|The Happiest Days of Your Life|
|Directed by||Frank Launder|
|Written by|| John Dighton |
|Produced by||Frank Launder|
Alexander Korda (uncredited)
|Starring|| Alastair Sim |
|Edited by||Oswald Hafenrichter|
|Music by||Mischa Spoliansky|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)|
|Box office||£278,502 (UK)|
The Happiest Days of Your Life is a 1950 British comedy film directed by Frank Launder, based on the 1947 play of the same name by John Dighton.The two men also wrote the screenplay. It is one of a stable of classic British film comedies produced by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat for British Lion Film Corporation. The film was made on location in Liss and at Riverside Studios, London. In several respects, including some common casting, it was a precursor of the St. Trinian's films of the 1950s and 1960s.
In September 1949, confusion reigns when St Swithin's Girls' School is accidentally billeted at Nutbourne College: a boys' school in Hampshire. The two heads, Wetherby Pond (Alastair Sim) and Muriel Whitchurch (Margaret Rutherford), try to cope with the ensuing chaos, as the children and staff attempt to live in the newly cramped conditions (it being impossible to share dormitories or other facilities), and seek to prevent the children taking advantage of their new opportunities.
Additional humour is derived from the departure of the Nutbourne College domestic staff and their hurried (and not very effective) replacement with the St Swithin's School Home Economics class.
The main comedy is derived from the fact that the parents of the St Swithin's girls would consider it improper for their daughters to be exposed to the rough mix of boys in Pond's school, and from the consequent need to conceal the fact that the girls are now sharing a school that's full of boys. Pond is offended at the suggestion that his boys are not suitable company for the young ladies of St Swithin's, but he needs to appease Miss Whitchurch to salvage his chances of an appointment to a prestigious all-boys school for which he is in the running, and which depends on his ability to prevent his current post presenting the appearance of a beer garden.
Matters come to a head when a group of school governors, from the prestigious establishment to which Pond has applied to become the next headmaster, pay a visit at the same time as the parents of some of the St Swithin's girls. Frantic classroom changes are made, and hockey, lacrosse and rugby posts and nets are swapped about, as pupils and staff try to hide the unusual arrangement.
Two simultaneous tours of the school premises are arranged: one for the girls' parents, and a separate one for the governors, and never the twain must meet! The facade finally collapses when the parents become obsessed with seeing a girls' lacrosse match at the same time as one of the governors has been promised a rugby match.
The punchline is delivered – a clever swipe at post-war bureaucracy – when, weeks too late, a Ministry of Schools official arrives, to declare everything sorted out. "You're a co-educational school, I believe; well I've arranged for another co-educational school to replace St Swithin's next week... Oh, it appears they're ahead of schedule." At this point, several more coachloads of children and staff appear noisily, and utter chaos reigns.
Fade out on Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford, quietly discussing in which remote and unattractive corner of the British Empire they might best try to pick up the pieces of their respective careers, with her mentioning having a brother who "grows groundnuts in Tanganyika."
The Monthly Film Bulletin noted an "Uninhibited and energetically handled farce...Occasionally slapdash, but frequently amusing";and The New York Times called it "witty, warm, sometimes biting and wholly charming."
BFI Screenonline states that Alastair Sim's portrayal of headmaster Wetherby Pond "is one of his greatest creations", but that both he and Margaret Rutherford were "decisively upstaged" by supporting actress Joyce Grenfell, as one of the teaching staff of St Swithin's.
The film was successful on its release, being the fifth most popular film and the second-biggest money maker at the British box office for 1950.According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winners' at the box office in 1950 Britain were The Blue Lamp, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Annie Get Your Gun, The Wooden Horse, Treasure Island and Odette, with "runners up" being Stage Fright, White Heat, They Were Not Divided, Trio, Morning Departure, Destination Moon, Sands of Iwo Jima, Little Women, The Forsythe Saga, Father of the Bride, Neptune's Daughter, The Dancing Years, The Red Light, Rogues of Sherwood Forest, Fancy Pants, Copper Canyon, State Secret, The Cure for Love, My Foolish Heart, Stromboli, Cheaper by the Dozen, Pinky, Three Came Home, Broken Arrow and Black Rose.
The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) is a similar comedy about a girls' school at which chaos reigned, which was also produced by Launder and Gilliat and featured several members of the cast of The Happiest Days of Your Life, including Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis and Guy Middleton, with Ronald Searle providing the cartoons for the titles.
Dame Margaret Taylor Rutherford, was an English actress of stage, television and film.
Alastair George Bell Sim, CBE was a Scottish character actor who began his theatrical career at the age of thirty and quickly became established as a popular West End performer, remaining so until his death in 1976. Starting in 1935, he also appeared in more than fifty British films, including an iconic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, released in 1951 as Scrooge in Great Britain and as A Christmas Carol in the United States. Though an accomplished dramatic actor, he is often remembered for his comically sinister performances.
Joyce Irene Grenfell OBE was an English diseuse, singer, actress and writer. She was known for the songs and monologues she wrote and performed, at first in revues and later in her solo shows. She never appeared as a stage actress, but had roles, mostly comic, in many films, including Miss Gossage in The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) and Police Sergeant Ruby Gates in the St Trinian's series. She was a well-known broadcaster on radio and television. As a writer, she was the first radio critic for The Observer, contributed to Punch and published a volume of memoirs.
Dandy Nichols was an English actress best known for her role as Else Garnett, the long-suffering wife of the character Alf Garnett who was a parody of a working class Tory, in the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.
St Trinian's is a British gag cartoon comic strip series, created and drawn by Ronald Searle from 1946 until 1952. The cartoons all centre on a boarding school for girls, where the teachers are sadists and the girls are juvenile delinquents. The series was Searle's most famous work and inspired a popular series of comedy films.
George Edward Cole, OBE was an English actor whose career spanned 75 years. He was best known for playing Arthur Daley in the long-running ITV comedy-drama show Minder and Flash Harry in the early St Trinian's films.
Cecil Parker was an English actor with a distinctively husky voice, who usually played supporting roles, often characters with a supercilious demeanour, in his 91 films made between 1928 and 1969.
Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.
The Belles of St Trinian's is a 1954 British comedy film, directed by Frank Launder, co-written by Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and starring Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Hermione Baddeley. Inspired by British cartoonist Ronald Searle's St Trinian's School comic strips, the film focuses on the lives of the students and teachers of the fictional school, dealing with attempts to shut them down while their headmistress faces issues with financial troubles, which culminates in the students thwarting a scheme involving a racehorse.
Blue Murder at St Trinian's is a 1957 British comedy film, directed by Frank Launder, co-written by Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and starring Terry-Thomas, George Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Lionel Jeffries and Richard Wattis; the film also includes a brief cameo of Alastair Sim, who reprising his lead role in the 1954 film, The Belles of St. Trinian's. Inspired by the St Trinian's School comic strips by British cartoonist Ronald Searle, the film is the second entry in the St. Trinian's film series, with its plot seeing the students of the fictional school making plans to secure a place on a European tour, all while subsequently aiding a criminal who is secretly seeking to escape the country with stolen jewels.
Frank Launder was a British writer, film director and producer, who made more than 40 films, many of them in collaboration with Sidney Gilliat.
Michael George Ripper was an English character actor.
Richard Wattis was an English actor, co-starring in many popular British comedies of the 1950s and 1960s.
Laughter in Paradise is a 1951 British comedy film, starring Alastair Sim, Fay Compton, George Cole, and Guy Middleton. The film was remade as Some Will, Some Won't (1970).
The Green Man is a 1956 black and white British black comedy film based on the play Meet a Body by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who produced and adapted the big-screen version.
John Bentley was a British film actor. He had a successful career as a leading man from the 1940s to the late 50s and was a popular heart-throb who appeared in many British b-movies during that time. Later in his career, in the 1970s he appeared as Hugh Mortimer, Meg Richardson's ill-fated third husband in the famous English soap opera Crossroads. He also starred in the jungle adventure series African Patrol (1957) as Chief Inspector Paul Derek and made various other guest appearances in many popular TV series from the late 50s onwards.
Bernadette O'Farrell was an Irish actress. She was born in Birr, County Offaly, Irish Free State. She was married to the film writer, director and producer Frank Launder from 1950 until his death in 1997. They had two daughters together.
Stanley Pavey (1913–1984) was a British cinematographer.
The Scottish actor Alastair Sim (1900–1976) performed in many media of light entertainment, including theatre, film and television. His career spanned from 1930 until his death. During that time he was a "memorable character player of faded Anglo-Scottish gentility, whimsically put-upon countenance, and sepulchral, sometimes minatory, laugh".
The Happiest Days of Your Life is a farce by the English playwright John Dighton. It depicts the complications that ensue when because of a bureaucratic error a girls' school is made to share premises with a boys' school. The title of the play echoes the old saying that schooldays are "the happiest days of our lives".