Blue Murder at St Trinian's
|Blue Murder at St Trinian's|
|Directed by||Frank Launder|
|Produced by||Frank Launder|
|Written by||Frank Launder|
|Music by||Malcolm Arnold|
|Edited by||Geoffrey Foot|
John Harvel Productions
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)|
Blue Murder at St Trinian's is a 1957 British comedy film set in the fictional St Trinian's School. Directed by Frank Launder and written by him and Sidney Gilliat, it was the second of the series of four films. The film stars Terry-Thomas, George Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Lionel Jeffries and Richard Wattis.
The plot is based around a secret marriage agency for the sixth-form girls, that has caught the attention of an Italian prince, based in Rome. The girls break into the Ministry of Education and replace the official (disastrous) school record with a glowing version that qualifies them for a UNESCO tour of Europe, ending in Rome. In line with St Trinian's tradition, chaos reigns as the girls run amok in Europe.
Flash Harry (George Cole) has set up a marriage bureau for the sixth form St Trinian's girls and is in Rome negotiating with Prince Bruno (Guido Lorraine), who is interested in marrying one of them. The Prince suggests that Harry bring the girls to Rome before July, at the Prince's expense, so he can make a decision. Coincidentally, UNESCO is offering the best academically qualified school in England an expenses paid tour to various European cities, ending in Rome: they will play at the Vienna Music Festival and play in a series of field hockey and water polo matches against school teams. Of course, St Trinian's is the last possible candidate for the tour. Harry returns with the news of the Prince's offer, but is at a loss how to get the girls to Rome before their term ends in July. The UNESCO tour provides the solution, when the girls, led by sixth form girls Bridget Strong (Dilys Laye), Cynthia (Jose Read), and Annabel (Rosalind Knight), break into the Ministry of Education in London and replace their file with one containing outstanding essays, assuring they will be chosen.
At St Trinian's, with neither a headmistress nor teachers, chaos reigns. Things are so bad that an army unit, headed by Major Whitehart (Thorley Walters), has been called in to restore order; but the best they can do, while suffering debilitating casualties, desertions and/ or kidnappings, is to confine the mischief to the school. Meanwhile, Culpepper-Brown (Eric Barker) at the Ministry of Education has hired a new headmistress, Dame Maud Hackshaw (Judith Furse), who is on her way from Australia.
Further complications develop when Joe Mangan (Lionel Jeffries), who has just carried out a large diamond robbery and is on his way by train to St Trinian's to visit his daughter Myrna (Lisa Gastoni), is recognized by Roberts, his former prison governor. After Mangan leaves the train, the former prison governor reads a newspaper account of the theft, which has all the hallmarks of Mangan's approach, and alerts the police of Mangan's whereabouts. Mangan, while walking to the school, stops to ask directions at a parked car, where he finds Superintendent Kemp-Bird (Lloyd Lamble) having a tryst with his fiancée Police Sergeant Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell). Mangan reaches St Trinian’s well before Kemp-Bird returns the car radio to the police frequency and realizes that the stranger they saw was Mangan. Mangan reaches the school grounds, meets his daughter and tells her he has done a "small" job. They reach Harry's rooms, when police cars are seen heading there, and the sixth form girls decide to hide Mangan in the school. The police arrive just as the army is withdrawing because Dame Maud will arrive shortly to take control of the school. When Dame Maud arrives, she is kidnapped by the girls and hidden, shackled, in the bell tower. Mangan, disguised in women's clothes, becomes the new headmistress, unable to escape because the police have surrounded the school and plan to stay there indefinitely, and is forced by the girls to lead the UNESCO tour. The girls intercept a letter sent by the Ministry to Dame Maud, asking her to withdraw St Trinian's from the UNESCO tour, and replace it with a forged letter insisting the girls go on the tour. The Ministry has no alternative but to comply.
The Superintendent, criticized by his superior for having bungled the search for Mangan, is in danger of losing his job. He thinks that Mangan is at the school and plans to leave with the tour, and decides to send Gates, undercover, along on the tour as an interpreter. Culpepper Brown assigns Manton Bassett (Richard Wattis) to deal with the problem of transport. When no coach company will take the job Bassett, in desperation, calls Kemp-Bird for help. He reports back that no-one will do it except, possibly, the Dreadnought Motor Transport Co. near Wantage in Berkshire, whose phone is disconnected, and may be so needy that it will take the job. Dreadnought owner Captain Romney Carlton-Ricketts (Terry-Thomas), agrees to rent the Ministry two dilapidated coaches. As they arrive at St Trinian's, Cynthia spies Mangan stuffing the diamonds into the water polo ball, but doesn't tell anyone. Also on the tour are Eric the Liftman (Michael Ripper), the only Ministry representative who would go, and Gates posing as interpreter Ursula Blewitt. Harry leads the entourage in his bubble car, accompanied by the three sixth form leaders, to whom he reveals Gates’ identity. On the boat to France, the impoverished and opportunistic Ricketts begins to make a play for Gates, thinking she will come into an inheritance when her grandmother dies.
By the time they reach Rome, Gates has told Ricketts about her engagement, her real identity, and her mission. In Rome, just before the water polo match, Mangan retrieves the gem-filled ball, but one of the girls takes it back. Cynthia, believing Prince Bruno will choose her, tells Harry about the loaded ball. At the match, Mangan takes the ball, insisting that the girls use the ball provided by the Italian team. During the match, the empty ball is thrown out of the pool, caught by Harry, and replaced by the gem-laden ball. Harry, believing he has the loaded ball, runs off with it to the police, finds the ball empty, and returns to the match. When the ball with the diamonds is thrown out of the pool, Mangan runs off with it, with Harry and the fourth form girls in pursuit. The girls' team leaves the pool and Prince Bruno makes it clear that his choice of bride is Myrna Mangan. Mangan hides in the Coliseum, but is found by the girls. At a press conference to announce his wedding to Myrna, Prince Bruno is hit in the eye by a piece of fruit thrown, as revenge, by Cynthia.
Somewhere between Rome and return to the UK, the bus acquires a Russian-English-German sign indicating a side trip into the Berlin enclave, and stencils suggesting 6 more dead (or missing) soldiers and further as-yet undocumented manoeuvres for the girls.
Back at St Trinian's, Amelia Fritton (Alastair Sim) has been restored as headmistress and, reward cheque in hand, is greeted warmly by the returning girls. She then agrees to pay Harry his percentage. Sergeant Gates finds that Kemp-Bird is now back on the beat, says goodbye to a chagrined Ricketts, and runs off to chase Kemp-Bird down the street.
- George Cole as "Flash Harry"
- Joyce Grenfell as Policewoman Sergeant Ruby Gates
- Terry-Thomas as Captain Romney Carlton-Ricketts
- Lloyd Lamble as Superintendent Kemp-Bird
- Terry Scott as Police Sergeant
- Lionel Jeffries as Joe Mangan
- Thorley Walters as Major Whitehart
- Cyril Chamberlain as Army Captain
- Judith Furse as Dame Maud Hackshaw
- Kenneth Griffith as Charlie Bull
- Alastair Sim as Miss Fritton
- Guido Lorraine as Prince Bruno
- Lisa Gastoni as Myrna Mangan
- Rosalind Knight as Annabel
- Dilys Laye as Bridget Strong
- Sabrina as Virginia Fritton
Ministry of Education
- Richard Wattis as Manton Bassett
- Eric Barker as Culpepper Brown
- Peter Jones as Prestwick
- Michael Ripper as Eric the liftman
As Miss Fritton, Alastair Sim appears in only two scenes.
A leading model at the time, Sabrina got high billing, appearing in all the posters and publicity stills in school uniform, but she actually had a non-speaking part in which she was only required to lounge in bed reading a book while men hovered around her. She is described as the "school swot", the only pupil to go to bed on time and where she reads the works of Dostoyevsky.
Thorley Walters was to re-appear in The Pure Hell of St Trinian's, effectively replacing Richard Wattis as Culpepper-Brown's nerve-racked assistant. He was also to play the part of Culpepper-Brown himself in The Wildcats of St Trinian's in 1980.
It was Rosalind Knight's first credited film role. She too later appeared in The Wildcats film, this time as a teacher.
Kinematograph Weekly listed it as being "in the money" at the British box office in 1958.
Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times, "what is important and delightful is that the spirit of knockabout farce, evolved in "The Belles of St. Trinian's," is retained uninhibited in this film...it is wild but generally funny—explosively funny in spots, especially when that fellow Terry-Thomas, who was the mustachioed major in "Private's Progress," is dragooned as a bus driver to transport the girls to Rome. And since he has toothy Joyce Grenfell to accompany him on the trip—she's "a crazy, mixed-up police-woman," as she dubs herself—the fun is as much in their behavior as it is in that of the belles. None of the latter is notable as an actress; all are lissome and lively girls. They make for pleasant company on a mad excursion. It's only too bad that Mr. Sim had to languish in jail." More recently, David McGillivray noted in Time Out, "Inventive situations utilising a classic British blend of comedy and crime make it the best (if you like this sort of thing) in the series which followed The Belles of St Trinian's."
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- "Blue Murder at St Trinian's".