Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Sailing Along (1938)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Sailing Along (1938)
DirectorSonnie Hale
Production CompanyGaumont-British Picture Corporation
ScreenplayLesser Samuels, Sonnie Hale
Based on a story bySelwyn Jepson
PhotographyGlen MacWilliams
Music/LyricsArthur Johnston, Maurice Sigler

Cast: Jessie Matthews (Kay Martin); Jack Whiting (Dick Randall); Roland Young (Anthony Gulliver); Barry MacKay (Steve); Alastair Sim (Sylvester)

Show full cast and credits

Rough and ready barge girl Kay is transformed into a successful stage star after meeting a millionaire who recognises her talent for singing and dancing.

Show full synopsis

Jessie Matthews gives a typically charming performance in this rags-to-riches story of Kay, a poor barge girl who becomes a stage star. Her quick fire banter and plucky disregard for the niceties of etiquette allow the audience to overlook the fact that she was perhaps a little old at thirty to be playing the ingenue. A scene in a swanky nightclub, where Kay insists on taking a cracker covered with caviar onto the dance floor is typical of the gentle humour which runs through the film.

The supporting cast are all well chosen and used to good effect. Roland Young plays a bumbling "silly ass" millionaire with great aplomb and Alastair Sim is wonderful as the wacky abstract artist who would really prefer to paint traditional landscapes. Athene Seyler is impressive as the grouchy old biddy who softens up when she decides to take Kay under her wing and make her a lady. Matthews interacts with all her co-stars with an easy grace and we can see why the character of Kay is well liked by hoary old barge men and millionaires alike.

Unfortunately, there are no truly memorable songs or show-stopping dance routines, although the performance which gets Kay noticed by her wealthy patron is nicely staged on a moving barge. Matthews' wardrobe is also quite unremarkable, which is surprising given that society dressmaker Norman Hartnell is credited for costume design. Legendary art director Alfred Junge only gets one chance to shine, with the modernistic kitchen of the Gulliver residence. There is a strong sense that Sonnie Hale (Matthews' husband as well as director) was cutting corners, perhaps due to a limited budget. The film's musical finale even reuses a dance sequence originally seen in the earlier Matthews/Hale collaboration First a Girl (1935).

Although not one of Matthews' best vehicles, Sailing Along is still fun to watch, with excellent performances from an accomplished cast. Sonnie Hale's efficient direction moves the film along at a pace swift enough to justify its title.

Jenny Hammerton

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Washing (4:15)
2. The caravan (3:13)
3. Milk dance (3:41)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Matthews, Jessie (1907-1981)
Sim, Alastair (1900-1976)