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Come On George! (1939)


Main image of Come On George! (1939)
DirectorAnthony Kimmins
Production CompanyEaling Studios
ProducerJack Kitchin
ScreenplayLeslie Arliss, Anthony Kimmins, Val Valentine
Director of PhotographyRonald Neame
Original musicErnest Irving

George Formby (George), Patricia Kirkwood (Ann Johnson), Joss Ambler (Sir Charles Bailey), Meriel Forbes (Monica Bailey), Cyril Raymond (Jimmy Taylor), George Hayes (Bannerman)

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A stable-hand befriends a nervous horse and discovers that he's the only one who can calm it down enough to win races.

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According to his biographer David Bret, trainee jockey George Formby had made his debut on his father's horse, Eliza (named after Formby Senior's wife), in the Apprentice Plate at Lingfield Park in 1914. Though his performance was inauspicious - he came last, perhaps because he was suffering from mumps - his association with riding continued into the following year, when he made an appearance in a Violet Hobson horse-racing drama, By The Shortest Of Heads, undergoing tuition from Derby-winning jockey Steve Donoghue. All this experience meant that George Formby was particularly well suited to his role as a jockey in the distinctly equine "Come On George!" (d. Anthony Kimmins, 1939). Indeed, the comedian decided that wherever possible, he would undertake his own stunts.

Tightly structured and scripted, though sometimes slipshod in its editing, "Come On George!" is one of Formby's best and most imaginative films, and features numerous well-executed comic set pieces. Though following the usual Formby formula of the cowardly underdog overcoming adversity to emerge triumphant, the film benefits from providing Formby with a rare chance to play against type and add a string to his comic bow, during a sequence in which he is instilled with arrogant super-confidence as a result of a nerve treatment. Also particularly notable is a brief but entertaining performance by bulging-eyed Gibb McLaughlin as a sternly cerebral brain specialist. McLaughlin's varied career would later lead him to appearances in The Lavender Hill Mob (d. Charles Crichton, 1951) and Hancock's Half Hour (BBC, 1956-60).

The film includes a varied selection of entertaining Formby numbers, notably the ingeniously catchy 'Pardon Me', originally envisaged as a duet with Pat Kirkwood, though George's jealous wife Beryl managed to curtail this idea. Despite some melodious songs, there was apparently little harmony on the set. George didn't like Meriel Forbes, Ronald Stagg, or even his co-star Pat Kirkwood, and she had no time for him either. "Try to converse with him and you'd find there was no one at home," she later remarked.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. Doing the dishes (2:27)
2. At the fairground (2:20)
3. At the brain specialist (4:21)
Original poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Arliss, Leslie (1901-1987)
Formby, George (1904-1961)
Musical Comedy in the 1930s