Whisky Galore! (1949)

I’ve always felt that ‘Whisky Galore!’ gets a little unfairly overshadowed by ‘Kind Hearts And Coronets’ and ‘The Ladykillers’ in the Ealing canon.  They’re both marvellous movies but without the lightness of tone that makes this film- and ‘Passport To Pimlico’ to be fair- such perfect entertainment.  Alexander Mackendrick- who I lauded recently for his ‘Sweet Smell of Success‘- directs and the cast are on great form.  Especially Basil Radford as the uptight Englishman Captain Waggett who has great fun with lines like “They don’t do things for the sake of doing them like the English”. And where else will you see the wonderful James Robertson Justice as a Doctor who not only recommends that his bedridden patient smokes, but furnishes him with a pipe to do so when he learns that the patient has none?

One of the things that I really love about Ealing comedies, which this film demonstrates perfectly, is the way that they pit a small group of like-minded individuals against intransigent bureaucratic obstacles and see them come out on top.  The film generates a real sense of them and us with Captain Waggett as the pompous, blustering stuffed-shirt who follows a legally right, morally wrong path that leads him into conflict with the islanders with genuinely hilarious results.

And there’s that word- hilarious.  This film is at times laugh out loud funny- most famously in the narrated introduction where a description of the Island of Todday (where the film is set) recounts how there is no cinema and no music hall but describes the islanders as “A happy people, with few and simple pleasures” just as a family of about thirteen small children come running out of the house.

Charming, funny and genuinely heartwarming with interesting characters and great comic performances.  In many ways this is a perfect comedy movie, I absolutely adore it- 10/10.

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