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Boots! Boots! (1934)

Courtesy of Mike Blakeley

Main image of Boots! Boots! (1934)
35mm, 70 min, black & white
Directed byBert Tracey
Production CompanyBlakeley's Productions
Director of ProductionJohn E. Blakeley
StoryJack Cottrill
 George Formby
Photography byJames S. Hodgson
Music Arranged byHarry Hudson

Cast: George Formby (John 'Boots' Willie); Beryl (Snooky ); Arthur Kingsley (Mr Dawson ); Tonie Forde (Marie ); Lillian Keyes (Lady Royston); Donald Reid (Sir Alfred Royston)

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The boot-boy at a big hotel falls for the scullery maid, who turns out to be the long-lost niece of wealthy residents at the hotel.

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Boots! Boots! was George Formby's first feature and launched his screen career. He subsequently got a contract with Associated Talking Pictures at Ealing Studios and went on to become a nationwide success. Viewed today, it takes a little effort to see past the film's poor sound quality, static scene set-ups and lack of sets and understand Formby's star appeal. The comedy business is inconsistent and Formby fluffs his lines several times, while the rather unpleasant treatment by Formby of an apparently gay male character and an older unmarried woman jars. But the musical performances are where he really shines and were doubtless what audiences came to see.

The wafer-thin plot is almost incidental, and the film is constructed around a series of comic turns by Formby and some song and dance routines performed by the stars and other artists. The denouement is hurried and unclear - the incredible revelation that Snooky is the long-lost niece of the Cliffords is easily missed. Snooky was played by Beryl Formby, George's wife, who was notoriously protective of her husband - to the extent that she was banned from the sets of his later productions.

Boots! Boots! was made for £3,000 in a small studio above a taxi garage off Regent Street in Central London, where the noise of car engines made filming difficult. The critics were less than impressed with Formby's screen debut; audiences, however, apparently flocked to it. Producer John E. Blakeley once tried to see it in a town he was passing through to gauge the audience's reaction, but found the screening was sold out.

Two versions of the film exist. The version originally held by the BFI National Archive was a shortened one cut for reissue in 1938, but a long version was recently discovered, with extra scenes and a performance by a very young Betty Driver, later of Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-).

Jo Botting

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Blakeley, John E. (1888-1958)
Formby, George (1904-1961)
Mancunian Studios