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Trouble In Store (1953)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Trouble In Store (1953)
35mm, black and white, 85 mins
DirectorJohn Paddy Carstairs
Production CompanyTwo Cities Films
ProducerMaurice Cowan
ScreenplayJohn Paddy Carstairs
 Maurice Cowan
 Ted Willis
PhotographyErnest Steward

Cast: Norman Wisdom (Norman); Margaret Rutherford (Miss Bacon); Moira Lister (Peggy); Derek Bond (Gerald); Lana Morris (Sally)

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Norman, an inept but ambitious stock room assistant in a large department store, gets off on the wrong foot with his new general manager but, against the odds, he manages to foil a robbery attempt by a gang of thieves.

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One of his funniest and best constructed films, this was the first cinema starring role for variety comedian Norman Wisdom. Its success spawned a massively popular series of films based around Norman's comic persona, 'The Gump', an enthusiastic but accident prone working-class everyman, often clad in ill-fitting suit and cap.

By the 1950s, Wisdom was an established theatre and television star. Consequently, he was signed to a seven-year film contract with the Rank Organisation. However, Rank executives were anxious as to whether Wisdom's distinctive style could be effectively reproduced on the big screen.

Eventually, Jill Craigie wrote a vehicle for him, "a satire on a big store in a Chaplinesque vein, with plenty of scope for slapstick". In this and subsequent films, Wisdom's 'little man' struggles to get by, hemmed in by social class and corporate might.

Initially, the atmosphere on set was described by Wisdom as "tense as a bow-string, from the director down to the clapperboy". After initial disputes, particularly over Wisdom's input into the window dressing scene, Wisdom and director John Paddy Carstairs cemented an efficient working relationship which produced six films. Rank hedged its bets by hiring an excellent supporting cast, including Jerry Desmonde, Wisdom's greatest foil, Joan Sims, Lana Morris and, notably, Margaret Rutherford as an eccentric shoplifter.

Rank nervously previewed the film at a special screening. Wisdom recalled that "a gale of laughter swept through the audience"; afterwards, "the Rank chiefs and their wives clustered around to pump my hand." The film was a much-needed hit for Rank. In London alone, though it was denied a West End release, the film broke box office records in 51 of the 67 cinemas where it played. Successful, too, were the film's songs; 'Don't Laugh At Me', co-written by the comedian, was a Top Twenty hit, spending fifteen weeks in the charts.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. Meeting the new boss (5:42)
2. Norman sings (2:35)
3. Sacked (2:43)
Original Poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Carstairs, John Paddy (1910-1970)
Rutherford, Margaret (1892-1972)
Sims, Joan (1930-2001)
Wisdom, Norman (1915-2010)
Two Cities Films