Bees in Paradise

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Bees in Paradise
"Bees in Paradise" (1944).jpg
British trade ad
Directed by Val Guest
Written by Marriott Edgar
Val Guest
Produced by Edward Black
Starring Arthur Askey
Anne Shelton
Peter Graves
Cinematography Phil Grindrod
Edited by R. E. Dearing
Music by Louis Levy
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
20 March 1944
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Bees in Paradise is a 1944 British musical comedy film directed by Val Guest and starring Arthur Askey, Anne Shelton and Peter Graves. [1] It was produced by Edward Black at Gainsborough Pictures. Co-written by director Val Guest and comic Marriott Edgar, who wrote for Will Hay and the Crazy Gang and composed some of Stanley Holloway's famous monologues; this is a lesser known Askey vehicle. [2]



The Queen of Paradise Island, an uncharted isle somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean (northwest of Freetown, Sierra Leone), is not happy. The town crier of the all-female hive-like colony (around two thousand strong) has just reported that there have only been two births within the last eighteen months and both of them were boys. As the Queen points out to Jani, her Minister of Propaganda: the only thing worse than boys is men. She demands more marriages, even going as far to think about passing conscription into law. However, Jani points out that the drones (which is how the inhabitants of this island refer to men) are not willing to marry because after a two-month honeymoon the bridegrooms are executed.

An Allied bomber plane gets into trouble. The four aircrew bail out and parachute down on Paradise Island. They are quickly captured by the native woman and Rouna, the colony's leading journalist, sets her eye on the diminutive Arthur Tucker, the mechanic.

Brought before the queen, the airmen try to ingratiate themselves. The queen explains that they are free to move around the island and if rescued they will be permitted to leave. However, she encourages them to stay and marry within the colony. She hints at the death sentence, but the airmen fail to pick up on the implication.

Escorted around the town by guards, Arthur confesses he might be in love with redheaded Jani. However, he has been betrothed to Rouana, who desperately flirts with him. He avoids her and continues to chase Jani, but to no avail. She is more interested in Peter, the pilot, who in turn has fallen in love with her. She tries to prevent his falling for her, as she knows it will result in his death.

Arthur and his friend Max sneak into the holy Temple of the Hive, where the island's law is written, and there they learn of the two-month honeymoon and subsequent death sentence. They also learn that the law states a betrothal occurs whenever a woman and a man share wine.

At the town's baths, Jani discovers that many of the islanders are disenchanted with how the men have been allocated. Jani tries to reassure everyone that no one is officially betrothed yet. Various ideas are thrown around, including communism. Jani decides to be noble and offers a solution (even if it means losing her chance of romance with Peter). The cup final of the island's rugby league takes place tomorrow; the winning team will draw lots and the lucky four who win will get the men.

The scheduled rugby match gets under way the next day, with Arthur refereeing. Arthur is knocked out during play and when he wakes in Rouana's home she tricks him into drinking wine with her. Panicked, Arthur flees.

With Peter and Jani's help, Arthur disguises himself as a maid in Jani's household. Arthur tries to convince Jani that he loves her, but she ignores him, and he is pounced on by Rouana again. Arthur makes a rooftop escape, but ends up falling through the roof of the queen's bedchamber. Arthur tries to explain to her that the island's laws are ridiculous, but the queen refuses to listen; however, she does not give him away when the palace guard rush in.

The next day, Rouana requests in court that the death sentence be waived for her and Arthur, as there is a precedent. Twenty years ago, one woman fell so in love with a man that the law was overturned. However, when Arthur is put on the witness stand, he admits he does not love Rouana. This results in his being condemned to death (by being forced to leap off the highest cliff).

By the morning of the execution, Ronnie, the aircrew's radio operator, has managed to repair the plane's radio. Rescue is on its way. Arthur is rescued by Ronnie and Max in drag, and they all escape to the beach, where Jani has arranged for a boat to be waiting for them.



(All songs written by Val Guest and Manning Sherwin.)


Ostensibly set on a tropical island, the movie was filmed on location in Torquay. Askey records in his autobiography that whilst filming the crew was strafed by the Luftwaffe and he was slightly injured as a result. [3]

Critical reception

David Parkinson wrote in the Radio Times , "there's a sauciness to the dialogue and lyrics that makes it rather risqué for its time"; [2] and TV Guide called the film "a silly notion gone crazy...Not only that, but we get music, too, which is about as frothy as the premise"; [4] while Mexcine noted it as "fun, well-produced, with (a) cast of polished performers and witty dialogue," and praised a "superb example" of "British cinema of the war era, (which) can serve as societal document of that period, while at the same time retaining (a) very high entertainment quotient." [5]

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  1. "BFI | Film & TV Database | BEES IN PARADISE (1944)". 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 David Parkinson. "Bees in Paradise". Radio Times.
  3. Askey 1975: 129–130
  4. "Bees in Paradise". TV Guide.
  5. "Bees in Paradise (1944) review - Tumblr".