Director Anthony Kimmins and Nicholas Phipps collaborated on the slick script for The Amorous Prawn a lively screen version of Kimmins’ successful stage farce which contained a top-notch cast, headed by Cecil Parker, perfectly cast as a general whose dreams of retiring to a country cottage are unlikely to come true because of a lack of funds. When he goes away on an overseas mission, his wife Joan Greenwood devises a scheme to improve their finances, inviting wealthy Americans Robert Beatty and Robert Nichols to stay as paying guests at Parker’s official residence in the Scottish Highlands, which she turns into a tourist hotel with the help of Parker’s army staff (Ian Carmichael, Derek Nimmo, Liz Frazer, Bridget Armstrong and Harry Locke). Carmichael and company assume civvies and arrange – for a price – everything for the satisfied guests, from huge catches of (poached) salmon to romantic interludes in the greenhouse.
But comic complications rapidly escalate. Greenwood, claiming to be a widow, is being amorously pursued by Beatty when Parker unexpectedly returns. Carmichael and his army colleagues are caught up in a whirl of switching in and out of uniform depending on whether they are wanted by Parker or by the Americans, and things become really chaotic with the arrival of Dennis Price, who turns out to be Secretary of State for War. Parker’s future as either reluctant hotelier or army grandee seems bleak, until Price is happily compromised by the discovery of a local barmaid in his bed…
The comedy is broad but inventively plotted and highly engaging and Kimmins’ smartly-paced direction which, in best farcical style, starts deceptively slowly and build up into inexorably coruscating comic chaos, keeps it briskly on the move. The sequences in which Carmichael and his fellow soldiers have to rapidly change into their uniforms to fool the general and then, equally rapidly, have to change back into butler, chambermaid and cooks in order to maintain the appearance of an hotel for the Americans, are enjoyably farcical and particularly well staged. In the United States it was released as The Amorous Mr Prawn , presumably to avoid any possibility of its being mistaken for a sea life documentary. And it was later briefly retitled as The Playgirl and the War Minister in an ingenious attempt to cash in on the then notorious Profumo-Keeler scandal.
UK / 1962
Director: Anthony Kimmins
Writers: Anthony Kimmins, Nicholas Phipps, from Kimmins’ play
Cast: Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Ian Carmichael, Robert Beatty, Dennis Price, Liz Fraser