The Happiest Days of Your Life
|The Happiest Days of Your Life|
|Directed by||Frank Launder|
|Produced by||Frank Launder
|Written by||John Dighton
|Music by||Mischa Spoliansky|
|Edited by||Oswald Hafenrichter|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films|
|8 March 1950|
|Box office||£278,502 (UK)|
The Happiest Days of Your Life is a 1950 British comedy film directed by Frank Launder, based on the play by John Dighton. The two men also wrote the screenplay. It's one of a stable of classic British film comedies produced by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat for British Lion Film Corporation. The film was made on location and at Riverside Studios, London. In several respects, including some common casting, it was a precursor of the more anarchic St. Trinian's films of the 1950s.
Set in 1949, confusion reigns when St Swithin's Girls' School is accidentally billeted at Nutbourne College: a boys' school. The two heads, Wetherby Pond (Alastair Sim) and Muriel Whitchurch (Margaret Rutherford), try to cope with the ensuing chaos, as the children and staff attempt to live in the newly cramped conditions (it being impossible to share dormitories or other facilities), and seek to prevent the children taking advantage of their new opportunities.
Additional humour is derived from the departure of the Nutbourne College domestic staff and their hurried (and not very effective) replacement with the St Swithin's School Home Economics class.
The main comedy is derived from the fact that the parents of the St Swithins girls would consider it improper for their daughters to be exposed to the rough mix of boys in Pond's school, and from the consequent need to conceal the fact that the girls are now sharing a school that's full of boys. Pond is offended at the suggestion that his boys are not suitable company for the young ladies of St Swithin's, but he needs to appease Miss Whitchurch to salvage his chances of an appointment to a prestigious all-boys school for which he is in the running, and which depends on his ability to prevent his current post presenting the appearance of a bear garden.
Matters come to a head when a group of school governors, from the prestigious establishment to which Pond has applied to become the next headmaster, pay a visit at the same time as the parents of some of the St Swithin's girls. Frantic classroom changes are made, and hockey, lacrosse and rugby posts and nets are swapped about, as students and staff try to hide the unusual arrangement.
Two simultaneous tours of the school premises are arranged: one for the girls' parents, and a separate one for the governors, and never the twain must meet! The facade finally collapses when the parents become obsessed with seeing a girls' lacrosse match at the same time as one of the governors has been promised a rugby match.
The punchline is delivered – a clever swipe at wartime bureaucracy – when, weeks too late, a Ministry of Schools official arrives, to declare everything sorted out. "You're a co-educational school, I believe; well I've arranged for another co-educational school to replace St Swithin's next week... Oh, it appears they're ahead of schedule." At this point, several more coachloads of children and staff appear noisily, and utter chaos reigns.
Fade out on Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford, quietly discussing in which remote and unattractive corner of the British Empire they might best try to pick up the pieces of their respective careers, with her mentioning having a brother who "grows groundnuts in Tanganyika."
- Alastair Sim as Wetherby Pond
- Margaret Rutherford as Miss Whitchurch
- Guy Middleton as Victor Hyde-Brown
- Joyce Grenfell as Miss Gossage
- Edward Rigby as Rainbow
- Muriel Aked as Miss Jezzard
- John Bentley as Richard Tassell
- Bernadette O'Farrell as Miss Harper
- Richard Wattis as Arnold Billings
- Gladys Henson as Mrs. Hampstead
The acting was much praised, in particular Joyce Grenfell as one of the teaching staff of St Swithin's, while Alastair Sim's portrayal of the kindly headmaster, Wetherby Pond, was seen as one of his strongest ever roles.
The film was very successful on its release, being the fifth most popular movie at the British box office for 1950. It led to an unofficial sequel, The Belles of St Trinian's, in 1954: another comedy about a girls' school at which chaos reigned, which was also produced by Launder and Gilliat. Several members of the cast of The Happiest Days of Your Life were retained for the sequel, including Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis and Guy Middleton, with Ronald Searle again providing the cartoons for the film titles.
Miss Whitchurch: "Many of our girls come from the colonies. St Swithin's has always specialised in outposts." Pond: "Madam, I am not in the least interested in where they come from, or whether the Sun never sets upon them. The point is, they can't stay here!"
Upon discovery of a pitched battle in the dormitory between the boys and the girls, Pond is heard to remark, "This is a time when little boys should be seen, and not interrupted..."
Pond has been trying to teach an English grammar lesson in the front hall of the school and has been interrupted almost continuously by Miss Whitchurch, passing girls, two men carrying and dropping an iron bedstead, and a woman canvasser talking loudly and insistently to the housekeeper at the front door...
Pond: "What's the use – I might as well try to teach in Waterloo Station." Housekeeper: "Mr Pond, there's a lady at the door who wants to know if you'll vote for Miss Weston in the election." Pond's gaze rolls around to face her. Pond: "Mrs Hampstead, you may inform your lady that if there is a MALE candidate, whether he is Conservative, Socialist, Communist or Anarchist – or for that matter Liberal – he will have my vote."
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p492
- screenonline: Happiest Days of Your Life, The (1950)
- "BOB HOPE BEST DRAW IN BRITISH THEATRES.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 29 December 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- The Great British Films, pp 142–143, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
- The Happiest Days of Your Life at the Internet Movie Database
- The Happiest Days of Your Life at AllMovie
- The Happiest Days of Your life at the St. Trinian's website