Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Let's Be Famous (1939
Betty Driver, Jimmy O'Dea, Sonnie Hale and Basil Radford
Looking back nearly eighty years, it's hard to imagine that anyone imagined that Jimmy O'Dea was screen star material. He may have been a successful comedian in the Irish music halls, but he certainly didn't have what it takes to wow British cinema audiences.

Jimmy O'Dea
And in this role as Jimmy Houlihan, a small town shopkeeper with big ambitions, but a singing voice that wouldn't even get him onto the X Factor as someone to laugh at, O'Dea is rather irritating. He doesn't have a natural feeling on screen as shown by Sonnie Hale, who plays a hapless showbiz agent trying to sign up stars for advertising campaigns.
Patrick Barr & Sonnie Hale
Unfortunately for Hale, his target Betty Pinbright (long time Coronation Street regular, Betty Driver) ...
Betty Driver
... is snapped up by a rival agent (Patrick Barr) who soon gets Betty into the bath advertising soap:
Betty Driver
As an excuse to a few lightweight, sing-a-long numbers, Let's Be Famous is inoffensive enough and in its depiction of the deluded O'Dea as an untalented man chasing his dreams of singing stardom it might have a certain resonance for viewers brought up on a diet of similarly untalented people trying to convince Simon Cowell they are the next big thing. But personally, the film has little value except as a an indication that despite his reputation, Michael Balcon produced some dross during his career at Ealing Studios: Let's Be Famous is more swine than pearl.
Also appearing are:
Basil Radford

Garry Marsh

Lena Brown

Milton Rosmer
Most entertaining point in the film: Whilst arguing in a hotel corridor Hale and O'Dea are confronted by an irate guest who tells them he has come to the hotel "to get some sleep" and appears to be the epitome of respectability ...

... however, his companion soon arrives - complete with lacy underwear, stockings and negligee - making me think he wasn't thinking about sleep.

And when that's the funniest moment of a comedy, you know something is wrong!

Also look out for, Jimmy O'Dea wearing the same suit that he also wore in Penny Paradise:

Let's Be Famous

Penny Paradise

Currently available on Volume 10 of the Ealing Rarities Collection. I wouldn't recommend Let's Be Famous but the collection does include Saloon Bar (a very good example of a 1930s British comedy) and The Divided Heart (a wonderfully understated film dealing with the aftermath of war).

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