Friday, 27 May 2016

Privates Progress.

Stanley Windrush may be a familiar name for the lovers of 1950’s British cinema as the actor Ian Carmichael famously played the character twice. In 1959 he played Windrush in the Boulting Brothers movie I’m All Right Jack a satire on British industrial relations in the 1950’s. This movie was in fact a sequel to an earlier Boulting Brothers movie Privates Progress (1956) another satire but this time a light-hearted look at British army life during WW2. It included actors and characters found in the later film including Carmichael first portrayal of the unfortunate misfit Windrush that turned out to give the actor his first big break in movies.
What the English call a silly ass. 
Both these films had a satirical capability that was in many ways unique to the brothers and were ‘irreverently critical of British institutions’[1] The movie opens in 1942 and we find Stanley Windrush at University in the middle of his studies when he is called up to join the army to do his bit for the war effort. Our Stanley is of course an academic who comes from a well to do family and is assumed to be officer material. But Stanley turns out to be particularly incompetent, what the English would call a ‘silly ass’; consequently he does not survive the officer-training course at Gravestone Barracks. Placed in a far flung holding unit as a regular private where he can do no harm amongst fellow soldiers who display immense energy and resourcefulness avoiding any work. Its there he befriends Private Cox (Richard Attenborough) a particularly crafty layabout. Both men are drafted into a division commanded by Stanley’s uncle, Brigadier Tracepurcel (Dennis Price) a rather untrustworthy individual who has been tasked with uplifting a hoard of looted treasures and works of art from behind German lines. Stanley’s main job is to interpret but there is one slight problem his training at the interpreters school has been in Japanese and not German!

Various British actors grace the screen. 

Although the film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1957 it is not as hard hitting satirically as I’m All Right Jack It has a weak story line that is only saved from obscurity by its cast. As well as great performances from Carmichael, Attenborough and Price we get Terry Thomas as Major Hitchcock commander of the holding unit and an array of classic British actors including Peter Jones of The Rag Trade fame, William Hartnell known for his TV appearances as the first Doctor Who and in The Army Game as well as his roles in classic British feature film’s like Brighton Rock (1947) and Hell Drivers (1957). There is also an uncredited appearance, albeit brief of Christopher Lee just before his Hammer Horror career took off.

[1] Sixties British Cinema - Robert Murphy

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