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  Keep Your Seats, Please Will You Take The Chair?
Year: 1936
Director: Monty Banks
Stars: George Formby, Florence Desmond, Gus McNaughton, Alastair Sim, Harry Tate, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Hal Gordon, Tom Payne, Beatrix Fielden-Kaye, Margaret Moffatt, Maud Gill, Clifford Heatherley, Binkie Stuart, Ethel Coleridge, Dame May Whitty
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Georgina Withers (Dame May Whitty) is close to her demise, so has drawn up a will for her fortune which she is handing over to her solicitor, Drayton (Alastair Sim) today, but not before she hides a lot of money and jewelry in one of her chairs. When she gives Drayton the will, she tells him to give a letter to her nephew George (George Formby), the black sheep of the family but the only one who has not tried to wheedle money out of her. While all this is happening, George, a concert performer, is trying to pawn his banjolele so he can afford to stay in his lodgings, but having no luck - though that luck is about to change...

As you may have guessed from the introduction, Keep Your Seats, Please was one of the first films to utilise the old Russian play The Twelve Chairs, a hoary old collection of clich├ęs now, but it must have seemed fresh back in 1936 when Formby was at the height of his powers. This is one of his best efforts, even if the nature of the plot means that it comes across as positively ancient and besides, you know that when he is tracking down the chairs to find the fortune it won't be uncovered until the last five minutes of the film, so in effect you're well aware of the ending far ahead of its actual arrival. But with the star at the top of his game, it doesn't matter too much.

Audiences in the thirties knew what they were going to get and that predictability was most of the entertainment value: a bit of gormless comedy, some slapstick, and almost the most important aspect, George gets to sing a few songs although in this one he could have done with singing a few more. To make up for the relative scarcity of musical interludes, one of the songs he regales us with is his most famous, "When I'm Cleaning Windows", which he treats a music teacher to (she prefers it to the crooning she is supposed to be instructing him in, by all appearances). So if there's not much music in this musical, what else is there?

Formby had perfected his innocent act, some would say he wasn't acting that much in fact, and so when his character finds out he has secretly inherited the contents of one of six chairs, he is delighted. There is a complication in that when he wins them at auction, he cannot afford to pay, so the chairs are split up among those attending and the chase is on. As I say, George is the innocent here, cannot be the instigator of the scheme to get back what is owed him, so step forward Gus McNaughton as Max, a chancer who sets himself up as George's new accomplice, on the understanding that he takes an ever-increasing cut of the proceeds. But he is not the only one who is tagging along behind our hero.

Florence Desmond, co-star of Formby's previous film No Limit, meets cute with George when they accidentally share a bedroom, and is set up as the love interest almost immediately when it turns out she is in charge of her little niece Binkie, played by Britain's answer to Shirley Temple, Binkie Stuart. She was an interesting girl, only three when she made this, almost completely forgotten today but was a minor sensation in the thirties until the war ended her career prematurely (it didn't help that her tyrannical father spent all her earnings). She was a real natural in front of the camera and has a great rapport with Formby, which is so sweet you can just about forget the alarming treatment of the goat later on, an animal which everyone believes has swallowed the hoard. Also surprising is the way Formby often beats up Sim, who is playing his rival, he doesn't seem the type who would resort to violence. But that apart, this is bright and breezy throughout, just crazy enough to appeal even today.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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