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Left, Right and Centre (British Lion 1959, Ian Carmichael, Alastair Sim)

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Left, Right and Centre is a tale love and ballots. Political opponents Ian Carmichael and Patricia Bredin spar their way into each others’ hearts in this delightful romantic comedy. Not even scheming Alastair Sim can spoil their coalition.

Ealing Studios may have produced most of the best satirical comedies in post-War British cinema, but they were by no means the only company to mine the genre’s rich seam. British Lion were also rolling them out, and occasionally they’d hit gold too, as this lively rib-tickler proves.

Needing a candidate for the forthcoming by-election in backwoods Earnsdale, the Tory Party grandees call on vain and impressionable TV personality Robert Wilcot (Carmichael) to fill the gap. Led by his perfidious uncle, Lord Wilcot (Sim), the bigwigs reasonably assume that the young blueblood will become their puppet PPC and breaze through to victory. But the dastardly plot is stymied when Carmichael begins to show an alarming allegiance to lovely socialist opponent Stella Stoker (Bredin). As election day draws closer, the two parties resort to dirty tricks to scupper the romance long enough for their candidate to win the seat, but can they conquer love?

A host of comic talent (including Hattie Jacques, Irene Handl and Eric Barker) fires gags at a machine-gun pace. But as with its Ealing contemporaries, the affable charm of Gilliat’s film sheathes a subversive edge that slices through the cynical arrogance and complacency of the British establishment, be it left, right or centre.

The linchpin to the production’s success is Sim, who once again shows flawless judgement. Striking just the right note of reptilian villainy in order to lend weight to the film’s political intentions, he maintains a lightness of touch that never upsets the comic balance. Dangerous and hilarious in equal measure, It’s a masterful performance from one of the screen’s great character actors.

production details
UK / British Lion / 95 minutes / 1959

Director: Sidney Gilliat
Writers: Sydney Gilliat, Val Valentine,

cast
Ian Carmichael as Robert Wilcot
Alastair Sim as Lord Wilcot
Richard Wattis as Harding-Pratt
Hattie Jacques as woman in car
Eric Barker as Bert Glimmer
Russell Waters as Mr. Bray
Patricia Bredin as Stella Stoker
Moyra Fraser as Annabel
Jack Hedley as Bill Hemmingway
Gordon Harker as Hardy
William Kendall as Pottle
Anthony Sharp as Peterson
George Benson as Egerton
Leslie Dwyer as Alf Stoker
Moultrie Kelsall as Grimsby Armfield
Jeremy Hawke as TV interviewer
Olwen Brookes as Mrs. Samson
John Salew as Mayor
Bill Shine as Basingstoke
Erik Chitty as the deputy returning officer
Redmond Phillips as Mr. Smithson
John Sharp as Mr. Reeves
Douglas Ives as Plumber
Olaf Pooley as TV newscaster
Gilbert Harding as himself
Carole Carr as herself
Josephine Douglas as herself
Philip Latham as a reporter
Frederick Leister as himself
Frank Atkinson as a railway porter.
Eamonn Andrews as Himself
Fred Griffiths as a Billingsgate porter
Irene Handl as Mrs. Maggs

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