Sailor Beware (1956)

Peggy Mount and Esma Cannon in Sailor Beware

Some Son-in-Laws Do 'Ave 'Em

For those who don't give older movies the time of day I suggest checking out "Sailor Beware" because it is British comedy gold. It's a simple movie about bossy Emma Hornett who is not only mean to all her family but also to her future son-in-law to the point that he is put off of marrying her daughter Shirley. As such "Sailor Beware" is one long mother-in-law joke but it works and thanks to a wonderful performance from Peggy Mount as the battle axe of a mother-in-law it never stops having you in fits of laughter.

Having returned home from sea Albert Tufnell (Ronald Lewis) is looking forward to getting married to Shirley (Shirley Eaton - Carry on Constable) and setting up home away from her mother Emma Hornett (Peggy Mount). It's not that Albert doesn't like Emma; it's just that she is such a controlling, dominating and at times mean woman that unless you do things her way you don't do them at all. But when Albert learns that Shirley has secretly put down a deposit on the house 3 doors up and witnesses in the 24 hours before the wedding how dominating Emma can be he has second thoughts about getting married even though he loves Shirley.

Ronald Lewis and Shirley Eaton in Sailor Beware

"Sailor Beware" originated as a stage play and you can tell because this is a movie of just a handful of locations but many characters and at the centre of it is the indomitable Emma Hornett. And to be honest it is a very simple storyline as we watch Albert return home from sea to marry Shirley and in the space of 24 hours witness what having Emma as a mother-in-law would be like, causing him second thoughts. There is no more complexity than that and whilst we have the back story of Albert being an orphan and having an ideal of what marriage will be it doesn't really add any more depth to the movie, not that it needs it. Even semi sub plots such as Albert's friend Carnoustie and attractive bridesmaid Daphne doesn't add anything more other than laughs.

But the thing is "Sailor Beware" is not so much about what happens but about Peggy Mount as the indomitable Emma Hornett. Everything about her is simply brilliant the sort of character which years ago you would have seen in the likes of "Coronation Street", being bossy, demanding and frankly quite mean to all that come her way. And in her home she is the Lord and Master who must be obeyed leaving her poor husband to seek solace in with his ferrets. Such a terrifying, mean and bossy creation that you can understand why Albert would have second thoughts.

But "Sailor Beware" isn't a nasty movie; it isn't being evil about mother-in-laws but has fun with such a powerful character. You can't but help laugh at how she bosses around Aunt Edie, never giving her a moment's peace and at the same time the way she has little respect for Albert and Carnoustie is comically brilliant. Yet it is the blink of an eye change where one minute she can be yelling and the next putting on heir's and graces.

As such whilst "Sailor Beware" has enjoyable performances from the likes of Gordon Jackson, Esma Cannon, Ronald Lewis and the beautiful Shirley Eaton this is a movie which belongs to Peggy Mount. Everything which Peggy does is just brilliant from the scowl on her face to the back handed compliments you never stop smiling or laughing. And it is the way she stomps around the home always one step ahead of everyone else with eyes in the back of her head. As I said this is the sort of character you once saw on "Coronation Street" and is simply just brilliant.

What this all boils down to is that "Sailor Beware" is a piece of comedy gold, a very old fashioned British movie but one which is still so funny. And it is funny purely because of Peggy Mount whose character not only dominates everyone else but so does Mount's brilliant performance.