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Alligator Named Daisy, An (1955)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Alligator Named Daisy, An (1955)
35mm, colour, 89 mins
Directed byJ. Lee Thompson
Production CompaniesGroup Film Productions, The Rank Organisation
Produced byRaymond Stross
Screenplay byJack Davies
Original novelCharles Terrot
PhotographyReginald Wyer
MusicStanley Black

Cast: Donald Sinden (Peter Weston); Diana Dors (Vanessa Colebrook); Jean Carson (Moira O'Shannon); James Robertson Justice (Sir James Colebrook); Stanley Holloway (General); Roland Culver (Colonel Geoffrey Weston); Margaret Rutherford (Prudence Croquet)

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A young man's life becomes much more complicated after he inherits an alligator.

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A pleasantly undemanding all-star farce, An Alligator Named Daisy never quite manages to surmount the implausibility of its central situation - in which aspiring songwriter Peter Weston (Donald Sinden) accidentally finds himself in possession of a tame alligator and has to convince everyone from his family, employers and fiancée Vanessa Colebrook (Diana Dors) that his resulting behaviour is perfectly normal.

Already past thirty, Sinden is a little too old to convince as a carefree man-about-town still living with his parents, though Dors comes well with an underwritten part that seems more concerned with letting her parade in a variety of extravagant costumes (or not, in the case of a gratuitous foam bathtime sequence). Jean Carson is more convincing as Irish free spirit Moira, the woman Peter really loves, though her appealing naturalness is undermined by a tendency to break into choreographed musical numbers. Since the other musical material grows naturally out of the story and situation, it's never clear whether the film is a comedy with songs or a fully-fledged musical.

But the film is rescued by the supporting cast. James Robertson Justice in particular is on typically bombastic form, capitalising on his new-found stardom in the previous year's Doctor in the House (d. Ralph Thomas, 1954) as extravagant newspaper magnate Sir James Colebrook, seamlessly switching from social pleasantries to barking orders down the phone in German. He's well matched by Stanley Holloway as Peter's near-senile ex-military grandfather, whose experiences in India have left him with a pathological hatred of 'muggers' (or Indian crocodiles), and Margaret Rutherford contributes a too-brief cameo as an eccentric pet shop owner. Stars also pop up as themselves, including Jimmy Edwards, Frankie Howerd and Gilbert Harding (the latter displaying his already-legendary rudeness towards a mercifully fictional newspaper) - while Stephen Boyd, Charlton Heston's co-star in Ben-Hur (US, 1959), makes his screen debut here as Dors' eventual soulmate.

Daisy herself is a mixture of genuine alligator and rubber stand-in: the latter is a little too obvious at times, while the addition of a pink bow adds little to her appeal. For all Sir James' efforts at getting his papers to rebrand alligators as cuddly domestic pets, this notion doubtless looked more believable at the script stage than it does in the final film. Diana Dors and director J.Lee Thompson would have a far more fruitful collaboration the following year, with the capital punishment drama Yield to the Night (1956).

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. An unwanted gift (2:34)
2. Professional advice (1:53)
3. An uninvited guest (7:32)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Culver, Roland (1900-1984)
Day, Tilly (1903-1994)
Dors, Diana (1931-1984)
Edwards, Jimmy (1920-1988)
Harding, Gilbert (1907-1960)
Holloway, Stanley (1890-1982)
Howerd, Frankie (1917-1992)
Justice, James Robertson (1905-1975)
Lee Thompson, J. (1914-2002)
Parsons, Nicholas (1928-)
Rutherford, Margaret (1892-1972)
Sinden, Sir Donald (1923-)
Thesiger, Ernest (1879-1961)