Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)

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Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)

The Stationmaster of a derelict Irish halt catches gunrunners posing as ghosts!

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Review of "Will Hay - Oh Mr Porter (DVD)"

published 13/09/2017 | 1st2thebar
Member since : 11/05/2005
Reviews : 764
Members who trust : 327
About me :
Presumably we're all adults on here now wanting to discuss 'Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bonds.'
Pro A strong sense of nostalgia gifts you comfort
Cons Where are the le Bozecs?
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Characters / Performances
Special Effects

"Hay Market"

Year 1937
Director: Marcel Varnel
Starring: Will Hay, Graham Moffat, Moore Marriott
Produced by Gainsborough Pictures
Duration: 85 minutes

Plot: William Porter played by Will Hay is deported to Buggleskelly in Ireland (where trains never pass) to be a Stationmaster after having caused ignominy. He then continues to create havoc with his equally haphazard co-workers... Harbottle played by Moore Marriot and Albert played by Graham Moffat -- the trio develop a calamitous working relationship, by hook or crook the end result is the same. Luck.

- - -

Two or three wrongs don't make a right usually, but Marcel Varnel's work ethic never went via normal steadfast practices -- why he was one of the pioneers of cinematic satire in the 1930s; "what's fun in getting what you asked for?" You got to accept when big characters deliver their craft there's a major factor it ain't what you possibly could be fore-warned about; the best comedic directors possess a 'what will be, will be' attitude (s); especially while working with so-called geniuses... automatically you compute there's an art of being cooperative. Actors aren't comedians and comedians aren't actors; the end result depends on chemistry, orchestrated awkwardness and endearment. However, within the frame there has to be a sense of verisimilitude, regardless of slap-happy idiocies, otherwise everyone will have egg on their face quite literally. 'Oh Mr Porter!' only missed out on the egg by inches, missed by a cartoon drama gesture... call it luck, alas when Will Hay performed there was a striking professionalism, comedic timing and the audience gracefully gets cleverly sidetracked into Hay's orderly chaos. There's no wonder why Hay and also Laurel and Hardy are labeled fathers of comedy; the enormality of such characters on-set created a comradeship environ beyond the screen. Stars of the calibre of Formby and Hay were the pin-ups of 1930's entertainment; thus unsurprisingly, the busy-bee Varnel whose theatrical background, the king pin of Music Hall found mesmerically enigmatic. 'Oh Mr Porter!' gathered plaudits from the foundation of Will Hay's pre-War fellowship, his talent was epizootic and his co-comedians Moffat and Marriott reached a collective satirical performance level beyond their own stations.

If there's a Will, there's a Hay

There's a reason why I find (Marcel Varnel) Marcel Hyacinthe le Bozec's directorship compelling; he had superhuman knack at keying into cultural / comedic traits.. quirks, witticisms and situation analogies. His directorship 'beyond unique', for he was French, nevertheless, he moulded British satire and made it a British brand, plump and ready to be picked by globalization - I'm certain Le Bozec amused his countryman with his comedic engineering under the tagline of being ultimately British, during a period when patrioticism was increasing. The closest equivalation I can muster is Joseph Conrad the Polish born writer who masterminded unthinkable literary success written in his second language... English; le Bozec was cut from the same extraordinary cloth. I, initially didn't buy into the opening sequence of traveling backwards on an ill-kept railtrack, too serious or safe even for the movie's genre, especially for a slap-stick comedian like Will Hay. However, travel orientated introductions were replicated in film noir movies for a decade thereafter... designed to show the movie world's progressive intentions. While watching this film, I found something particularly plaintive by the sound of a steam train hooter, perhaps it adds to the runaway drama, and without fail neatly coincides with music scores. On this occasion, the famous Louis Levy is the composer - who like Varnel flourished in the Music Hall arena. Boldly, film aficionados will call the 30s the golden age of British musical (s); spurred on by the entertaining 'Gainsborough Pictures' production: 'Just for a Song,' (1930) - notably, Levy was the composer and a permanent fixture with 'Gainsborough Pictures' by 1937, more so than Varnel in truth.

Slap-stick by definition doesn't require a worthwhile narration to wheel out the barrels of laughter - the joy of 'Oh Mr Porter!' Any sinister activity is overwhelmingly doused down with a bucket of water; refreshing for those who're not bothered with the age and creaking mechanics of the movie. Early signs are that Launder planted the seed for Valmond Guest to write 'Oh Mr Porter!' You'd denote that Guest was in his mid twenties at the time working for 'Gainsborough Pictures' as a writer - albeit, I've a strong indication that Launder felt the film should evolve around Hay's gregarious spirit predominantly to remove the affiliation with 'The Ghost Train' (1931) a horror-comedy production not well known by the general public --- the movie was possibly sabotaged, y'see the film reel went missing for a long while. Weirdly enough, the play was co-written by Frank Launder's writing partner at 'Gainsborough Pictures' Sidney Gilliat; although the main playwright contributor was Arnold Ridley, the confused, elderly one in 'Dad's Army;' (Jimmy Perry loved Hay) - indeed, it's proven that British film satire has long tentacles. Naturally, the Mark Kermodes of film would definitely outline a comparative satirical style with 'The Ghost Train;' firstly, William Porter gets deployed to be a stationmaster on a disused station enabling him by default to bumble along and mess about as per usual... i.e. have a washing hanging out on a decrepit signal box... a cow eating hay, literary adjacent to Hay sleeping; Varnel enjoyed being juvenile with the namesake metaphors: and secondly, finding out there's misgivings and inappropriate dealings locally.

There's a synergy with Guest's writings and a Launder & Gilliat production, both equally indulge in British eccentricities unlike most of their peers. Of course, it's harmless and examines social realism within comedy narratives; I'd go a step further, Varnel's Western influences are from across the pond. And it's due to several added ingredients, not directly the collected genius from the comic reliefs of the past; but the ultra use of character opposites and misfits in humour. William Porter is life's misfit and he has a brother-in-law in the railway services, Porter's sister bosses her husband into finding Porter a position elsewhere, otherwise he is staying at their home... the marital threat / trepidation fires home; ye-s, loud shouts of James W. Horne's; 'Thicker than Water' (1935) during the 'silent era' here: whereby the real boss, 'her indoors' stamps situs authority. Yeah, typical slap-stick satire, laced in genuine domestic scenarios; the only issue was James Horne's Laurel & Hardy productions left you wanting an encore... 'at twenty two minutes an episode the voyeur receives light comic relief... at eighty five minutes you start to hang your head in grief.' Satire overkill, maybe - there's only so many times you find banging the baddie on the nonce with a coal shovel funny. I half expected tweety birds and cartoon gestures to rotate as a halo. Aspects of expecting the unexpected floats about the subconsciousness and when it commences on cue, familarity takes hold. Comforting yes, however, I hardly got the myoclonic jerks due to laughter. William Porter while traveling to Buggleskelly, Ireland he ended up carrying a blanket wrapped piglet in a crowded train carriage, its owner could gossip for Wales -- working with livestock and trains are a comedy waiting to commence.

If I wasn't fair, Varnel's creation simulates a quickly assembled box of old routines and tricks... which has the hallmarks of a night in the 'Old Vic' (think Samuel Beckett...) rather than devised for the silver screen. Herewith, I'll be disrespecting the British film industry, the sublime scripted vehicles of satire and many generations who clutched the effortless comedy to their nape and gifted Hay and suchlike sublime careers and in turn you receive many belly laughs - A much needed tonic with their icey grins. My position remains skeptical about Frank Launder's claim that 'Oh Mr Porter!' was purposefully created for Will Hay, In reality, Hay created William Porter, notably, a valid medicine / escapism in a pedantic epoch. Although, when 'ol Blighty entered WWII production team's patriotism superceded copyright clauses and priorities changed -- film schedules more quick-fire, and scripts dubbed down somewhat. So long the Frenchman and his prize pin-up motored on against the compromises of conflict, on a different route it's what George Dangerfield did while writing about liberalism before WWI, he embarked on an idealism whereby folk would automatically state races and nations portrayed personalities resembling actors or fictional characters: read Dangerfield's book, 'The Strange Death of Liberal England' written in 1935; you'll denote this was a period when the centre-ground warped away from our consciousness, effectively comedy had to fill the chasm - 'make hay while the sun *sporadically* shines.'

I smiled at William Porter's antics as if I was a proud parent watching my child being a wandering star at a school nativity. There was even a homage to Harold Lloyd hanging off a clockface, albeit, in 'Oh Mr Porter!' hanging off an actuate windmill was suffice. followed by a tumble in the hay, where else. Varnel and Hay understood the 'silent era' --- vocals / audio were a new format and sometimes deemed secondary behind facial expression and comic timing; the rapid discourse can be impossible to discipher in sections but it didn't spoil the movie, of the premise the true masters of 'silent' earned their bread via visual interpretation. Will Hay's quickly learn't the 'silent movie craft' in Gaumont's, 'Playmates' produced just after WWI, a fully grown man playing a lad. Effortlessly childish, effortlessly amiable, and effortlessly influential to a stream of comedians and actors up until the 1990s. Only Ken Dodd remains... Why 'Oh Mr Porter!' and films of this ilk require a 'Freeview' TV channel to embrace our long gone pioneers of comedy, otherwise, innocent laughter will be drowned out by reality; I find it heart-warming our famous British satire was propped up by the French; through le Bozec and Gaumont and via Gainsborough Pictures's film director policy of allowing foreign workers to be a vehicle and install satire into British culture.

Outsiders have a habit of undoing our political and cultural knots, Hay, it's time to find another le Bozec.©1st2thebar 2017

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Comments on this review

  • xd-o-n-z-x published 15/11/2017
    e :)
  • CGholy published 18/10/2017
    Fab write up
  • Mistybrook published 17/10/2017
    E :)
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The Stationmaster of a derelict Irish halt catches gunrunners posing as ghosts!


Listed on Ciao since: 03/11/2005