The Way Ahead (1944)
I could write a book on this film, probably my all-time favourite British war film, but I'll save that for later. Instead I'd like to point out a few interesting facts.
The Way Ahead was produced as a feature film after the success of The New Lot, an army training film designed to encourage reluctant new recruits to make the most of army life. However, an addition to the original film were two old Chelsea pensioners who provide comic relief throughout the film as they tell tales of how the youngsters of the modern army couldn't compete with soldiers of their day.
Examples of their dialogue:
"500 of them, stark naked, screaming their heads off, all with spears ... they weren't very nice those spears .... these young fellas nowadays haven't got the stomach for it ... Ought to have dug trenches at Dunkirk, let the Germans come through then taken them in the rear ... surrounded? Form squares like General McNeil did .."
As I watched, I expected to see Corporal Jones from Dad's Army join them and talk about the Fuzzy-wuzzies and how they don't like 'cold steel up 'em'.
So immediately, I had made the connection with Dad's Army. Then who should appear next:
Yes, John Laurie, later to find fame as Private Frazer.
And there is also Private Beck, played by Leslie Dwyer. Dad's Army had James Beck playing Private Walker. Another odd coincidence.
|David Niven & Leslie Dwyer|
With the Dad's Army connection fully planted in my mind, I reached the film's final scene, as the platoon advance into battle through a cloud of smoke.
Of course, many years later John Laurie would find himself repeating this for the closing credits of Dad's Army.
The similarity is too great to think that the creators of the tv series, David Croft and Jimmy Perry, hadn't seen The Way Ahead and remembered the final scene.
Did I say Jimmy Perry?
One final strange coincidence: In the film David Niven plays a young officer who takes command of these reluctant soldiers:
His character's name? Lieutenant Jimmy Perry!!!
This rather rare poster from the film is currently available from memorabilia dealer Greg Edwards: