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  Sailors Three You Tricky People
Year: 1940
Director: Walter Forde
Stars: Tommy Trinder, Claude Hulbert, Clara Lehmann, Michael Wilding, James Hayter, Jeanne de Casalis, Henry Hewitt, Brian Fitzpatrick, John Laurie, Harold Warrender, Eric Clavering, John Glyn-Jones, Julian Vedey, John Wengraf, Manning Whiley, Victor Fairley
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Second World War is underway, and these three friends have signed up for the Navy, a profession they are confident will be the most fun a man can have: singing, dancing, beguiling any women in the vicinity, the lot. The leader, Tommy Taylor (Tommy Trinder) is always eager to indulge in all three of those, with his pals Admiral (Claude Hulbert) and Johnny (Michael Wilding) backing him, though currently, with their ship the HMS Ferocious trying and failing to track down a Nazi battleship across the North and South Atlantic, their thoughts turn to the opposite sex. Admiral, who is not an admiral, thinks he has a solution for his mates, as his sister Jane (Clara Lehmann) may crop up on their trip, but the other two take one glance at her photo and think, "No way!"

Tommy Trinder had risen through the ranks of the music hall in Britain to become very popular on the stage, and used that to establish himself in radio, then the movies. He had appeared in two or three films before Sailors Three with middling interest from the public, but come the war his cheeky Cockney chappie persona was perfect for propaganda purposes, so as well as entertaining the troops by touring the war's hotspots, he made stuff like this to be shown to those places he could make it to, as well as back home. They were among the most popular of their kind, rivalling even George Formby's efforts which were not dissimilar in irreverent tone, though once the conflict was won Trinder found himself associated with it too much and struggled a little to resume his former hits.

Nevertheless, he was too canny to stay down for long, and television offered him another medium to exploit to his advantage, famously hosting Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the fifties, for instance. But what of those wartime pieces, did they stand up? In the case of Sailors Three, obviously this was going to be very fixed in a specific time rather than a timeless entertainment (you could argue no entertainment is truly timeless), but for a sprightly diversion fronted by Trinder's Jack the Lad performance, it was interesting to see how the British conscripts saw themselves through the prism of this comedian. Doubtless there would be those who were not so keen, but for the majority Tommy epitomised the chirpy Brit abroad, setting the world to rights with a laugh and a song, and impressing the ladies with his quick wits.

The plot sees the trio dock in South America where they, well, try to get laid, basically, though it was not depicted in such crude terms. Jane is there and after a bit of subterfuge reveals herself to be very attractive, so the joke's on Tommy and Johnny, though not for long. Through some convolutions and alcohol being imbibed, the three Jolly Jack Tars end up accidentally boarding the very German ship their superiors were searching for, and even more unlikely, take it over, leading to the grand finale where they fend off attacks by both Nazis and their own side. Wilding, though handsome, was never an enthusiastic celebrity, and even now is best known for a brief marriage to megastar Elizabeth Taylor, while Hulbert was a character comedian with what was known as a "silly ass" persona, that is an upper-class buffoon of the kind who you don't see much of now outside of politics. They were such a good team that they reunited for a sequel, the bizarre Fiddlers Three (with a time travel theme), but what you had here was a more typical, wartime British trinket to keep the public happy for an hour and a half, and for that, perfectly fine.

[Network release this as part of The British Film on Blu-ray with an image gallery and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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