UK / 1957
Director: John Boulting
Writers: Patrick Campbell, Jeffrey Dell (based on a novel by Kingsley Amis)
Cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Sharon Acker, Jean Anderson, Maureen Connell, Clive Morton
The behind-the-scenes squabbles during the making of Lucky Jim could themselves have been something out of a Kingsley Amis novel. Original director Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob) was replaced after a fortnight’s shooting by the film’s co-producer, John Boulting, and Amis’s university satire was broadened out into a more accessible farce. Indeed, the new director introduced several scenes that weren’t in the novel (Crichton had intended to remain true to the original) but despite the disputes, the resultant movie is still a hugely enjoyable comedy featuring some of the greatest British talent of the time.
Ian Carmichael stars as Jim Dixon, a junior history lecturer at a red brick university, who’s frustrated by both his job and the faux culture which his departmental head, Professor Welch (Hugh Griffith), has created. Jim fails to endear himself to the Welch family when he spends a weekend with them, constantly quarrelling with their pompous son Bertrand (Terry-Thomas), and falling in love with Bertrand’s fiancée, Christine (an accomplished debut by Canadian actress Sharon Acker). After he wrecks a ceremonial event at the university, things get even worse when Jim’s asked to deliver a public lecture based on Professor Welch’s book, ‘Merrie England’: Dixon takes the meaning a little too literally and turns up to deliver his speech in a drunken stupor. Luckily for Jim, things can only get better.
“Following Private’s Progress and Brothers in Law, the Boulting Brothers – who leap joyously upon pomposity and deflate it gleefully – can now claim three hits in a row,” Variety wrote, adding, “Kingsley Amis’s novel has been built up into a farcical comedy which provides plenty of opportunities for smiles, giggles and belly laughs.”