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Passport to Pimlico (Ealing 1949, Margaret Rutherford, Stanley Holloway)

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The detonation of a Second World War bomb in Pimlico uncovers evidence that the neighbourhood was annexed by, and remains a part of, Burgundy. It dawns on the locals that the dreary rationing regulations no longer apply to them, as they declare independence, and the area is permanently en fête.

Whitehall is not best pleased and Pimlico is ring-fenced and under siege. The newly dubbed Burgundians become a national cause célèbre but eventually order is restored and Pimlico is readmitted to Britain.

Passport to Pimlico is a great movie, an exuberant cry against austerity and bureaucracy in a Britain which had elected, by a landslide, a reformist Labour government and then watched it crumble through revisionism, timidity and in-fighting. ‘Tibby’ Clarke’s script, with its shrewd political underpinning, was nominated for an Oscar while Henry Cornelius was a first-time director whose orchestration of a large ensemble never prevented deft touches. He only completed five features, of which his greatest hit was Genevieve, before his early death at 45.

…Pimlico works because it revives that deep sense of wartime camaraderie, yet it also expressed the healthy scepticism that had invaded British social life since the war. The flavour of the film is nicely caught in the sentiment delivered by Connie Pemberton, played by Betty Warren: ‘We always were English and we always will be English and it’s just because we’re English we’re sticking out for our right to be Burgundians.’

production details
UK / Ealing / 84 minutes / 1949

Director: Henry Cornelius
Writers: T.E.B. Clarke,

cast
Margaret Rutherford as Professor Hatton-Jones
Stanley Holloway as Arthur Pemberton
Hermione Baddeley as Edie Randall
Paul Dupuis as Duke of Burgundy
Jane Hylton as Molly
Betty Warren as Connie Pemberton
Barbara Murray as Shirley Pemberton
Sydney Tafler as Fred Cowan
Frederick Piper as Garland
Philip Stainton as P.C. Spiller
Basil Radford as Gregg
Naunton Wayne as Straker
Roy Carr as Benny Spiller
Nancy Gabrielle as Mrs. Cowan
Malcolm Knight as Monty Cowan
Roy Gladdish as Charlie Randall
Stuart Lindsell as Coroner
Gilbert Davis as Bagshawe
Michael Hordern as Bashford
Arthur Howard as Bassett
Bill Shine as Captain Willow
Joey Carr as Dave Parsons
Lloyd Pearson as Fawcett
Arthur Denton as Customs Official
Tommy Godfrey as Bus Conductor
Masoni as Conjurer
Grace Arnold as Pompous Woman
Paul Demel as Central European
Harry Locke as Sergeant
James Hayter as Commissionaire
John Slater as Frank Huggins
Raymond Huntley as Mr. Wix
Fred Griffiths as Spiv
Sam Kydd as Sapper
Charles Hawtrey as Bert Fitch

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