UK / Rank / 93 minutes / 1961 black and white
Writer: Michael Pertwee (from the novel It’s A Vet’s Life by Alex Duncan) / Music: Philip Green / Cinematography: Alan Hume / Producer: Hugh Stewart / Director: Darcy Conyers
Cast: Leslie Phillips. Peggy Cummins, Hattie Jacques. James Booth, Dick Bentley, Colin Gordon, Joan Heal, Fenella Fielding, Esma Cannon, Richard Goolden, Joan Hickson, Vida Hope, Harry Locke, Kynaston Reeves
After 12 long years, Jimmy Fox-Upton (LESLIE PHILLIPS) qualifies as a vet and decides to buy a decaying West London practice. His amoral rival Bob Skeffington (JAMES BOOTH) fares better, purchasing a Belgravia surgery to attract well-heeled clients.
His unscrupulous methods are rewarded with a string of wealthy patrons who boost business, while Upton’s dedication sees him poor, overworked and humiliated after an incident with Sally (PEGGY CUMMINS), whose pet chimp he was trying to save.
When Bob gets involved in a horse exportation scam he asks the innocent Jimmy for help, but when Upton realises the animals are being sold to French butchers he sees a chance for justice and an opportunity to win Sally’s heart.
Playing on the inexhaustible love of the British for their pets, this by-the-numbers comedy places the charismatic Phillips in a series of set-piece skirmishes underpinned by the hope of romance and a villain’s comeuppance. The cast ensures success, with HATTIE JACQUES’ cameo typically memorable, and the atmosphere at times mimicking the Carry-Ons, which had yet to catch on.
The script from Michael Pertwee – brother of Jon – goes for the big laughs and replaces sophistication with enthusiasm (a trick he would repeat with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum five years later) to produce an infectious and likeable minor tale.