Worm's Eye View (1951)

#1 by Robert Crewdson , Fri Mar 27, 2020 11:29 am

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This film I regard as the gem of my collection, I got this back in September. I had last seen this Service Comedy on TV in the 60s, and thought I would never see it again in my life. I was on the verge of stopping buying, due to shortage of space, and worry about the weight on the floor of an upstairs room where they are stored; when to my great surprise it came up on Ebay. I had to go for this film, space or no space; the subject wasn't up for discussion. Bidding ended about 2 O'clock in the morning. I don't think I got any sleep after.

This film started life on the stage. It was written by R.F. Delderfield; born a Cockney, he became editor of the 'Exmouth Chronicle'. As a non-paying sideline he began writing plays. When he went into the Airforce he continued writing. For some time during 1940 and 1943, while waiting for a Commission, he was stationed in Blackpool, and as Corporal Delderfield he had to inspect R.A.F. Billets there. Some he found good, others were terrible, and he got to know a lot about billeting and landladies.

Later, as a newly Commissioned Officer, he had to spend much time on the roof, firewatching, and there he began to write a play about the experiences of airmen billetted with a frightful landlady.
The main portion of the story, set in 1942, is centred around R.A.F. Men billetted with Mrs Bounty, an acid tounged landlady of a seaside boarding house in the north of England. The landlady has stric rules, no lights after 10pm, no playing the piano, no switching the gas fire on, to name a few.The men have a war all of their own, while the Corporal falls in love with Bella, the landlady's step-daughter. Delderfield said that he had met all the types portrayed in the film.


To get it produced was another matter; Delderfield had no money or theatrical contacts. He hawked it around but no one was interested; before being posted overseas, he just had time to bundle off the dilapidated manuscript to an agent, who bundled it off to a reperatory ompany in Wolverhapton. There it might have ended, but on opening night, a member of the audience was a self made millionaire, steel magnate H. J. Barlow., who liked the play and asked the management if he could buy it. The play went on a 6 week tour with little success, most London theatres refused to touch it. 10 months later it opened at Hampstead's Embassy Theatre, and received a rave review from Beverly Nicholls, who wrote 'It has been a jolly evening, my ribs ached.........'

It appeared on the West End at the end of 1945, and in five weeks was playing to packed houses and earning £2,000 a week. Barlow was approached by Henry Halstead and Jack Raymond to make the story into a film for their Byron Films. At that time, it set up a record as London's longest running straight play; running for 6 years

Only two of the original actors were chosen to appear in the film; Ronald Shiner plays the main role as Sam Porter. Ronald Shiner was once told he would never be a good actor because of his 'Shocking Cockney voice', yet this was the very reason he was chosen for the role. Shiner had given up £2,000 of film work to take the lead in te play. The other actor from the play was 38 year old Eric Davies. There is a memorable scene in the film, where Ronald Shiner manages to unlock the piano, and they are having a sing song; something strictly against the house rules. Davies is soaking his feet in a bowl of hot water, when the landlady, and her equally horrible son come home unexpected, and ask 'What is going on here?'.. She spots Davies soaking his feet in her best bowl, and in his efforts to remove them, he upsets the bowl over her carpet. Davies established a record of his own, he became known as 'The Man with the cleanest feet in London'. By the time he got around to washing his feet in the film, it was estimated he had given them 2,250 washings.
While the film was in production, Shiner was warned by the censor to watch his language, and replied that in performing the play nightly for more than five years, he had never received any complaints.


Diana Dors was given a role in the film as the landlady's cleaner.

The film was a huge success, yet cost less than £50,000 to make. One critic wrote 'The dialogue, always bright, never sags at any stage. The acting is of a high calibre, with special attention going out to Ronald Shiner, who starred in the stage play as the 'Cockney Spiv'. Garry Marsh, Everley Gregg and Diana Dors all merit praise for their capable work. Some of the bit parts are perfect cameos.

The Australians were more critical, where the play had a long run. The 'Melbourne Herald' of 8th November, 1952 said 'Most of the stage plays fun has gone from this screen version'
'The Advertiser' (Adelaide) 10th December, 1953, said 'The Byron Film production has many technical imperfections, but Director Jack Raymond knew how to pick the types for Delderfield's rollicking post-war comedy. One drawback about the film is that it runs for only 77 minutes, so that it moves to quickly for one to savour the comic situations in full.

The film ends with the boys being moved to new billets in Scotland; Bella, the landlady's step-daughter joins the Corporal who she has fallen in love with. The final scene is Ronald Shiner and Eric Davies arriving at their new digs, and the new landlady lays down the strict rules of the house, with Shiner looking at the screen, saying, 'We're off again'.

Byron films followed this with Ronald Shiner in another service comedy 'Reluctant Heroes'. These two films made Shiner a star after playing bit parts for 15 years. He was voted Britain's favourite comic for about 5 years running, knocking Alastair Sim into second place. Eventually in the late 50s his popularity gave way to new boy Norman Wisdom.

One of the great things about this hobby is finding a Gem like this, that is not available on DVD.
When I last viewed this Oct/Nov, I didn't take any screenshots. So am showing publicity stills. I did manage to get an original flyer that was sent out to the ABC Cinema chain, and I photocopied it to decorate my box, along with a few listings from old newspapers' Quality of picture and sound is well above average; I would say this was copied from a 35mm negative.


Attached pictures:
Worms Eye Views.JPG  

The following members like this: Gwyn Morgan, Greg Perry and Paul Wilson
 
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RE: Worm's Eye View (1951)

#2 by Tom Photiou , Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:07 pm

It's always great to hear when someone manages to get hold of a film they always wanted, or is an old favourite.


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RE: Worm's Eye View (1951)

#3 by Robert Crewdson , Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:28 pm

Waited something like 55 years to see this film.



 
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RE: Worm's Eye View (1951)

#4 by Greg Perry , Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:33 pm

Robert,

An excellent review about a film many of us may have never seen, nor even have the opportunity to see due to its rarity...Great work on the box art too! I like the addition of the newspaper listings to the box. Fascinating bits of info there--thank you for taking the time to put this very well done post together and share it here...



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RE: Worm's Eye View (1951)

#5 by Gwyn Morgan , Fri Mar 27, 2020 4:47 pm

Robert,excellent film and an excellent review.R F Delderfield is one of the great writers sadly overlooked somewhat theses days,funnily enough he attended the same school as me.To Serve Them All My Days and A Horseman Riding By are two of my favourite books both turned into tv series.
Got to agree with Greg great artwork on the box.


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RE: Worm's Eye View (1951)

#6 by Robert Crewdson , Fri Mar 27, 2020 5:13 pm

Thank you both Greg and Gwyn. I have heard of a Horseman Riding By. It took him 3 weeks to write 'Worm's Eye View', and by the time the film was being made, he had earned £70,000 in royalties. You can imagine what a fortune that was back then.



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Last edited 03.27.2020 | Top

   

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