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Keep Fit (1937)


Main image of Keep Fit (1937)
DirectorAnthony Kimmins
Production CompanyATP
ProducerBasil Dean
Scenario/DialogueAnthony Kimmins, Austin Melford
Based on a story byAnthony Kimmins
CinematographyJohn W. Boyle
Music/LyricsFred E. Cliffe, Harry Gifford

Cast: George Formby (George Freen), Kay Walsh (Joan Allen), Guy Middleton (Hector Kent), George Benson (Ernie Gill), Gus McNaughton ("Echo" Publicity Manager), Evelyn Roberts (Mr Barker)

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A cowardly barber overcomes his fears to triumph in the boxing ring over a brawny rival.

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By the time of Keep Fit (d. Anthony Kimmins, 1937), the rough edges of the role George Formby had played in his early films for the Mancunian Film Corporation had been carefully polished away. His screen persona as an optimistic working-class underdog, sometimes gormless and gullible, but always indefatigable and ultimately triumphant despite the underhanded machinations of his supposed social betters, was now fully developed.

Inspired by a then-current national fad for health and fitness, George's character fits well into this unlikely David and Goliath fantasy, as the cowardly weakling who overcomes adversity to triumph in the boxing ring over a corrupt middle-class rival, all for the love of a girl. However, apart from a couple of basic but well-executed knockabout routines that would not have been out of place in George's weekly comic strip in the pages of Film Fun, Keep Fit lacks a little of the sparkle that characterises Formby's best work.

The strongest of the film's musical numbers is the title song itself, which, though a tad short on his trademark lyrical innuendo, is nonetheless one of the most memorable melodies in the Formby songbook. Perhaps because of this catchy quality, the number was reworked, with new lyrics, as a promotional song on the comedian's Formby Do radio broadcasts of 1938, where it was used to advertise laxatives.

Kay Walsh, George's well-spoken co-star, made an unlikely love-interest on screen. However, she was allegedly not averse to Formby's flirtatious behaviour off-camera, apparently engaging in a brief fling with George during one of his wife Beryl's rare absences from the set. Beryl had already done her best to have Walsh fired from the production; when this failed, she attempted to persuade producer Basil Dean to 'de-beautify' the actress, demanding that Walsh be given dowdy frocks and an unappealing hairstyle. However, all such attempts to spoil Walsh's chances were to no avail: already under contract for a further film, she returned to play opposite Formby in his next comedy feature, I See Ice (d. Kimmins, 1938).

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. George the gymnast (3:02)
2. The poster (2:21)
3. George in training (1:44)
Formby, George (1904-1961)