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Jack's the Boy (1932)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Jack's the Boy (1932)
DirectorWalter Forde
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
ProducerMichael Balcon
ScriptW.P. Lipscomb
Original playJack Hulbert
 Douglas Furber
PhotographyLeslie Rowson

Cast: Jack Hulbert (Jack Brown); Cicely Courtneidge (Miss Bobday); Winifred Shotter (Ivy); Francis Lister (Jules Martin); Peter Gawthorne (Mr Brown)

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Man-about-town Jack Brown becomes a policeman, despite opposition from his father, a senior member of the force. With the help of his girlfriend's old nurse, Mrs Bobday, Jack sets out to foil some jewel thieves to prove his worth.

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Jack Hulbert and his wife, Cicely Courtneidge, were an internationally famous comedy team on stage and screen for over 60 years. Their heyday was the 1920s and 1930s, when the cheerful uncomplicated musicals of the day suited their style. Hulbert never had the pathos or sentiment of a Charlie Chaplin; he was a Jack-of-all-trades with a resolute nose and jutting chin. Courtneidge specialized in cameo character sketches and progressed from the music hall to revue, before finding financial success with the British films of the 1930s. She switched to legitimate theatre later in her career and also played serious parts in films such as The L-shaped Room (d. Bryan Forbes, 1962).

Jack's the Boy is acknowledged as one of the team's best films. Hulbert plays a 'toff', an immaculately-tailored man-about-town, a bit of a 'silly ass' in the Bertie Wooster or Lord Peter Wimsey mould. He moves through an elegant world of top hat and tails, and art deco interiors. Hulbert was 40 in 1932 but here he plays an irresponsible young man, given to singing silly songs with his friends when drunk.

The story is an excuse for Jack and Cicely to do their comedy 'turns' and sing and dance. Celebrated film and stage composer Vivian Ellis wrote the jaunty score, and Hulbert himself arranged the dances, including some tap. Mrs. Bobday is not Jack Brown's love interest, but the plot contrives to bring them together anyway. Each has a solo musical number and they then combine for a number in the thieves' den. The finale enables them to get up to all sorts of farcical nonsense, hiding in dummies' robes, pretending to be Mary, Queen of Scots on the block, or the Princes in the Tower.

Director Walter Forde was himself a famous comedian, and he couldn't resist including some classic music hall gags, such as the builders' extra-long ladder which reduces Jack's traffic duty to chaos. Forde also included some interesting location shooting on the streets of London's West End.

Janet Moat

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Video Clips
1. Police training (1:45)
2. At the Loch Lomond (4:44)
3. Waxwork stakeout (4:07)
Production stills
Balcon, Michael (1896-1977)
Courtneidge, Cicely (1893-1980)
Dalrymple, Ian (1903-1989)
Forde, Walter (1898-1984)
Hulbert, Jack (1892-1978)
Film and Theatre: 1930s
Musical Comedy in the 1930s
Performance in 1930s film