Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Nothing but the best in 1964

"Let's face it. It's a rotten, stinking world. But there are some smashing things in it - and I want them!" so says our anti-hero we end up rooting for in NOTHING BUT THE BEST, a splendid satirical comedy that is seldom seen now, from 1964 just as London started to Swing. This is a delicious black comedy that is a treat to see again now, as directed by Clive Donner, photographed by Nicolas Roeg and scripted by Frederic Raphael - he went on to script DARLING and TWO FOR THE ROAD next. This is another key British '60s movie then, and should be as well known as ALFIE. Our amoral hero here is Jimmy Brewster who is another Joe Lampton from ROOM AT THE TOP.

Instead of North of England black and white angst, here we are among the movers and shakers in London as humble clerk Jimmy (Alan Bates in as key role for him as his lead in A KIND OF LOVING) works at the offices of property tycoon Harry Andrews, whose high class daughter Millicent Martin (then the star of the weekly satire show THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS) visits regularly. Millie and Alan appraise each other .... Jimmy though soon meets down and out toff Charles Pierce (Denholm Elliot in the role that re-established him) and soon realises how (in return for room and board) he can use Pierce to teach him how to improve his social standing: how to dress, talk and act like a proper upper-class chap able to socialize with the ruling classes and thus climb the ladder of success to become one of them. Jimmy is a willing pupil as he covers up his working class tracks, ultimately sending his unsuspecting parents off on an assisted-passage trip to Australia, leaving him free to pursue the boss's daughter and improve his standing at the company, as he gets rival James Villiers out of the picture.
There is also that very obliging landlady (Pauline Delaney - that marvellous Irish actress who had a similar role in YOUNG CASSIDY) who also sees how she can improve her lot.  Denholm comes into money and begins to realise how Jimmy is using him, even wearing his good clothes and ties which he wants back. So we have a shocking sudden murder leaving Jimmy free to move ahead, the landlady too plays her part in disposing of the body, as long as she gets a regular visit from our rising young man about town. 
This is deliciously played out with many amusing scenes and the large cast including Andrews and Allison Legatt as Jimmy's deluded mother are all just right. Can Jimmy though get away with it? There is a nice twist and Jimmy realises his new wife is on to him but she does not mind, as she knows what a go-getter he is. Like Joe Lampton he too has arrived at the top of the heap but unlike Joe he is determined to enjoy it - and so will audencies for this nice slice of London as the '60s were taking off. 
Clive Donner, who died in 2010 aged 84, seems one of the under-rated '60s directors now, he went on to the success of WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT? next, a favourite that defines the '60s for me, as does his HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH, his hippie take on ALFRED THE GREAT is an interesting late '60s costumer with both David Hemmings and Michael York at their best.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more with the synopsis and review, and only wish this marvelous movie were more available for viewing. Can't even buy a DVD of it, for crissake!