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  1. #1
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    We just saw Passport to Pimlico. We found it humorous but we did not have the same very positive reaction we had to Kind Hearts and Coronets -- another British comedy of the same year, 1949, I think. Perhaps, Passport had too many characters and too many political activities going on to be very engaging. Kind Hearts had focused characterization and a streamlined plot. Yes, there were 8 relative characters to be murdered -- but they were all played by one (great) actor. Both movies seemed quintessential British to us (but what do we know). What I mean is that both movies start with a single wild premise ( What if you were only a few relatives away from a royal title? vs. What if your town could become an independent country?) and delelop that premise to extreme and absurd lengths. Is that typical of British houmor? I see it in Monty Pyton (What if Brian were a messiah?, etc.)

    Tom

  2. #2
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    One thing to remember about Passport to Pimlico is to think of it in the context of when it was made. There was still rationing in the UK in 1949. Bread had never been rationed during the war but was put on the ration in 1946. Rationing didn't end here until 1954 on some things. So it's no wonder that the population of "Pimlico" is happy when they get a chance to break away from it.



    The single absurd (or sometimes not so absurd) premise taken to extremes is one of many sources for comedy here. We laugh at many things



    Steve

  3. #3
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    Passport to Pimlico was something of a history lesson as well as top-notch comedy. I could appreciate that, even though you are all quite right that I do not have the experiential context to understand post-WWII Britian and rationing. I do have memories of my Mother talking about her use of ration books in NYC's Little Italy during WWII. In fact, she would often say that once in 1942 she went down to the Paramount Theatre to see Frank Sinatra and, along with hundreds of other screaming teens, offer him her ration book! The context that is totally missing for me and many US Americans is that of the terror of the bombings. I can only imagine the ambivalence with which many British approached a comedy about exploding live WWII bombs. Then again, perhaps that's the point. We laugh about that which we most fear. The alternative is to cry. Thank you all for your insights. Passport to Pimlico is now a richer experience for me. Tom

    P.S. Freddy's brilliant other mini-history post makes clear the diverse trends that make up British comedy. I have much to explore.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I found this film after posting a thread on “London on Film” in the 1930s and 40s:



    http://filmdope.com/forums/as...30s-1940s.html



    Several posters included helpful suggestions and Steve Crook included a list that, in turn, included this film.



    It certainly is a gem of location filming, and more than worth seeing for that reason alone. Of course, it also a well-done – and unique – comedy that could not have been made anywhere else, or even at any other time.



    I had certainly heard of it, but I saw it for the first time just a few days ago. Maybe it will seem surprising to the British posters, but at first I found it slightly inaccessible. That is an enjoyable challenge for me, as British films are close to what I know in some ways, and yet utterly different.



    I had not seen this world of post-war austerity portrayed on film before. There is a slight tone of harsh sadness that accompanies the humor, and the setting of genuine sacrifice that makes the story itself understandable. It took some time to become accustomed to it. Also, in the early scenes I could not understand some of the dialogue. I don't mean that I couldn't grasp the meaning. I mean that I literally didn't understand some of the words, because the speech was so rapid.



    By the time the people of Pimlico (Pimlicans? I never did figure that out) discover they are on Burgundian soil I was completely absorbed in this odd mixture of comedy, fantasy and harsh reality.



    My favorite scenes:



    Margaret Rutherford holding forth in a hot and crowded courtroom on the convoluted history of the Burgundian connection.



    All of the wonderfully clever and witty “documentary footage” that combine real news scenes with the Pimlico drama.



    The battle over water for Pimlico.



    The customs check on the London subway as the new Burgundy frontier is crossed



    And the best scene in the film: the spontaneous generosity of Londoners as they toss food to the hungry Pimlico/Burgundians, at first from a gathered crowd, and then from by any conceivable means.



    My one complaint: There isn't enough of Margaret Rutherford.



    But is there ever?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    What a lady Margaret Rutherford was! Everyone's ideal favourite auntie how could you not love her? Lovely choice TimR, it has pride of place in my collection and you covered the best bits very well. For a Brit you could also add that the cast had a wealth of very popular characters and the 'cor blimey' language element was not forced. Also these 1940's films were made with passion for one, we had or were surviving a very traumatic period in our history which all levels of society had shared and secondly, the art of the cinema was at a high level. In the film there is a scene where septic tanks used in the war as water reservoirs for the fire service were used for bathing. I can remember being forbidden to use them.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernardo
    What a lady Margaret Rutherford was! Everyone's ideal favourite auntie how could you not love her? Lovely choice TimR, it has pride of place in my collection and you covered the best bits very well. For a Brit you could also add that the cast had a wealth of very popular characters and the 'cor blimey' language element was not forced. Also these 1940's films were made with passion for one, we had or were surviving a very traumatic period in our history which all levels of society had shared and secondly, the art of the cinema was at a high level. In the film there is a scene where septic tanks used in the war as water reservoirs for the fire service were used for bathing. I can remember being forbidden to use them.
    Thanks for the comments, Benardo. Interesting.



    There are so many well-made and moving documentaries and other films made about Britain just before and during the war. It is rare for me to see something that deals with that extraordinary period of austerity.



    I recognized several of the character actors you mention from other films, and very different roles: Stanley Holloway, Raymond Huntley and Hermione Baddeley.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: UK EHV_Emmetts's Avatar
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    Passport to Pimlico (1949)



    A throughly enjoyable film which manages to turn the harsh realities of post-war Britain with it ration books, unexploded bombs, into humour.



    It was a vehicle for a large contingent of British character actors such as Stanley Holloway, Philip Stainton, Sydney Tafler. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne playing the befuddled Foreign Office officials.



    Welcome back TimR.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    Ealing originally wanted Alastair Sim to play the Professor and Jack Warner to play Pemberton (he decided to do the Blue Lamp instead).

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    It's a lovely wistful film but one where Ealing were showing they were slightly behind the times; in fact the railways could almost be a metaphor for Ealing Studios. Times had moved on and both were failing to modernize. Maybe it captures our romanticised tho not entirely practical love affair with the steam train.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EHV_Emmetts
    Passport to Pimlico (1949)

    A throughly enjoyable film which manages to turn the harsh realities of post-war Britain with it ration books, unexploded bombs, into humour.

    It was a vehicle for a large contingent of British character actors such as Stanley Holloway, Philip Stainton, Sydney Tafler. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne playing the befuddled Foreign Office officials.
    Yes - the tone of the film is very unusual. I can't think of anything that is exactly equivalent. There are other comedies that address harsh realities, but I can't hink of another that has this mix of documentary and satire as well.



    Welcome back TimR.
    Thanks

  11. #11
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    Classic Ealing comedy that I only saw for the first time relatively recently.

    Love it :-)

  12. #12
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    One of my favourite of the Ealings (Kind Hearts and Coronets being my own number one). I love the bit with the parachuting pigs. Floreat Burgundia!

  13. #13
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I caught some of it just as I was having a tea break. I switched it on just in time to catch one of the best scenes:

    Fred Cowan: You can't push English people around like sacks of potatoes.

    Jim Garland: English?

    Connie Pemberton: Don't you come that stuff, Jim Garland! We always were English, and we'll always be English, and it's just because we are English that we're sticking up for our rights to be Burgundians!







    Steve

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: England Number Six's Avatar
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    An English film classic if ever there was one - and a nice surprise when I came in from washing the car for a sit-down and cup of tea! Great to see a young Charles Hawtry tickling the ivories too!!!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: UK Merton Park's Avatar
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    Passport to Pimlico is still very funny. Wonderful timeless piece of real British Cinema and its eccentricities.

  16. #16
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    I am just enjoying this classic.



    Was the similarity to the Berlin Air lift just a coincidence ? The dates are very close. I had to explain the Berlin Air lift to a supposedly educated chap recently, he has never heard of it.



    It must be one of the earliest film appearrances of a helicopter too.

  17. #17
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PS68060

    I am just enjoying this classic.

    Was the similarity to the Berlin Air lift just a coincidence ? The dates are very close. I had to explain the Berlin Air lift to a supposedly educated chap recently, he has never heard of it.

    It must be one of the earliest film appearrances of a helicopter too.
    The milk and the pig arriving by air are stronger references to the Berlin airlift



    Steve

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    The airlift started in July 1948 which was roughly the same time that Passport to Pimlico was being filmed. If there's a direct reference, it was quick work on the part of TEB Clarke.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: England
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    One of the newspaper headlines says Airlift and the scene of the train passengers throwing things out reminded me of stories of the airlift pilots dropping sweets on handky parachutes for the children.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    True. Berlin wasn't the first airlift though and the term had been in use for a few years. I guess you'd need the filming dates to be sure. It's a complicated sequence to be added at the last moment.

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