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Go to Blazes (1942)


Main image of Go to Blazes (1942)
35mm, 8 min, black & white
DirectorWalter Forde (disputed)
Production CompanyEaling Studios
SponsorMinistry of Information
ProducerMichael Balcon
ScreenplayAngus Macphail
 Diana Morgan

Cast: Will Hay (Father); Thora Hird (Elsie); Muriel George (Mother)

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A man preparing to lecture on dealing with incendiary devices suddenly finds himself having to deal with the real thing. Fortunately his wife and daughter are on hand.

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This wittily written information film - designed to demonstrate the correct way to deal with incendiary bombs - starred comedian Will Hay, and was commissioned from Ealing Studios by the Ministry of Information for its 'Five Minute Films' series of short propaganda films designed to play in mainstream cinemas.

Hay, highly popular in the war years, had already appeared in other patriotic films for the studio. The Goose Steps Out (d. Hay/Basil Dearden, 1942) saw his trademark shifty-incompetent schoolmaster sent to Nazi Germany to obtain information about a secret weapon, while The Big Blockade (d. Charles Frend, 1942) was a more serious propaganda piece that awkwardly cast Hay in the unlikely role of minesweeper skipper.

In Go to Blazes, he is more successfully in character as a pompous bluffer who, after half-reading one pamphlet, plans to lecture others about putting out firebombs, but who has none of the hands-on training that would enable him safely to do so himself. When his own house is hit by a fire bomb, his wife and daughter (effectively played by an unflappable Muriel George and a sardonic Thora Hird) end up showing him - and the audience - how such devices should be dealt with.

This would be the last time Hay would play the incompetent-living-on-his-wits character that had for so long been his stock in trade. His next film at Ealing, My Learned Friend (d. Hay/Dearden, 1943), which turned out to be his final bow, would, with his own creative input and approval, see Hay begin to develop a more sharp-witted screen persona.

Go to Blazes is usually credited to Walter Forde, but Forde always denied it, and it may actually have been directed by Hay himself, or by his occasional directing partner Basil Dearden.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
Complete film (8:08)
Did You Ever See a Dream Talking? (1943)
Save Your Shillings and Smile (1943)
Hay, Will (1888-1949)
Hird, Thora (1911-2003)
Morgan, Diana (1908-1996)
Ealing Studios (1938-59)
Ealing Propaganda Shorts