|Passport to Pimlico|
|Directed by||Henry Cornelius|
|Written by||T. E. B. Clarke|
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Edited by||Michael Truman|
|Music by||Georges Auric|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors (UK)|
Passport to Pimlico is a 1949 British comedy film made by Ealing Studios and starring Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford and Hermione Baddeley. It was directed by Henry Cornelius and written by T. E. B. Clarke. The story concerns the unearthing of treasure and documents that lead to a small part of Pimlico to be declared a legal part of the House of Burgundy, and therefore exempt from the post-war rationing or other bureaucratic restrictions active in Britain at the time.
Passport to Pimlico explores the spirit and unity of wartime London in a post-war context and offers an examination of the English character. Like other Ealing comedies, the film pits a small group of British against a series of changes to the status quo from an external agent. The story was an original concept by the screenwriter T. E. B. Clarke. He was inspired by an incident during the Second World War, when the maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital was temporarily declared extraterritorial by the Canadian government so that when Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth, the baby was born on Dutch territory, and would not lose her right to the throne.
Passport to Pimlico was well-received on its release. The film was released in the same year as Whisky Galore! and Kind Hearts and Coronets , leading to 1949 being remembered as one of the peak years of the Ealing comedies. Passport to Pimlico was nominated for the British Academy Film Award for Best British Film and the Academy Award for Writing (Story and Screenplay). There have since been two BBC Radio adaptations: the first in 1952, the second in 1996.
The film's opening credits end with the words "dedicated to the memory of", with an image of Second World War British food and clothing ration coupons.
In post-Second World War London, an unexploded bomb detonates in Miramont Gardens, Pimlico. The explosion reveals a long-buried cellar containing artwork, coins, jewellery and an ancient manuscript. The document is authenticated by the historian Professor Hatton-Jones as a royal charter of Edward IV that ceded a house and its estates to Charles VII, the last Duke of Burgundy, when he sought refuge there after being presumed dead at the 1477 Battle of Nancy. As the charter had never been revoked, an area of Pimlico is declared to still be a legal part of Burgundy.
As the British government has no legal jurisdiction, it requires the local residents to form a representative committee according to the laws of the long-defunct dukedom before negotiating with them. Ancient Burgundian law requires that the duke himself appoint a council. Sébastien de Charolais arrives and presents his claim to the title, which is verified by Professor Hatton-Jones. He forms the governing body, which includes Spiller, the local policeman; Mr. Wix, the manager of the bank branch; and Arthur Pemberton, a neighbourhood shopkeeper, who is appointed as Burgundy's prime minister. The council begin discussions with the government, particularly about the Burgundian treasure.
After it dawns on people that Burgundy is not subject to post-war rationing or other bureaucratic restrictions, the district is quickly flooded with black marketeers and shoppers. Spiller is unable to handle the rising tide of problems by himself. In response, the British authorities surround the Burgundian territory with barbed wire. The residents retaliate against what they see as heavy-handed bureaucratic action; they stop a London Underground train as it passes through Burgundy, and ask to see passports of all passengers: those without documents are prevented from proceeding.
The British government retaliates by breaking off negotiations and isolating Burgundy. The residents are invited to "emigrate" to England, but few leave. Power, water and deliveries of food are all cut off at the border by the British. Late one night, the Burgundians covertly connect a hose to a nearby British water main and fill a bomb crater, solving the water problem, but this floods the food store. Unable to overcome this new problem, the Burgundians prepare to give up. Sympathetic Londoners begin to throw food parcels across the barrier, and soon others join in; the Burgundians have an ample supply, and decide to stay. A helicopter pumps milk through a hose and pigs are parachuted into the area.
Meanwhile, the British government comes under public pressure to resolve the situation. It becomes clear to the British diplomats assigned to find a solution that defeating the Burgundians through starvation is both difficult and unpopular with the British people, so they negotiate. The sticking point turns out to be the disposition of the unearthed treasure. Wix, now the Burgundian chancellor of the exchequer, suggests a Burgundian loan of the treasure to Britain. With the final piece of the deadlock eliminated, Burgundy reunites with Britain, which also sees the return of rationing for food and clothing to the area. The celebratory outdoor banquet is interrupted by heavy rain.
Passport to Pimlico contains numerous references to the Second World War and the postwar Labour Government to accentuate the spirit within the small Burgundian enclave. The scholar of film studies, Charles Barr, in his examination of the Ealing films, observes that in opposing the British government, the Burgundians "recover the spirit, the resilience and local autonomy and unity of wartime London". ... in miniature, the war experience of Britain itself". The film historian Mark Duguid, writing for the British Film Institute, considers that the opposition is a "yearning nostalgia for the social unity of the war years". The film historians Anthony Aldgate and Jeffrey Richards describe Passport to Pimlico as a progressive comedy because it upsets the established social order to promote the well-being of a community. The view of the community put forward in the film has been criticised as being anachronistic, as the wartime unity had already passed by 1949. According to Aldgate and Richards, the welcome return to the ration books at the end of the film signifies an acceptance that the measures of the British government are in the best interests of the people.Barr suggests the actions "re-enact,
The device of pitting a small group of British against a series of changes to the status quo from an external agent leads the British Film Institute to consider Passport to Pimlico, along with other of the Ealing comedies, as "conservative, but 'mildly anarchic' daydreams, fantasies".At the close of the story, when the summer heatwave turns to a torrential downpour, the film has "something of the quality of a fever-dream", according to Aldgate and Richards.
According to the film historian Robert Sellers, Passport to Pimlico "captures the most quintessential English traits of individualism, tolerance and compromise";Duguid sees the examination of the English character as being "at the heart" of the film. This was one of the aspects that appealed to Margaret Rutherford, who liked the way the British were portrayed "accentuating their individuality and decency, while acknowledging some parochial idiosyncracies".
Passport to Pimlico was produced by Michael Balcon, the head of Ealing Studios; he appointed Henry Cornelius as director.The film was one of three comedies to be produced simultaneously, alongside Whisky Galore! and Kind Hearts and Coronets ; all three were released into UK cinemas over two months.
The plot was an original story by T. E. B. Clarke, a writer of both comedy and drama scripts for Ealing; his other screenplays for the studio include Hue and Cry (1947), Against the Wind (1948), The Blue Lamp (1950), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).Clarke was inspired by an incident during the Second World War, when the maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital was temporarily declared extraterritorial by the Canadian government so that when the then-Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth to Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, the baby was born on Dutch territory, and would not lose her right to the throne. The airlift of food supplies into the Burgundian enclave was influenced by the flights of food and supplies during the Berlin Blockade of June 1948 – May 1949. The music for the film was composed by Georges Auric, who had been involved in several other productions for Ealing Studios.
The lead part of Pemberton was initially offered to Jack Warner. He turned down the role because he was committed to another film, and so the part was instead offered to Stanley Holloway.Alastair Sim was offered the role of Professor Hatton-Jones, but after he turned it down, Margaret Rutherford was cast instead.
Passport to Pimlico is set during a heatwave that occurred in Britain in 1947, but, despite this, filming took place during 1948's abnormally wet summer.The poor weather caused delays in production, which led to the film being over-time and over-budget. Shooting started early each day, in an attempt to get the first successful shot completed before 9:00 am. An average of ten takes a day were taken, in an attempt to get two and a half minutes of usable film per day. There were arguments between Cornelius and Balcon throughout the production, because Balcon was unhappy with what he saw as poor direction. Cornelius left Ealing Studios after working on Passport to Pimlico and did not work for the studio again.
The outdoor scenes were not shot in Pimlico, but about a mile away in Lambeth. A set was built on a large Second World War bombsite just south of the Lambeth Road at the junction of Hercules Road. At the conclusion of filming, the site had to be returned to the same bomb-damaged state as before, to enable the locals to claim war damage compensation.The site has since been built on, and now features 1960s municipal flats.
Passport to Pimlico was released into UK cinemas on 28 April 1949;the film was financially successful. For the US release on 23 October 1949, soil was imported and placed in front of the cinema; commissionaires in the uniform of a British policeman would hand out mock passports and invite passers-by to step onto English soil to see the film. The film was shown at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival, although it was not entered into the competition.
Critics warmly praised Passport to Pimlico on its release. ... [this] joy of a film should go to T. E. B. Clarke". The unnamed reviewer for The Monthly Film Bulletin considered that "every line, every 'gag', is a little masterpiece of wit", while the critic C. A. Lejeune, writing for The Observer , thought that the writing and direction were excellent; she went on to record that "the end comes too soon, which is something that can be said of very few films".Several critics identified that the script was excellent, and the reviewer for The Manchester Guardian thought that "the chief credit for
The acting was also praised by many of the critics; Lejeune thought that "the acting of the countless small character parts that the plot brings together is splendid", ... It was carried through, not by wit or polish, but by a sometimes hysterical jollity".while the reviewer for The Monthly Film Bulletin considered that "each character, and indeed every individual member of the lengthy cast, provides a gem of comedy acting at its highest and best". The Manchester Guardian reviewer was critical about aspects of the direction which, it was said, was undertaken "with barely sufficient skill to sustain the fun". The critic Henry Raynor, writing for Sight and Sound , thought that the film "sacrificed a comic enquiry into motives and personality to a farcical romp
Passport to Pimlico was nominated for the British Academy Film Award for Best British Film, alongside Whisky Galore! and Kind Hearts and Coronets, although they lost to The Third Man (1949);the film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Writing (Story and Screenplay), where it lost to Battleground (1949).
In 1952, a radio adaptation, written by Charles Hatton, was broadcast on the BBC's Light Programme. Charles Leno played Pemberton, in a cast that included Christopher Lee, Gladys Henson and Kenneth Williams.A BBC Radio 4 adaptation, written by John Peacock, was broadcast on 20 January 1996. George Cole played the part of Pemberton; Michael Maloney and Joan Sims also appeared.
The 1993 film Wayne's World 2 was originally planned to be a remake of Passport to Pimlico, but shortly before filming was to begin, executives at Paramount Pictures realized that the studio had not acquired rights to the earlier film and ordered writer/star Mike Myers to write a new screenplay with a different plot.
Dame Margaret Taylor Rutherford, was an English actress of stage, television and film.
Stanley Augustus Holloway was an English actor, comedian, singer and monologist. He was famous for his comic and character roles on stage and screen, especially that of Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady. He was also renowned for his comic monologues and songs, which he performed and recorded throughout most of his 70-year career.
Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Green in West London. Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since. It is the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world, and the current stages were opened for the use of sound in 1931.
Kind Hearts and Coronets is a 1949 British crime black comedy film. It features Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson and Alec Guinness; Guinness plays nine characters. The plot is loosely based on the novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (1907) by Roy Horniman. It concerns Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini, the son of a woman disowned by her aristocratic family for marrying out of her social class. After her death, Louis decides to take revenge on the family and take the dukedom by murdering the eight people ahead of him in the line of succession to the title.
The Ealing comedies is an informal name for a series of comedy films produced by the London-based Ealing Studios during a ten-year period from 1947 to 1957. Often considered to reflect Britain's post-war spirit, the most celebrated films in the sequence include Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whisky Galore! (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955). Hue and Cry (1947) is generally considered to be the earliest of the cycle, and Barnacle Bill (1957) the last, although some sources list Davy (1958) as the final Ealing comedy.
The Titfield Thunderbolt is a 1953 British comedy film directed by Charles Crichton and starring Stanley Holloway, Naunton Wayne, George Relph and John Gregson. The screenplay concerns a group of villagers trying to keep their branch line operating after British Railways decided to close it. The film was written by T. E. B. Clarke and was inspired by the restoration of the narrow gauge Talyllyn Railway in Wales, the world's first heritage railway run by volunteers. "Titfield" is an amalgamation of the names Titsey and Limpsfield, two villages in Surrey near Clarke's home at Oxted.
Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer known for his leadership of Ealing Studios in West London from 1938 to 1955. Under his direction, the studio became one of the most important British film studios of the day. In an industry short of Hollywood-style moguls, Balcon emerged as a key figure, and an obdurately British one too, in his benevolent, somewhat headmasterly approach to the running of a creative organization. He is known for his leadership, and his guidance of young Alfred Hitchcock.
Genevieve is a 1953 British comedy film produced and directed by Henry Cornelius and written by William Rose. It stars John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More and Kay Kendall as two couples comedically involved in a veteran automobile rally.
Charles Herbert Frend was an English film director and editor, best known for his films produced at Ealing Studios. He began directing in the early 1940s and is known for such films as Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Cruel Sea (1953).
Michael Truman was a British film producer, director and editor.
Whisky Galore! is a 1949 British comedy film produced by Ealing Studios, starring Basil Radford, Bruce Seton, Joan Greenwood and Gordon Jackson. It was the directorial debut of Alexander Mackendrick; the screenplay was by Compton Mackenzie, an adaptation of his 1947 novel Whisky Galore, and Angus MacPhail. The story—based on a true event—concerns a shipwreck off a fictional Scottish island, the inhabitants of which have run out of whisky because of wartime rationing. The islanders find out the ship is carrying 50,000 cases of whisky, some of which they salvage, against the opposition of the local Customs and Excise men.
Henry Cornelius was a South African-born film director, producer, screenwriter and film editor. He directed five films between 1949 and 1958.
Undercover is a 1943 British war film produced by Ealing Studios, originally titled Chetnik. It was filmed in Wales and released on 27 July 1943. Its subject is a guerrilla movement in German-occupied Yugoslavia, loosely based on Draza Mihailovich's Chetnik resistance movement.
The Gaunt Stranger is a 1938 British mystery thriller film directed by Walter Forde. It stars Sonnie Hale, Wilfrid Lawson and Alexander Knox.
Frederick Piper was an English actor of stage and screen who appeared in over 80 films and many television productions in a career spanning over 40 years. Piper studied drama under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
The Feminine Touch is a 1956 colour British drama film directed by Pat Jackson and starring George Baker, Belinda Lee and Delphi Lawrence. The film is based on the bestselling novel A Lamp Is Heavy by Canadian former nurse Sheila Mackay Russell, and consequently it was released as A Lamp Is Heavy in Canada, while it was given the title The Gentle Touch in the United States, when it was released there in December 1957.
Ships with Wings is a 1941 British war film directed by Sergei Nolbandov and starring John Clements, Leslie Banks and Jane Baxter. The film is set during the Battle of Greece (1940-1941). It depicts military aviation.
Bryanston Films was a British film company formed by Michael Balcon and Maxwell Setton in mid-1959 following the collapse of Ealing Studios. Neither a production studio, nor a distributor, it released independent British films through British Lion Films In operation until 1963, it was intended to be an unofficial group of independent film producers.
The English comic singer, monologist and actor Stanley Holloway (1890–1982), started his performing career in 1910. He starred in English seaside towns such as Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze, primarily in concert party and variety shows. The first of these, The White Coons Show, was soon followed by the more prestigious Nicely, Thanks! in 1913. From here, he went on to co-star in The Co-Optimists, a variety show which brought him to wider audience attention. After the First World War, he returned to London and found success in the West End musicals at the Winter Garden Theatre, including Kissing Time (1919), followed in 1920 by A Night Out. The Co-Optimists continued until 1927, and he then appeared in Hit the Deck, a comic musical which appeared both in London and on Broadway. Reporting for The Manchester Guardian, the theatre critic Ivor Brown praised Holloway for a singing style "which coaxes the ear rather than clubbing the head."
Lionel Banes (1904–1996) was a British cinematographer and special effects photographer. During and after the Second World War he was employed by Ealing Studios and shot the 1949 Ealing Comedy Passport to Pimlico. Later in his career he worked on a variety of television productions including many episodes of the 1960s series The Saint.