If school performance tables had been in existence in the ’50s, there’s no doubt where St Trinian’s would have appeared, thanks to its conniving, unruly miscreants – and that was just the teachers; the kids were much worse. The Belles of St Trinian’s was the first of five comedies based on the drawings of Ronald Searle (who even appears in the film as an outraged parent) and is undoubtedly the best and funniest in the series. With a wonderful cast, wicked sense of humour and knowing demolition of the image of the British public schoolgirl, Franker Launder’s film actually gets better with age. Whether the same can be said of Barbara Windsor – who appears here uncredited as one of the schoolgirls – is another question.
“Everything I know about acting comes from Alastair Sim,” George Cole (playing Flash Harry) once said, and Sim gives a mini-masterclass here in two roles. He gets dragged up to play St Trinian’s headmistress Miss Fitton, and also plays Clarence, the head’s bookmaker brother. Clarence is at the heart of a betting scam which quickly involves all of St Trinian’s – after Miss Fitton has put all of the debt-ridden school’s money on a horse belonging to the father of one of her fourth form pupils, Clarence has the horse kidnapped by St Trinian’s sixth-formers. Naturally, when the fourth-formers hear of his actions, they come up with a rescue strategy of their own. Joyce Grenfell is the undercover police officer trying to bring some law to the disorder.
With its riotous scenes, such as girls concocting gin in chemistry lessons and trampling the opposition underfoot in hockey matches, The Belles was all too much for some countries. Children in South Africa were banned outright from seeing the film, while the New York Times called the schoolgirls ‘frighteningly abnormal’. Some critics actually argued that the film didn’t capture the true viciousness of Ronald Searle’s drawings, although The Spectator noted that it was ‘full of ravishing absurdities, splendid lunacies and is a fitting tribute to the creative artist’s genius.’
UK | British Lion | 91 minutes | 1954
Director: Frank Launder
Script: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder,
Joan Sims as Miss Dawn
Irene Handl as Miss Gale
Renée Houston as Miss Brimmer (as Renée Houston)
Alastair Sim as Millicent Fritton / Clarence Fritton
George Cole as Flash Harry
Beryl Reid as Miss Wilson
Joyce Grenfell as P.W. Sgt. Ruby Gates
Hermione Baddeley as Miss Drownder
Betty Ann Davies as Miss Waters
Mary Merrall as Miss Buckland
Balbina as Mlle de St. Emilion
Jane Henderson as Miss Holland
Diana Day as Jackie
Lloyd Lamble as Superintendent Kemp Bird
and this just in
The Jack Benny Program: The Bobby Darin Show (CBS 28 Jan 1964)
The Bobby Darin Show: With the movie studio still working on the Jack Benny biography movie, Jack insists on playing...
Father Knows Best: Big Sister (S4EP14 NBC 8 Jan 1958)
Big Sister: Betty is assigned to be Kitten’s counselor at summer camp, but after she throws her authoritative weight around...
McHale’s Navy: Carpenter in Command (S2EP33 ABC 28 Apr 1964)
Carpenter in Command: In temporary command of the base, while Binghamton recovers from a broken leg, and drunk with power,...
Hunter: Girl On the Beach (S4EP16 NBC 16 Feb 2018)
Girl On the Beach: Hunter looks after Captain Devane to make sure he doesn’t do anything extreme after his ex-wife...
Hunter: Naked Justice Part 2 (S4EP15 NBC 9 Feb 1988)
Naked Justice (2): In his investigation of the death of a famous movie actress, Hunter follows a contract killer into...
The Rockford Files: The Man Who Saw the Alligators (S5EP17 Cozi TV Sat 22 Dec 2018)
The Man Who Saw the Alligators: A former hitman, who was captured and sentenced to prison by Rockford’s efforts, will...
Hunter: Naked Justice Part One (S4EP14 NBC 2 Feb 1988)
Naked Justice (1): Detectives Hunter and McCall are assigned to investigate the mysterious death of a famous movie star; they...
Top Chef: Naughty and Nice (S16EP3 Bravo Thurs 20 Dec 2018)
Naughty and Nice: A special guest sits with the chefs to share an elaborate French styled dinner; Padma informs the...
History of Mr. Polly, The (1949, John Mills, Betty Ann Davies)
In this pleasant adaptation of the H G Wells novel, John Mills plays the eponymous Mr Polly who, disillusioned by...
The Spanish Gardener (1956, )
Adapted from AJ Cronin’s novel, this is the story of a minor diplomat, played with admirable restraint by Michael Horden,...
We Were Soldiers (2002, Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear)
Few things demonstrate the zeitgeist better than war movies. The liberal lobby – from Platoon to Three Kings – has...