How I envy those who get to attend what sounds like a treat for British film buffs, or for that matter anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
British film was at its zenith of quality and influence in the 1940s and 1950s, and the Ealing Studio comedies were a big part of that. The writing was pure comic joy. The murderer of balloon-riding suffragette Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne’s voices my favorite Ealing line: “I shot an arrow into the air, she fell to earth in Berkeley Square”.
But even those scripts have to take a back seat to the perfect star for the Ealing style, who hilariously played Lady Agatha and 7 other members of the D’Ascoyne family in Kind Hearts and Coronets, and reduced proper British audiences to fits of delightfully undignified laughter in films such as The Lavender Hill Mob, the Man in the White Suit, and the Ladykillers: Sir Alec Guinness. There seemed to be no one of any social class, sex, or background that Guinness didn’t know how to play for laughs.
He was a master of self-deprecating wit in life as well as in film, and this is my favorite of his stories (apologies, I can’t remember the source). After finishing a meal at a restaurant, he went to the cloakroom and began to describe the outer garments he had checked there, but was waved off with a knowing smile by the staff member manning the room. The staff member went into the back and retrieved the correct clothes. Feeling delighted that he was now so famous that even his clothes were instantly burned into human memory, he left the restaurant and started to walk home. He reached into his coat pocket and felt a piece of crumpled paper, which surprised him so he pulled it out and read it: “Bald. Glasses. Middle-aged. Hat is black too”.
A little of Sir Alec and Ealing Studios to brighten your Saturday: