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Just My Luck (1957)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Just My Luck (1957)
DirectorJohn Paddy Carstairs
Production CompanyRank Organisation Film Productions Ltd
ProducerHugh Stewart
ScriptAlfred Shaughnessy
ScriptPeter Blackmore
From a story byAlfred Shaughnessy
PhotographyJack Cox
Music composed and conductedPhilip Green

Cast: Norman Wisdom (Norman Hackett/Mr Hackett); Jill Dixon (Anne); Leslie Phillips (Hon. Richard Lumb); Delphi Lawrence (Miss Daviot); Edward Chapman (Mr Stoneway)

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Lowly jeweller's assistant Norman Hackett places his first bet on the performance of one jockey who will enter six races over the next three days. As the jockey's winning streak becomes apparent Norman gets increasingly excited and decides to visit the racecourse.

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Already a household name, and the winner of a BAFTA for best newcomer with his headlining debut, Trouble in Store (1953), Norman Wisdom was still eight years shy of playing what would become his signature role, as milkman Norman Pitkin in The Early Bird (1965). But here, in Just My Luck (1957), are all the elements of one of the great film franchises of its day.

Wisdom's 'gump' character, although changing professions and settings in each of the films, is in essence consistent. Working-class Norman is caring, yet not too clever. A hard worker but congenitally accident-prone, he galumphs through life trying his best but always falling foul of officious middle managers. Here he plays an assistant in a high-class jewellery store who takes out a bet on one racing jockey's performance which could win him a fortune. As the film goes on Norman's bet looks more and more likely to succeed and Norman become increasingly agitated. Comic hilarity ensues.

Populated with a familiar retinue of comic and character actors, Just My Luck breaks few moulds, sitting squarely within Wisdom's many films of this type. John Paddy Carstairs, who had directed all of Wisdom's headlining films to this point, again teamed his star with Margaret Rutherford, who had appeared in Trouble in Store. The ever-watchable Rutherford's role, as an eccentic racehorse owner, is small but distinctive: throughout her few scenes with Wisdom she bathes a small chimp.

Norman's boss at the jewellery store, Mr Stoneway, is played by Edward Chapman, in his first teaming with Wisdom. Their on-screen relationship proved so successful that Chapman made regular appearances in the series as Norman's employer Mr Grimsdale.

It would be unkind to say, as many do, that Wisdom had created a career merely from falling over. These films have an innocent charm that is very much of their time and execute some excellent comic scenes that wouldn't be out of place in many films today. Just My Luck is not a piece of comedic genius, nor even the best of Wisdom's films, but it's an amiable, well-constructed piece that recalls a gentler age.

John Innes

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Video Clips
1. Night-time raid (2:20)
2. Making an entrance (2:49)
3. Stop the race! (1:35)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Cox, Jack (1890-1960)
Day, Tilly (1903-1994)
Phillips, Leslie (1924-)
Rutherford, Margaret (1892-1972)
Sims, Joan (1930-2001)
Wisdom, Norman (1915-2010)