Having gently attacked institutions as diverse as the Army (Private’s Progress), the Foreign Office (Carlton-Browne of the FO) and the legal profession (Brothers in Law), in the late 50s the Boulting brothers turned their satirical eye on the ripe subjects of trade unionism and management in I’m All Right, Jack, which is arguably their finest film.
A wonderful cast is assembled for this affectionate comedy, with PETER SELLERS particularly memorable as the malapropism-spouting union chief yearning for Russia, “with all them cornfields and ‘ballee’ in the evenings.”
I’m All Right, Jack has been criticised in some quarters for its depiction of the trade unions as hapless buffoons safeguarding their own interests, but the film actually apportions blame equally between the unions and the even-more-corrupt management. “Both John and I felt that the idea that one particular part of society should be held responsible for the failure of society was ridiculous,” producer Roy Boulting recalls. “We felt that all areas of society shared some common blame, and this is what we tried to address.”
Based on Alan Hackney’s novel Private Life, IAN CARMICHAEL stars as wide-eyed innocent Stanley Windrush, who is given a menial job in his uncle’s arms factory. Bertram Tracepurcel (DENNIS PRICE) is not acting out of nepotism, however, but greed: he plans to use Stanley to create an industrial dispute, thus forcing an Arab customer to use a rival manufacturer, Cox (RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH), at a vastly inflated price and splitting the difference.
While Stanley unwittingly starts a strike at work, his evenings are spent listening to sermons from his landlord and union rep, Fred Kite (Sellers), and seeing Kite’s daughter, Cynthia (LIZ FRASER). Bertram’s plan backfires when Cox’s workers unexpectedly walk out in sympathy with their colleagues, and the scene is set for a climactic showdown between the major players on live TV.
UK / 1959
Director: John Boulting
Writer: Frank Harvey, John Boulting (based on the novel by Alan Hackney)
Cast: Peter Sellers, Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser