Saturday, 4 April 2015

Take A Chance (1937)
Claude Hulbert

'Coming up on the outside it's number 8, Take a Chance ....'
This is one of those rather silly 1930s comedies which are hardly ever shown on television and, as such, are forgotten by most people. However, there's much to be said for not overly funny old comedies: they are short, they are great illustrations of the fashions and styles of the period and you don't have to concentrate too hard.
Oh, and also - of course - being a British comedy of the 1930s the female lead always has to make a brief appearance in her underwear:
Enid Stamp-Taylor
'Take is Chance' is the racehorse owned by Archie Burton (Henry Kendall) ...
Henry Kendall
... whose wife Cicely (Enid Stamp-Taylor) ...
Enid Stamp-Taylor
... is having an affair with Richard Carfax (Guy Middleton) ...
Guy Middleton
He's a rogue who uses information provided to Cicely to back Archie's horse. Once the information is out everyone else starts backing the horse, with the secret out Archie and his friend 'Blinkers' (Kynaston Reeves) ...
Kynaston Reeves & Henry Kendall
... decide to employ someone to investigate the 'leak'. Of course they choose Pallivant (Claude Hulbert) ...
Claude Hulbert
... who is simply an idiot. They describe him as a gent, but he's "broke to the wide" - whatever that means. Through a serious of ridiculous mishaps, including bookies, wide boys, car chases, and a pair of what appear to be lesbian garage owners (Binnie Hale & Gwen Farrar) ...
Gwen Farrar & Binnie Hale
... the day is saved.
But does that really matter? For me the film was more about observations, rather than the storyline. After all, it's a comedy, you know that the wide boys at the racing track aren't actually going to 'carve up' Claude Hulbert's face (as would probably have happened at a 1930s race meeting) and you know the Guy Middleton won't actually run off to Paris with Stamp-Taylor. It has to have a happy ending, so I concentrated on the fashions. For a start, look at Claude Hulbert's shoes. They are spectators/correspondents with Tarsal straps:
And you will note that all the bookies appear to wear shirts with tab-collars:

Although it's difficult to see, Henry Kendall's shirt has an interesting checked weave:
And the 'wide boys' at the races wear the most over-the-top outfits that immediately set them apart from the more sober suit wearing respectable men:
Wide Boys

Wide Boys

Wide Boys
Compare them to the more respectable gentlemen:
Henry Kendall & Kynaston Reeves
Guy Middleton's role is as one of those stock characters that were so-beloved of British cinema: the seemingly respectable gentleman charmer who cannot be trusted to keep his hands off other men's wives and who can certainly not be trusted not to cheat every man whose path he crosses. Yet at the end of the day he always loses and is shown up for what he really is. He is well-dressed, with a neatly clipped moustache and a flower in his lapel:
Guy Middleton
It's the type of role that was given to Terry-Thomas for much of his career. Did I say Terry-Thomas? Here he is, in an un-credited role, standing behind Middleton at the race meeting:
Terry-Thomas (centre) with Guy Middleton (right)
Also appearing is Bill Shine:
Bill Shine (left)
It's currently available as part of volume seven of the Ealing Rarities Collection:

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