Barnacle Bill – 1957 | 87 mins | Comedy | B&W
Tibby Clarke’s last and more typical Ealing screenplay was for Barnacle Bill, made after the old place had been sold to the BBC. Directed by Charles Frend, the film starred Alec Guinness as the last of a line of distinguished seafarers (their appearance in a rapid sequence, all impersonated by Guinness, is a reminder of Kind Hearts and Coronets who, in conquering his chronic seasickness, takes command of a static but dilapidated Victorian seaside pier. He finds his plans to rejuvenate as a hotel for sailors is thwarted by the Mayor who wants to tear it down for his own profit. So he in turn thwarts the Mayor by registering it as a ship, a stationary pleasure cruiser for the seasick. A full-scale battle is waged and ends as the uprooted pier-head, with Guinness on the bridge, so to speak, drifts across the Channel to France, after which he is acclaimed a national hero.
Although the central idea of the film is similar to that of Passport to Pimlico, the passage of nearly a decade has taken a toll, for by the end of the Fifties the style was clearly seen to be anachronistic, and a sad reminder of the former been a sharp, accurate, well-armed satire now seemed quaint, feeble and irrelevant – eccentricity replaced by silliness.
ExtractŠ George Perry: Forver Ealing.
Alec Guinness: William Horatio Ambrose / Six Ancestors
Irene Brown: Arabella Barrington
Maurice Denham: Mayor
Victor Maddern: Figg
Percy Herbert: Tommy
George Rose: Bullen
Lionel Jeffries: Garrod
Harold Goodwin: Duckworth
Warren Mitchell: pier entertainer
Miles Malleson: angler
Frederick Piper: Harry
Richard Wattis: Registrar