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Windbag the Sailor (1936)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Windbag the Sailor (1936)
DirectorWilliam Beaudine
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
PhotographyJack Cox
ProducerMichael Balcon
ScriptGeorge Edgar, Stafford Dickens, Will Hay
StoryRobert Stevenson, Leslie Arliss

Cast: Will Hay (Ben Cutlett); Moore Marriott (Jeremiah Harbottle); Graham Moffatt (Albert); Dennis Wyndham (Marryatt); Norma Varden (Olivia Potter-Porter)

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Despite his lack of seafaring experience, Captain Ben Cutlet is only too happy to regale pub regulars with stirring stories of his adventures - which lead to him being appointed captain of a most unseaworthy vessel.

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Windbag the Sailor was the comedy that established Will Hay, Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott as a team and Hay is one of the three screenwriters.

Hay's character, Captain Ben Cutlet, is a self-admitted fraud, trying to stay out of trouble, rather than the confident leader of later films. Moffatt's Albert is an extension of the cheeky office boy he played in Hay's preceding picture, Where There's A Will (d. William Beaudine, 1936). Marriott's Harbottle is a development of a character Hay employed in his music hall days to butt in with irritating questions: here he is a crafty old codger, devoted to the simple pleasures of life. There is fine supporting work from Norma Varden as the widow with unshakable faith in Hay's abilities (very much in the manner of Margaret Dumont's grande dames in Marx Brothers films, with their deluded belief in the Groucho Marx character).

Although somewhat plot-heavy and episodic in character, the film is well staged with convincing sets and maritime atmosphere. Its finest scene occurs when Cutlet, after nine weeks at sea, comes to suspect that the ship may not be headed for Norway as he had been led to believe. He, Albert and Harbottle try to calculate their position with hilariously inaccurate results.

Windbag the Sailor also parodies elements of the immensely popular Mutiny on the Bounty (US, d. Frank Lloyd, 1935) in Hay's Captain Bligh-like curse on the mutineers as he is cast adrift and the trio's enthusiastic adoption of the island way of life. The film's depiction of the black inhabitants as simple, easily fooled figures is without malice and should be seen in the context of the time.

Allen Eyles

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Video Clips
1. Daisy Belle saga (1:37)
2. Finding Norway (4:00)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Ask A Policeman (1939)
Convict 99 (1938)
Goose Steps Out, The (1942)
Oh, Mr Porter! (1937)
Arliss, Leslie (1901-1987)
Cox, Jack (1890-1960)
Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)
Hay, Will (1888-1949)
Will Hay