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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Where There's a Will

I'ts high time Will Hay was rescued from his slide in to obscurity.

As I was growing up you were never far from a classic film on British television. BBC2 at 6 o'clock was the place to be, Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan series, Peter Lorre as Mr Moto, Warner Oland as Charlie Chan, Louis Hayward and George Sanders as the Saint, George Sanders and Tom Conway as the Falcon. All these and more educated me and made me want more of old movies. They also used to show old British films, George Formby, Gracie Fields, the Crazy Gang, Frank Randle, Old Mother Riley. Most of hese old British films have dated badly (though as a kid I loved them all) but one comedian who's films stand up to this day (mostly) is Will Hay.

Will Hay was born in 1888 and died in 1949, he was only active in films for 10 years having made his first film, the now lost short Know Your Apples, in 1933 and his last, My Learned Friend, in 1943 but in that time he made some of the all time greatest British comedies.
He teamed up with Moore Marriot and Graham Moffat for a series of films in which they played, if not the same charachters then certainly the same types.
Hay was the coughing, sniffing, faintly seedy "authority" figure, teacher, policeman, prison govenor, fireman, lawyer and station master, all inept.

Moffat was always Albert the surly, disrespectful youth assisting as little as possible.

Marriot was Harbottle the old codger who, like Moffat, hinders more than he helps and who got to utter the imortal line "next train's gone" in Oh Mr Porter.

I couldn't posibly do justice to this trio in a simple blog but there are few such simple pleasures to be had in classic movies as watching the three try to figure out some simple theory. It happens in most of their films together. In Ask a Policeman watch them as they try to work a simple speed trap. In Oh Mr Porter they attempt to work out how to get an engine out from between two carriages. Joy. Why does the BBC, or for that matter any other channel, show old movies anymore, how are the kids of today going to discover the brilliance of so many of these old films?
Try it, you never know, you might like it.


  1. At last! It's not just me banging on about the lost days of BBC2 at 6 o'clock anymore!
    At last! At last!
    (And thanks.)

  2. Those were indeed heady days and a great education for a young man.