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Barnacle Bill aka All At Sea (1957, Alec Guinness, Irene Browne)



This was Tibby Clarke’s last Ealing screenplay, the central premise being not unlike his Passport to Pimlico. Here, however, it isn’t the bureaucracy of suburbia that comes under the pen of Clarke’s surgical wit but the politics of middle-class seaside local councils.

ALEC GUINNESS is William Horatio Ambrose, the last in a long line of seafarers – Guinness plays the previous half-dozen in a rapid montage reminiscent of a similar sequence in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Only this particular sailor is, unfortunately, prone to violent bouts of seasickness.

Determined to carry on the family tradition, however, Ambrose buys the old pier in the town of Sandcastle-on-sea with plans to turn it into an entertainment centre – a non-ocean-going luxury cruiser. But the local council has other ideas, wishing to knock down the old pier for its own profit. Full-scale battle ensues, with Ambrose enlisting a flotilla of children’s boats to defend his pier against the marauding councillors, ending in a naval battle that sees the victorious Ambrose conquer his seasickness and drift across the Channel to France acclaimed as a national hero.

production details
UK | Ealing | 87 minutes | 1957

Director: Charles Frend
Writer: T E B Clarke

Alec Guinness as Captain William Horatio Ambrose
Irene Browne as Mrs. Barrington
Maurice Denham as Crowley
Percy Herbert as Tommy
Victor Maddern as Figg
Allan Cuthbertson as Chailey
Harold Goodwin as Duckworth
Richard Wattis as Registrar of Shipping
Lionel Jeffries as Garrod
George Rose as Bullen
Lloyd Lamble as Superintendent Browning
Harry Locke as Reporter
Mike Morgan as Larry
Max Butterfield as Phil
Donald Churchill as Roy