Laughter in Paradise (1951) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
24Jul/100

Laughter in Paradise (1951)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny INDIFFERENTMy jaunts down British cinema way must sound pretty hateful; I railed pretty hard on the St. Trinian's series (though I dare anyone to blame me) and even a classic like The Lavender Hill Mob gave me a review that reeked of stark apathy.

So when I rate Laughter in Paradise with yet another 'Indifference' rating, please understand that this movie is better than any of the other taste of British cinema that I've watched for this site. In fact, a few changes here and there and it might have even been pretty good.

Before we delve into all that, mind you, this is yet another installment in Audrey Hepburn Sundays! I'm skipping about a bit in her early years, and this is only her third movie, coming between One Wild Oat and The Lavender Hill Mob. She still has a minor part in this film, though IMDB explains that she was originally offered a more substantial role that unfortunately clashed with some stage appearances.

Her small role here as a cigarette girl is fairly pleasant; she mostly just smiles, looks cute, and responds receptively to a few flirtatious remarks from Simon Russell. Simon wants to seal the deal but can't since he's just found out that in his late brother's will he has been challenged to marry the first girl he talks to to win a 50,000 pound inheritance. To punish his skirt chasing ways, his late brother had decided to force him to settle down and become respectable.

Three of his other relatives also must endure their own challenges. Agnes must work as a servant for a month since she treats her own servants so poorly. Herbert must stand-up for himself at the bank he spends his meek life working at by performing a stick-up. James, who is soon to be married to a demanding righteous woman who doesn't know that he moonlights as a novelist, is told he must spend approximately one month in jail. How he gets in there is is own problem.

The dead man was a notorious practical joker, so it's not too hard to guess that their punishments will go unrewarded. Each relative's attempts crisscross in one way or another, but the problem lay more that the stories are so uneven. Simon's tale, even though he ends up getting the worst of it, is shorter than it deserved. Agnes's is probably the best of the bunch, and it feels left to the side. Too much time is wasted on both Simon and James, as they are much more slow-burn arcs, and the more we see of them, the less interesting they become.

On a strange additional note, the film stars Alastair Sim, George Cole, and Joyce Grenfell, all of whom would go onto star in the St. Trinian's series for a number of entries. Looking at them removed from that detestable environment is a godsend, as Cole, who was the grating Flash Harry for most of the Trinian's films, here plays a quiet soul with an inferiority complex. It's a much sweeter and more subtle performance than anything I'd seen him do before.

Sim and Grenfell are alright, too, though Sim (while lacking a dress this go around) plays the quietly dignified but befuddled man that's hard to get too sympathetic with. Grenfell, who was the police woman I lamented over in the Trinian's films, here is a much more demanding character, even though in everything I've seen her in, she's still sympathetic and still loses the man at the end. At least Sim didn't try and have her killed in this one.

Laughter in Paradise isn't a funny picture, but mostly a pleasant one. While there are the makings for a good movie here, the pleasant one is what we got, and sometimes that isn't such a bad thing.

Laughter in Paradise (1951)

This film is currently available on VHS.

Directed by Mario Zampi
Starring Alastair Sim

Posted by Danny

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