Very Important Person (film)
|Very Important Person|
Original British cinema poster
|Directed by||Ken Annakin|
|Produced by||Leslie Parkyn
|Written by||Jack Davies
|Starring||James Robertson Justice
|Music by||Reg Owen|
|Edited by||Ralph Sheldon|
|Distributed by||Rank Organisation (UK)
Union Film Distributors (US)
The film contains performances from several well-known British comedy and character actors, including James Robertson Justice, Stanley Baxter as both a dour Scottish prisoner and the camp Kommandant, Eric Sykes as a sports fanatic, John Le Mesurier as the Escape officer, Leslie Phillips and Richard Wattis as the emotional Entertainments officers, desperately trying to coax quality performances out of would-be entertainers.
The film had its World Premiere on 20 April 1961 at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End and went on General Release in late May on Rank's second string National circuit.
Sir Ernest Pease (James Robertson Justice) is a brilliant but acerbic scientist working on aircraft research during World War II. He needs to take a trip on a bomber to observe the results of his work. At first the plan is to fly in an RAF plane disguised as an RAF officer, but when he is told to shave off his beard he refuses and gets to go as a Royal Navy officer, as beards are allowed in the RN.
Because it is vital that nobody knows who he is, Pease goes on the trip as Lieutenant Farrow, a public relations officer.
The bomber is damaged over Germany and he is sucked out of a hole in the side of the aeroplane but lands safely with the aid of a parachute. He is captured and, after interrogation under his alias of Lieutenant Farrow of the Royal Navy, he is sent to a POW camp, mostly occupied by RAF officers.
His excellent command of the German language causes him to be suspected of being a German agent, but when his real identity and importance becomes known to the Senior British Officer (Norman Bird), orders are given that the men in his hut co-operate to help him escape.
Pease initially views his somewhat happy-go-lucky fellow prisoners, especially Jimmy Cooper (Leslie Phillips), Everett (Stanley Baxter) and "Bonzo" Baines (Jeremy Lloyd) with disdain, but comes to understand and appreciate their optimistic attitudes under the prison system they find themselves in, even if he remains as pompous and arrogant as ever.
Pease/Farrow concocts a plan whereby he is believed to have escaped "through the wire". In fact, he plans to go into hiding and later walk out of the camp, disguised as one of three visiting Swiss Red Cross observers. Crucial to the escape plan is that Everett looks exactly like the camp Lager [compound] officer also played by Baxter – (even though he describes him as "hideously ugly"). He must pretend to be the Lager officer if Pease/Farrow is to escape. The actual Camp Commandant does not appear in the film.
Whilst the prisoners busy themselves with organising camp concerts and sports, the plan goes ahead. But it nearly comes unstuck at the last moment, when one of the prisoners, "Grassy" Green (John Forrest) is revealed as a real Luftwaffe officer and spy. He is "dealt with", and Pease, Cooper and Baines calmly walk out of the camp and eventually make their way back home.
The story is told in flashback when, long after the war, Pease is the subject of a TV show based on This Is Your Life during which he is re-united with the other ex-POWs and even gets to meet the former Commandant [Lager officer ?], who is now the sports/entertainments officer of a holiday camp.
- James Robertson Justice – Sir Ernest Pease; aka: Lt. Farrow RN
- Leslie Phillips – Jimmy Cooper [prisoner NOT Entertainment Officer as above]
- Stanley Baxter – 'Jock' Everett/Kommandant Stamfel
- Eric Sykes – Willoughby, Sports Officer
- Richard Wattis – Woodcock, Entertainments Officer
- Godfrey Winn – Himself
- Colin Gordon – Briggs
- John Le Mesurier – Piggott, Escape Officer
- Norman Bird – Travers, Senior British Officer
- Jeremy Lloyd – 'Bonzo' Baines [fellow escaper with Jimmy Cooper]
- John Forrest – 'Grassy' Green
- Jean Cadell – Lady Telling Story on TV show. Opening Scene
- Peter Myers – Shaw
- Ronnie Stevens – Hankley
- Ronald Leigh-Hunt – Clynes
- Steve Plytas – Luftwaffe officer
- John Ringham – Plum Pouding
- Joseph Furst – Luftwaffe interrogator
- Norman Shelley – Fred Whittaker
- Brian Oulton – 1st Scientist in corridor
- Frederick Piper – 2nd Scientist in corridor
- Joan Haythorne – Miss Rogers
The escape plan, to walk out of the camp dressed as Red Cross observers, actually happened. It was briefly mentioned in Paul Brickhill's book The Great Escape.
The film's screenplay was later made into a novelisation with the same title by John Foley, which has erroneously caused John Foley to sometimes be credited as author of the novel, which the film is based upon. However, it was the other way around: his novel is based on the film.
Sir Ernest Pease to the others in his hut: "Cooking requires no intelligence. Were it otherwise women would be no good at it."