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  I Didn't Do It The Fatal Formby
Year: 1945
Director: Marcel Varnel
Stars: George Formby, Billy Caryll, Hilda Mundy, Gaston Palmer, Jack Daley, Carl Jaffe, Marjorie Browne, Wally Patch, Ian Fleming, Vincent Holman, Dennis Wyndham, Jack Raine, Georgina Cookson, Merle Tottenham, Dennis McCloud, The Boswell Twins
Genre: Musical, Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: George Trotter (George Formby) has moved down from Manchester to London seeking his fame and fortune on the stage, as he had agreed with a star whose autograph he got once back home. So he has naively given up his job at a cotton mill and is now visiting the same boarding house Terry O'Rourke (Jack Daley) lives in, hoping for help in following his dreams. When he gets inside he overhears the man giving advice to one of the boarders and George makes note of it: never say you're out of money, always say you have wads of cash...

If that was sounding like the beginnings of a typical Formby movie with all the comic misunderstandings that entailed, then what it actually became was something rather out of character for the megastar. Now the Second World War was over, tastes were changing and George couldn't be seen fighting the Nazis again, so while he was as popular in the music hall as ever, on the big screen audiences were looking for something a bit different to all that comic propaganda which had been his stock in trade for the past six years. All that was to explain why this time around, this was a more mature Formby flick than before.

Obviously his songs were always going to be rife with double entendres for adults to catch even if his younger fans did not, and there were three saucy ditties he performed here which included some of his nearest the knuckle material, including the not exactly hidden meanings of She's Got Two of Everything. But there was another way this was more grownup than usual, and that was in the plot as George is framed for murder, a crime we see in rather more gloating detail than you might have expected from the era, and earning the film an A certificate which surprised many around the time of its release.

Formby was still his gormless but cheery self, or he was until the murder charge came up at any rate (and even after he still had time for a song to take his mind off things), but here that innocence was twisted into a liability as he was taken advantage of by the killer. Indeed, the whole take on showbusiness was caustic to say the least, on this evidence a hotbed of double dealings, ill-feeling and outright deception as the acts clawed their way to somewhere near the middle. For a start, George is duped into putting up the money for the boarders to put on a show, money he simply does not have, and it's uncomfortable to see him exploited in this fashion by people acting out of sheer greed and self interest.

But that's nothing compared to that murder plot, as a resident of the house sees his chance for revenge on a man who left him in a very bad way some years before. He is calling himself Hilary Vance (Carl Jaffe), and when a trapeze entrepreneur (yes, there were such things) walks through the doors looking for somewhere to stay, he recognises him as the chap who slighted him way back when, leaving him scarred and crippled after a stunt went wrong, and sets about planning his death. Something he succeeds in during one of the grimmest sequences in all of Formby's work, although the star was not present for the killing, his character being a heavy sleeper which is just as well for the plot seeing as how Vance's scheme is nothing short of elaborate. As if that were not bad enough, then he goes after George when it looks as if any conviction might be shaky. There may have been a few, scattered laughs, and the songs were good, but this was one sour comedy vehicle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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