Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Will Hay

I can remember, as a kid getting on for 30 years ago, watching a season of Will Hay films screened on BBC2 early in the evening. My parents were both big fans, so that's probably why I started watching, but it didn't take long to get hooked. They're really very, very silly, which is bound to appeal to a child, but I still enjoy them as much now as I did then, and now I appreciate there's a bit more to them.

Saturday's Daily Telegraph contained this article about a comedian who never seems to get the kudos he deserves. It calls him a missing link between the music hall and the Ealing comedies of the 1950s, but I'd go further. His on-screen partnership with Moore Marriott and Graham Moffat certainly foreshadows the likes of Dad's Army and Father Ted, while his comic anti-hero persona must have influenced characters such as Alan Partridge and David Brent. As the article says, what's great about his films is that there's little sentimentality, no attempt to ingratiate himself with the audience.

Last year, I saw Oh Mr Porter! at the Arts Centre in Stamford, and enjoyed it hugely, but my favourite is still Ask A Policeman (plot-wise, very similar), mainly because it includes a very silly poem. Hay and his two confederates need Marriott's father (he's playing both roles) to remember it to help solve the mystery. I can't recall it all without checking the film, but it starts "When the tide is high in the smugglers cove, and the headless horseman rides a-bove", and then ends with an absurdly long last line.

But anyway, I must get hold of the biography of Hay that's mentioned (as if I needed more books to read).


Kirk Wisebeard said...

will hay... absolute genius..... why his films aren't shown on tv more often, I have no ida....or idea.... cannon and ball were big fans.... hence their movie "The Boys in Blue" being a remake of "Ask a Policeman..." but that still doesn't put me off Hay....

Matt Merritt said...

Yes, I know someone who was in the B movie that accompanied the dreadful Cannon and Ball version at the cinema! Put that on your CV!

Watched a bit of Ask A Policeman last night, including the brilliant exchange:
"Look at his head!"
"What about his head?"
"He hasn't got one."

Tony Williams said...

It's a very good article, isn't it - made me want to watch a Hay film too. But it was also interesting to see how it barely discusses the biography itself.

Matt Merritt said...

Yes, it doesn't give much away. Clever marketing, though - it'll make me buy it!