Saturday, 20 March 2010

My Learned Friend (1943)

Will Hay's last film before ill health sadly stole him from the silver screen, My Learned Friend is an enjoyable comedy about former Barrister turned petty crook, William Fitch (Will Hay), who teams up with the failed Barrister who unsuccessfully tries to prosecute him, Claude Babbington (Claude Hulbert).  An old enemy of Fitch's turns up after doing a stretch in prison; Grimshaw (Mervyn Johns) plans to kill off everyone involved in putting him behind bars, saving Fitch, his defence lawyer at the time, for last.

Will all sorts of grisly murders going on the tone is a little darker than most Will Hay movies, but the light-hearted humour is often spot-on.  It's a bit of a shame that the opening sequence, a courtroom scene between Fitch and Babbington, sets the bar too high with its witty wordplay for the rest of the film to follow, but there are still plenty of genuine laughs here.  Will Hay is good, playing a slightly toned-down version of his usual nutty headmaster characters, while Claude Hulbert is brilliant as the hapless but lucky Babbington.  Mervyn Jones too is very good as the menacing and deranged psychopath Grimshaw.

Overall My Learned Friend is a very enjoyable comedy and, as his last movie appearance, a fitting tribute to Will Hay.  He also co-directed with Basil Dearden.



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