to. As often with such affairs, it's the professionalism of the performers which carried the middling material, as the likes of Lionel Jeffries (always a scene stealer, here lightly playing a no good sort) and Joan Hickson (getting a surprisingly substantial role as a sort of posh, female Mr Magoo) supplied some easy entertainment. There was a streak of the British disease running through this as the class system messed around with Willie's ambitions to better himself, mixing it up with both the lowest of the low and the lowest of the high too, well, just about. If you're at all attracted by the thought of a Frankie Howerd film, this is fair, just don't expect Up Pompeii. Music by Larry Adler on harmonica.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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