One of the first post-war Ealing comedies, Passport to Pimlico is the story of what happens when a wartime bomb explodes and reveals documents that prove Pimlico is really part of Burgundy. The residents declare independence but this is a very British revolution, good-humoured, gentle and full of nostalgia. And of course, the rebels soon realise that they're English at heart.
Probaly the cosiest of the Ealing comedies, this delightful film cocks the gentlest of snooks at rationing and the breakdown of wartime camaraderie.
The screenwriter, TEB Clarke, was Oscar nominated for his story and screenplay.
As of 2007 the only surviving member of the main cast is Barbara Murray who played Shirley Pemberton. Needless to say the whole cast is superb. This is very much an ensemble piece and the likes of Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford and Raymond Huntley don't disappoint here as, indeed, they didn't in anything they did. Favourite line is from Philip Stainton's character, P.C. Spiller, who once realising he is from Burgundy exclaims: 'Blimey, I'm a foreigner!' It's not meant to be rascist, I think, just a director (South African) and screenwriter poking fun at a very British idiosyncrasy.
The exteriors for the film were not actually filmed in Pimlico, London, but not that far away across the River Thames near Waterloo Station in and around a huge set constructed on a bomb site in Hercules Road, Lambeth, South East London. I visited the area (January 2007) just to find out if I could see the ghosts of Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford et al. Well maybe they weren't around the day I visited but I got a real tingly hairs standing on the back of my head feel standing where one of the great movies of British cinema was made! I calculated where many of the scenes were shot mainly from where the railway bridges are. I saw Carlisle Lane, Sail Street, Lambeth Rd, Lambeth Walk and of course Hercules Road and with my memory's eyes pinpointed where many shots were taken. It was an incredible experience just to know that where I stood some 60 years before far greater men and women than I worked on so great a film. And, come to think of it, it really isn't that far removed from me. Two generations. My grandparents would have been in their prime when it came out in 1949 so the ghosts I felt in Hercules Street are almost with me, within touching distance, but tantalisingly out of reach all the same.
But they are there forever on the silver screen.
Stanley Holloway Arthur Pemberton * Margaret Rutherford Professor Hatton-Jones * Basil Radford Gregg * Naunton Wayne Straker * Hermione Baddeley Edie Randall * John Slater Frank Huggins * Betty Warren Connie Pemberton * Barbara Murray Shirley Pemberton
Dir Henry Cornelius
Scr TEB Clarke
© Paul Page (2007).
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