The Vicar of Bray (film)

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The Vicar of Bray
The Vicar of Bray (1937 film).jpg
Opening title card
Directed by Henry Edwards
Written by
Produced by Julius Hagen
Cinematography William Luff
Music byMarcus De Wolfe
Twickenham Film Studios
Distributed by Twickenham Film Distributors
Release date
9 May 1937
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Vicar of Bray is a 1937 British historical film with songs, directed by Henry Edwards, and starring Stanley Holloway, Hugh Miller, Felix Aylmer and Margaret Vines. [1] These songs include the melody and first verse of the traditional English song which gives the film its title, along with a new verse on Cromwell's rule.



During a visit from his governor in Ireland the Earl of Brendon, Charles I asks advice on finding a new tutor for his wayward son Prince Charles and accepts Brendon's recommendation of the vicar of Bray, County Wicklow. On returning to Ireland Brendon passes on news of the appointment to the vicar, who travels to London to take up the post, promising to return one day. He falls asleep during his first lesson with the Prince, allowing the latter to slip away to see his actress lover Meg Clancy. The vicar follows the Prince and mildly reprimands him before they are reconciled.

Just before the outbreak of the English Civil War, the vicar heads back to Bray, gaining a promise from his friend the Prince that he will rule mercifully when he succeeds his father. Meanwhile the Royalist Brendon finally breaks from his Parliamentarian friend Sir Richard Melross, whose son Dennis seeks the vicar's help to be married to his childhood sweetheart Norah, Brendon's daughter. The vicar accepts but Brendon discovers and breaks up the wedding ceremony before it is complete. Sir Richard is killed in the war, Charles I is executed and Dennis and Oliver Cromwell find themselves in Ireland. In a meeting arranged by Dennis, the vicar uses his blarney to convince Cromwell that he is apolitical and thus worthy of exemption from a decree dismissing all clergy appointed by Charles I.

News of the imminent Restoration reaches Ireland and Dennis accepts the vicar's entreaties not to oppose it. However, he ignores his advice to flee straight to France and instead is captured in a failed attempt to spring Norah from Brendon's castle, before being sent to the Tower of London to await execution. The vicar and Norah manage to reach Dover, where the new king has just landed. The vicar reminds him of his promise to him just before the war and gains a pardon from him for Dennis, who swears loyalty to the new king.


Critical reception

A 21st-century review in the Radio Times gave the film two out of five stars, writing "Mercifully this period drama is the kind of film they don't make any more, but it's not without moments of interest as a historical artefact," with the reviewer concluding "The songs are ghastly and the period trappings cheap and inaccurate, but Felix Aylmer and Garry Marsh go some way towards atoning for the film's deficiencies"; [3] while TV Guide also rates it two out of five stars, noting "An entertaining role for Holloway, but the accompanying musical numbers are pretty sour." [4]

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  1. "The Vicar of Bray (1937)". Archived from the original on 14 January 2009.
  2. "The Vicar of Bray (1937)". BFI . Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  3. "The Vicar of Bray – review - cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online". Radio Times.
  4. "The Vicar Of Bray - TV Guide".