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  Our Miss Fred More Than A Woman
Year: 1972
Director: Bob Kellett
Stars: Danny La Rue, Alfred Marks, Lance Percival, Lally Bowers, Frances de la Tour, Walter Gotell, Sophie Bachelor, Vanessa Furse, Kristin Hatfield, Jenny Twigge, Seretta Wilson, Noel Coleman, André Maranne, Frank Thornton, Cyril Shaps, Barrie Gosney
Genre: Comedy, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fred Wimbush (Danny La Rue) is a serious stage actor who is about to offer his Hamlet to the British public, but unfortunately for him the Second World War intervenes. He is recruited into the army and trains as a mechanic, but while there he still gets to perform, only this time as a drag act in one of the army's stage troupes. So it that Fred is halfway through one of his performances in France when the Nazis interrupt and arrest his entire company - but not him, as he is dressed as a woman. Escaping in heels and a spangly gown might not be everyone's idea of a great disguise, but it will have to do...

Danny La Rue was Britain's foremost female impersonator for decades, but you were more likely to see his act on stage than on screen. He would make forays onto television, but his movie career pretty much began and ended with Our Miss Fred, a camp wartime farce that was written especially for him. At the time it was felt that the film format showed up his inadequacies, but seeing it now he didn't look all that out of place, firing off a wealth of double entendres in the Carry On style and more than holding his own (well, nobody was going to hold it for him).

Directed by Bob Kellett, who helmed the not-dissimilar Up the Front for Frankie Howerd the same year (although that was set in World War One), the film doubled as a Boy's Own adventure - or a Woman's Own adventure, at least - and while there was no doubt that Fred was going to win the day, it was entertaining to see how he extricated himself from various scrapes. He is not alone in this, as he teams up with two schoolteachers, Miss Flodden (Lally Bowers) and Miss Lockhart (Frances de la Tour doing her best Joyce Grenfell) and their group of five schoolgirls (played by actresses in their twenties, naturally).

The joke is that no one is aware of Fred's true gender and he has to keep it a secret so he is not shot as a spy in occupied France. Perhaps a bigger joke is that Fred cannot wait to get out of his frocks and get his hands on the ladies: Hugh Leonard's script often will have him asserting his supposed heterosexuality, in humorous form granted but after a while you think they doth protest too much. In light of a central setpiece which has La Rue put on as many sparkling dresses as possible in a five minute period the gags about Fred having to contain himself around the females ring a little hollow.

That said, Our Miss Fred does have the distinction of featuring every permutation of transvestite jokes from the beginning of time to circa 1972, with the expected "more than a woman" to the smuttier end of the spectrum. There may not be a rendition of "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep", but you do get La Rue leading the girls in a version of "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" as they travel through idyllic country lanes, and there just had to be the German general (Alfred Marks) who falls for our hero and invites him to a potentially awkward dinner, didn't there? Add Lance Percival as a upper crust air force officer who is the only one who knows about Fred's true identity and you have a goodnatured comedy which, while you can see why La Rue's prospects in cinema might have been limited, also proved he was no dead loss in front of the camera either. Music by Peter Greenwell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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