The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954)
A teeny weeny bit unorthodox but there that's better than being old fashioned isn't it - Millicent Fritton
Some of my favourite British comedies were the early, black and white "Carry on" movies and as such it's probably little surprise that I also like the original black & white "St. Trinian's" movies. They share a style and a sense of humour especially when it comes to "The Belles of St. Trinian's" which has the sort of storyline which wouldn't have looked out of place in an early "Carry On" movie. As such the storyline to "The Belles of St. Trinian's" is slim, but enjoyably so and is made entertaining from the comedy of watching naughty school girls through to the memorable characters such as Alastair Sim as headmistress Millicent Fritton and George Cole as dodgy dealer Flash Harry. What is surprising is that whilst an old black & white movie "The Belles of St. Trinian's" is still amusing today, maybe more amusing for a younger audience than it was originally made for but still amusing.
Having decided to send his daughter Fatima (Lorna Henderson) to finish her education in England, The Sultan of Makyad (Eric Pohlmann) decides that St. Trinian's the prestigious 'School for Young Ladies' would be ideal as it is close to where his race horses are trained. Fatima's arrival is also ideal for various characters at the school from Clarence Fritton (Alastair Sim - The Millionairess), the bookie brother of headmistress Millicent (Alastair Sim), who spies an opportunity to make some money through to the various students and their go between Flash Harry (George Cole) who also see Fatima's arrival as a gift horse. But unbeknown to anyone the new sports teacher is in fact police woman Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell), planted to spy on what is going on at the notoriously troublesome St. Trinian's.
So as already mentioned the actual storyline to "The Belles of St. Trinian's" is slim but that is not a bad thing. Everything basically revolves around an Arab's race horse who various parties take an interest in. Millicent is interested because there is no money to keep the school running, whilst some of her young wards are also interested in winning some money betting on it. But then you have Millicent's brother Clarence, a bookie who with the help of his 6th form daughter Bella is looking to make a killing if the horse doesn't win. And so everything boils down to this horse and whether it will race or not with some trying to kidnap it whilst others trying to protect it. There is a subplot over an undercover police woman masquerading as a teacher in the troublesome school but that really only adds more opportunity for comedy.
What this really means is that "The Belles of St. Trinian's" is all about the various layers of comedy from the various characters. There is the wonderful humour of Alastair Sim as headmistress Millicent Fritton whilst also playing her brother Clarence and there is just as much fun from George Cole giving us Flash Harry a forerunner to his Arthur Daily. And of course there is the wonderful Joyce Grenfell who as undercover police woman Ruby Gates is a bounty of over exaggerated mannerisms especially her walk.
But the real comedy is of course the naughty school girls who run riot through the halls of St. Trinian's. When it comes to these children they are so outrageous that it makes you grateful that they don't really exist. From blatantly smoking, to flirting with anything in trousers, making gin in science class and creating lethal booby traps they are the most amusing bunch of hockey stick wielding school girls you will ever see.
Whilst there is a lot of talent on show in "The Belles of St. Trinian's" and the sharp eyed amongst you will notice that on top of Joyce Grenfell there is also Sid James, Irene Handl, Joan Sims and the stunning Belinda Lee the stars are Alastair Sim and George Cole. In the case of George Cole his performance as Flash Harry is simply amusing, slick, fast talking and dodgy you just can't help but laugh especially whenever he walks to the school with his theme music playing. But even George Cole is over shadowed by Sim who not only plays one character but two, although it is as headmistress Millicent Fritton where he delivers so many laughs. It's such a daft character, slightly dodgy a little daft, very old fashioned and almost oblivious to some of the troubles whilst co-conspirator in others and everything which Sim does is simply funny.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Belles of St. Trinian's" was a movie made over 50 years ago it is as much fun now as it ever has been. The storyline is slim but the humour runs thick and freely and that is what makes it so good, that and not only a wonderful performance by George Cole as Flash Harry but Alastair Sim who is simply wonderful from start to end.
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