Old Bill and Son

Last updated

Old Bill and Son
Old Bill and Son (1941 film).jpg
Directed by Ian Dalrymple
Screenplay by
Based onstory Old Bill by Bruce Bairnsfather
Produced by
Cinematography Georges Perinal
Edited by Charles Crichton
Music by
Legeran Films
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
  • 1 March 1941 (1941-03-01)(UK)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Language English

Old Bill and Son is a 1941 British black-and-white comedy war film directed by Ian Dalrymple. Centred on the First World War cartoon figure Old Bill and his escapades in the early Phoney War of World War II and with that character's creator Bruce Bairnsfather as one of its screenwriters, it stars Morland Graham, John Mills, Mary Clare and Ronald Shiner as Herbert 'Bert' Smith. [1] It is executive produced by Alexander Korda for Legeran Films.



Old Bill, an old First World War soldier, argues with his son Young Bill about the latter not holding down a job. Soon afterwards the Second World War breaks out and Young Bill and the family lodger Sally both join up. Envious of them and despite his wife Maggie's entreaties not to, Old Bill attempts to join up but is turned down at the recruiting office and by his old commanding officer, who Old Bill had hoped would pull strings for him. He is finally successful, joining the Royal Pioneer Corps, and both he and his son are sent to France. There Old Bill helps his son dig a Universal Carrier out of the mud and meets his long-lost friend Canuck, a poilu in the previous war and now a hotelier, and his daughter Françoise.

Young Bill attempts to woo Françoise against competition from another soldier who - unlike him - can speak French. He also tricks his father into sleeping in a bed at Canuck's hotel which has actually been reserved by the colonel of Young Bill's regiment, but takes the blame when the colonel discovers the ruse. The colonel turns out to have a lieutenant in Old Bill's First World War regiment and so gets him attached to Young Bill's regiment. Soon afterwards a letter arrives from Maggie stating that she too has joined up.

Sally arrives at the Bills' base again as driver to the singer Stella Malloy, who has been sent to the wrong unit for a concert party, so the colonel has Old Bill organise one for his regiment instead. Young Bill bids farewell to his father, stating that his affections have returned from Françoise to Sally, just before joining a squad from the regiment on a raid to capture a German prisoner. He does not return from the raid and Old Bill and Canuck go to find him, only to find him and a friend guarding a large group of German prisoners. They march the prisoners back to base together as Canuck and the two Bills discuss the differences between German soldiers and those of free nations such as Britain and France.


Critical reception

In contemporary reviews, The Manchester Guardian wrote, "The plot is a disconnected business, a series of episodes of the sort we usually call picaresque when we really mean stragglesome. It is, in fact, as glaringly unkempt and untidy as Old Bill's famous moustache which that delightful actor Morland Graham wears with conviction and distinction," and The Sunday Express wrote, "chalk up a hit for Morland Graham on this picture as Old Bill...it's an amusing highly sentimental affair written in the authentic language of the Front with no attempt to be subtle...a pity to see so fine an actor as John Mills in so empty a part." [2]

Related Research Articles

Battle of the Thames War of 1812 battle

The Battle of the Thames, also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, was an American victory in the War of 1812 against Tecumseh's Confederacy and their British allies. It took place on October 5, 1813, in Upper Canada, near Chatham. The British lost control of Southwestern Ontario as a result of the battle; Tecumseh was killed, and his confederacy largely fell apart.

Roger Livesey British actor (1906–1976)

Roger Livesey was a British stage and film actor. He is most often remembered for the three Powell & Pressburger films in which he starred: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going! and A Matter of Life and Death. Tall and broad with a mop of chestnut hair, Livesey used his highly distinctive husky voice, gentle manner and athletic physique to create many notable roles in his theatre and film work.

Herbert Stewart British general

Major-General Sir Herbert Stewart was a British soldier.

Henrik von Rehbinder (1604–1680) was a Swedish soldier and Friherre of the Udriku estate in Swedish Estonia.

The Starbuck Chronicles are a series of historical fiction novels by British author Bernard Cornwell set during the American Civil War. They follow the exploits of Boston-born Confederate officer Nathaniel Starbuck.

Charley's War was a British comic strip about the First World War, written by Pat Mills and drawn by Joe Colquhoun.

Bruce Bairnsfather British artist

Captain Charles Bruce Bairnsfather was a prominent British humorist and cartoonist. His best-known cartoon character is Old Bill. Bill and his pals Bert and Alf featured in Bairnsfather's weekly "Fragments from France" cartoons published weekly in The Bystander magazine during the First World War.

The 17th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was popularly known as the Irish Brigade, due to its composition of mostly Irish American immigrants.

Griffith Rutherford Revolutionary War Officer

Griffith Rutherford was an officer in the American Revolutionary War, a political leader in North Carolina, and an important figure in the early history of the Southwest Territory and the state of Tennessee.

Battle of Ramsours Mill June 20, 1780 battle during the American Revolutionary War

The Battle of Ramsour's Mill took place on June 20, 1780 in present-day Lincolnton, North Carolina, during the British campaign to gain control of the southern colonies in the American Revolutionary War. The number of fighters on each side of the battle is still an issue of contention, but Loyalist militiamen outnumbered Patriot militia and had captured a group of Patriots who they were planning to hang on the morning of June 20.

Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge 18th and 19th-century American military officer and politician

Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge was an American physician, lawyer, farmer, and military officer who served as a colonel in the Massachusetts militia during the American Revolutionary War. Woodbridge was a commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and also owned a rum still, a wood lot, a grazing meadow, and a mill, and came to be the wealthiest man in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Colonel Woodbridge was also a member of the Massachusetts legislature for many years.

Old Bill (comics)

Old Bill is a fictional character created in 1914–15 by cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather. Old Bill was depicted as an elderly, pipe-smoking British "tommy" with a walrus moustache. The character achieved a great deal of popularity during World War I where it was considered a major morale booster for the British troops. Old Bill and his younger troopmate little Alphie were private infantrymen in the British Expeditionary Force.

<i>The Better Ole</i>

The Better 'Ole, also called The Romance of Old Bill, is an Edwardian musical comedy with a book by Bruce Bairnsfather and Arthur Elliot, music by Herman Darewski, and lyrics by Percival Knight and James Heard, based on the cartoon character Old Bill, an infantryman, drawn by Bairnsfather. In the musical, Old Bill intercepts a spy's plan to destroy a bridge, trapping a French regiment after they cross it. Bill saves them by blowing up the bridge before they pass; his actions are misunderstood, however, and he is arrested for disobeying orders and holding an enemy document. After Victoire explains the situation, Bill is released and given a medal.

William O'Shaughnessy, The O'Shaughnessy was an Irish Chief and Major-General.

<i>Flying Fifty-Five</i> 1939 British film

Flying Fifty-Five is a 1939 British sports-drama film directed by Reginald Denham and starring Derrick De Marney, Nancy Burne, Marius Goring, John Warwick and Peter Gawthorne. It was made by Admiral Films at Welwyn Studios. The film is based on a 1922 novel of the same name by Edgar Wallace which had previously been made into a 1924 silent film The Flying Fifty-Five.

1st Maryland Infantry Regiment (Confederate) Military unit

The 1st Maryland Infantry, CSA was a regiment of the Confederate army, formed shortly after the commencement of the American Civil War in April 1861. The unit was made up of volunteers from Maryland who, despite their home state remaining in the Union during the war, chose instead to fight for the Confederacy. The regiment saw action at the First Battle of Manassas, in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and in the Peninsular Campaign. It was mustered out of service in August 1862, its initial term of duty having expired. Many of its members, unable or unwilling to return to Union-occupied Maryland, went on to join a new regiment, the 2nd Maryland Infantry, CSA, which was formed in its place.

Mounted Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard Military unit

The Mounted Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard constituted a light cavalry regiment in the Consular, then Imperial Guard during the French Consulate and First French Empire respectively. They were the second senior "Old Guard" cavalry regiment of the Imperial Guard, after the Grenadiers à Cheval. The regiment had its origins in the Guides raised by General Bonaparte during his Italian Campaign of 1796. It was the Chasseurs that usually provided personal escort to Napoleon, and he often wore the uniform of the regiment in recognition of this service. The regiment was not only known for its lavish uniform, but its combat history as well.

The plan of raising a fencible corps in the Highlands was first proposed and carried into effect by William Pitt the Elder, in the year 1759. During the three preceding years both the fleets and armies of Great Britain had suffered reverses, and it was thought that a "home guard" was necessary as a bulwark against invasion.

Murder in the Big House is a black-and-white American crime drama, released by Warner Bros in April 1942. Structured as an hour-long second feature, it is directed by the prolific specialist in low-budget action productions, B. Reeves Eason, and stars Van Johnson, who is top-billed above the title, in his first credited film role which represents the entire output of his six-month contract with the studio.

<i>The Better Ole</i> (1926 film) 1926 film

The Better 'Ole is a 1926 American silent World War I comedy drama film. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., this film is the second full-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc process, two months after the first Vitaphone feature Don Juan; with no audible dialogue, the film does have a synchronized musical score and sound effects. This film was also the second onscreen adaptation of the 1917 musical The Better 'Ole by Bruce Bairnsfather and Arthur Elliot. Charlie Chaplin's eldest brother Sydney Chaplin played the main lead as Old Bill in perhaps his best-known film today. This film is also believed by many to have the first spoken word of dialog, "coffee", although there are those who disagree. At one point during the film, Harold Goodwin's character whispers a word to Sydney Chaplin which is also faintly heard.


  1. "Old Bill & Son (1941)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009.
  2. Holt, Major; Holt, Mrs (31 December 1990). The Biography of Captain Bruce Bairnsfather: In Search of the Better 'Ole. Pen and Sword. ISBN   9781473827233 via Google Books.