Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Belles of St Trinian's (1954)

The first of the movies about the naughty schoolgirls of St Trinian's has aged pretty well.  The plot centres around the efforts of Mrs Fritton (played by Alastair Sims) to raise enough money to keep the school going.  It helps that one of her new students, Fatima, is the daughter of a fabulously wealthy sheikh, and that his horse, Arab Boy, seems a cert for the big race coming up... only trouble is, her girls are almost as devious as Millicent Fritton herself, so while the fourth formers are trying to aid her plan (for their own benefit of course), the sixth formers have joined forces with Millicent's dodgy brother Clarence (also played by Sims) to knobble Arab Boy and collect the winnings on another horse instead...  A police woman (played by Joyce Grenfell) is recruited (very reluctantly) to find out just what's going on in the school from hell, while "Flash Harry" (George Cole) is trying to make money from the girls, Miss Fritton, and basically anyone within a twenty mile radius of the school...

While it's a bit overused, the horrified reaction of all and sundry to the very mention of the dreaded St Trinian's is funny throughout the film.  There are many scenes in the film that will have you laughing; it's very daft and not in the least bit ashamed of admitting it.  All the cast are good, George Cole is wonderfully shifty as Flash Harry, no-one has ever quite done goofy like Joyce Grenfell, and Alastair Sims is simply marvellous.  The set pieces work well and the pacing is good, with never a dull moment really.  Perhaps the only real disappointment in this film was the strangely subdued performance of Sid James - he just played a straight role, which really didn't suit him.

Despite the fact that I was pleasantly surprised by the 2007 remake of St Trinian's, the sheer mayhem of The Belles of St Trinian's has a chaotic charm that captivates audiences over half a century after its release.

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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