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Turned Out Nice Again (1941)


Main image of Turned Out Nice Again (1941)
35mm, black and white, 81 mins
DirectorMarcel Varnel
Production CompaniesEaling Studios, Ealing-ATP
ProducerBasil Dearden
ScreenplayBasil Dearden, John Dighton, Austin Melford
PhotographyGordon Dines
Original musicErnest Irving

Cast: George Formby (George Pearson), Peggy Bryan (Lydia), Edward Chapman (Uncle Arnold), Elliott Mason (Mrs Pearson), Mackenzie Ward (Gerald Dawson), O.B. Clarence (Mr Dawson)

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George, an employee at an underwear factory, is caught between his modern wife and his meddling mother.

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With production of Turned Out Nice Again (d. Marcel Varnel, 1941) delayed by George's extensive work entertaining the troops and raising money for the war effort, relations between Formby and producer Michael Balcon became severely strained; the film turned out to be the last the comedian made for ATP before moving on to a less satisfying series of films made for Columbia Pictures.

Turned Out Nice Again begins with a brief slapstick sequence, as if to reassure the audience of Formby's knockabout credentials, but swiftly develops into an unusually well-constructed and cleverly written character comedy, with George as a more competent, sensible figure than the gormless policeman of his previous film, Spare A Copper (d. John Paddy Carstairs, 1940).

With a narrative that centres upon his character's relationship with his modern, opinionated wife, Lydia, and his imperious, overbearing mother, George is given one of his most adult roles, and confidently displays his sometimes overlooked ability to act.

With the less gormless George taking the central role, a strong basis is provided for the development of a refreshingly believable on-screen relationship between George and Lydia (well played by Peggy Bryan). Though Formby commentator John Fisher made the claim that "the girls in his films were all as sexless as Walt Disney's Snow White," in this film particularly there seems to be a genuine screen rapport between the couple. This is especially notable during the song 'You're Everything to Me', which concludes with the couple eagerly rushing upstairs, presumably off to bed together.

Elliot Mason is effectively cast as George's meddling mother, hiding her unpleasantness beneath an apparently benevolent exterior. Mason's skill in the portrayal of duplicity was utilised again in another comedy film of the same year, The Ghost of St. Michael's (also d. Marcel Varnel), in which she played a Nazi agent masquerading as a kindly housekeeper. Edward Chapman is also excellent, giving a quietly assured performance as the mild-mannered pigeon fancier, Uncle Arnold, years before his enduring role as pompous Mr. Grimsdale in the Norman Wisdom comedies.

Notable among an outstanding selection of songs are the cheeky 'You Can't Go Wrong In These', sung as young women model 'sensible' underwear, and 'The Emperor of Lancashire', performed to an audience of London industrialists, giving George a chance both to champion new enterprise in the North of England and poke gentle fun at the accents and attitudes of well-to-do southerners.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. Selling underwear (3:33)
2. George in London (1:46)
3. Wife versus mother (2:53)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)
Formby, George (1904-1961)
Hamer, Robert (1911-63)
Hyde-White, Wilfrid (1903-1991)
Varnel, Marcel (1892-1947)