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  Run for Your Money, A Welsh Wonders
Year: 1949
Director: Charles Frend
Stars: Donald Houston, Meredith Edwards, Moira Lister, Alec Guinness, Hugh Griffith, Clive Morton, Julie Minton, Peter Edwards, Joyce Grenfell, Leslie Perrins, Dorothy Bramhall, Andrew Leigh, Edward Rigby, Desmond Walter-Ellis, Mackenzie Ward, Marianne Stone
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: In this Welsh mining village, which naturally has a name unpronounceable for those outsiders who hear it, the two Jones brothers, Dai (Donald Houston) and Twm (Meredith Edwards) are down the pit when they get word from the surface that the boss wants to see them urgently. Understandably concerned, they make their way up to the office, with many of the other miners following out of curiosity, only to discover the news is good: both of them have won a competition, and if they leave now on the train they can collect their two hundred pounds of winnings in London! And to make it even better, they have two tickets to Twickenham for the rugby!

1949 was a big year for Ealing Comedy, as also out were acknowledged classics like Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets, which have lingered longer in the memory than A Run for Your Money, which at the time was just as popular, yet considered more of a trifle, a bit of fun with nothing important about it. Significantly, the other comedy the studio released that year was Whisky Galore! and that could be regarded as the Scottish equivalent to this, in that it followed and championed Celtic characters in contrast to the English they encountered, though the Scots did not have to leave their homes to do so, and the Welsh here were more like tourists.

As it was, Whisky Galore! went down very well North of the Border, and to this day is remembered fondly there, while A Run for Your Money was seen as somewhat patronising in Wales and did not catch on in the same manner. Legend has it audiences outside of that part of the country warmed to the portrayal of these two, naive country boys, however, but the disdain the locals felt hung around and contributed to the picture sliding from view, meaning you would only be able to see it if you sought it out. Yet it is ripe for reappraisal, and actually held its own with the more satirical contemporaries Ealing was releasing at the time, it was purely a loveable adventure.

Houston would go on to a degree of stardom and was the most recognisable of the brothers, while Edwards was a proud Welshman who preferred to stick with smaller roles that reflected his background, therefore you would be forgiven for not knowing his name. In fact, they did not share many scenes together, for once the siblings reach the capital they are split up, Dai heading off with conwoman Jo (Moira Lister) and Twm with Welsh drunk Huw (Hugh Griffith, who else?) for various near misses and sightseeing as they are almost, but not quite, parted from their prize money. That is collected at the newspaper offices where the gardening columnist Whimple is corralled into showing them around and ensuring they get to the Wales v England match. He was played by Alec Guinness (without his wig!) as a snob, making his hassles more comical.

This is a film that probably has got better with age; its nearest Scottish equivalent would not be the whisky story, but the slightly later Geordie, another charmer with Celtic connections. That too detailed the tale of innocents in the Big Smoke, and also had a sense of benevolent amusement about them, not letting anything that they could not cope with happen to them for the brothers here in particular entertained a relentless good nature and optimism which may have seen them prone to exploitation, but also the better feelings of all who meet them. Even Jo, who is a hardhearted criminal, finds herself melting when Dai proves too appealing to take advantage of (her cohort is less convinced), and the whole tone of the piece was seeing the best in people, with even the Londoners essayed as broadly as the Welsh, but with true generosity of spirit. It might not have been as substantial as the other three 49'ers, but it was just as delightful, with Welsh choirs much in evidence on the soundtrack to ensure it sounded terrific. Underrated and well worth reviving.

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

 

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