Monday, 16 June 2014

DVD Review: Where There's A Will Starring Will Hay (1936)

For the best part of ten years between 1933 and 1943, Will Hay made no less than 20 comedy films and was one of the biggest box office draws in the UK alongside George Formby and Arthur Askey for homegrown comedy talent.

I was of the generation that caught several of Hay's films broadcast on television during the 1970s and 1980s, when the trend of recalling films from the 1930s and 1940s was still a welcome early evening pastime on BBC2.

I was quite thrilled a few years ago to pick up a few Will Hay movies. As I still hadn't seen them all , I thought I'd try and have at least a 90 minute chill out on a Saturday afternoon each month to re watch a few of these classic comedies.

I had no recollection of seeing Where There's A Will before. The 1936 feature finds Will Hay as incompetent solicitor Benjamin Stubbins with everything to prove to disapproving relatives and a doting daughter.

Stubbins however has fallen on hard times, unable to pay his rent or the wages of his inefficient office boy (played here to full comic potential by Graham Moffat).

He inadvertently falls in with a band of American crooks who plan to rob the bank that's placed below Stubbins office and its there the chaos ensues...

Will Hay is a delight to watch throughout as Stubbins. His wryly combination of pomposity and terseness mixed with an affection to please his daughter and actually do right against the protagonists display complexity but great fun.

There's some fabulous comic moments too, a drunken attempt to play Billiards with a tee-total butler (Gibb McLaughlin) and an insolent exchange with an office boy (Graham Moffat) on manners. Moffat's chemistry with Hay no doubt paid off for the young actors future career in films (and forming a partnership with Hay along with Moore Marriott in several films).

Hartley Power injects a subtle amount of craftiness as American crook Wilson throughout the proceedings while Peggy Simpson undoubtedly makes the most of her moments as Stubbins daughter Barbara. There's also some lovely comic interplay by HF Maltby as the pompous Sir Roger Wimpleton who is clearly having an indiscretion with the corrupt Goldie Kelly played by Gina Malo.

There are a further comic high-points for Will Hay in this film, his unwitting interference with the crooks during their heist and later his intervention in preventing a further crime as Father Christmas.

All in all Where There's A Will is an enjoyable Will Hay picture and worthy to check out and watch if you want to sample some retro comedy!

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