Cardboard Cavalier – 1949 | 96 mins | Comedy | B&W
Fun-filled historical romp set during the 17th-century English Civil War. Music hall star Sid Field produces some spirited playing in his third and final film appearance and Margaret Lockwood throws herself into the part of Nell Gwynne with gusto. Field died two years later at the age of 46. Cardboard Cavalier was also the final film of prolific comedy director Walter Forde, who took early retirement following the films box-office failure.
Sidcup Buttermeadow (Sid Field), a London barrow boy, is arrested by Roundheads for obstructing the Protector’s thoroughfare, and put in the pillory. Feeling sorry for the miserable Sidcup, an onlooker, young Nell Gwynne (Margaret Lockwood), offers to feed his tame mice while he is in the pillory. With Sidcup, this means love at first sight, but Nell is fond of a stern young Roundhead, Tom Pride (Brian Worth), who doesn’t approve of dancing and singing, which she likes. Sidcup comes out of the pillory, but gets himself arrested again. He is to be hanged as a traitor, but as the barrel is about to be kicked from under his dangling feet Colonel Lovelace (Jerry Desmonde) rides on to the scene and orders his release. Lovelace is secretly trying to get Charles II back on the English throne.
He gives Sidcup a list of Charles II’s supporters to deliver in the utmost secrecy to Milady Doverhouse (Mary Clare) at Doverhouse Castle, warning him that should it fall into the wrong hands he will be flayed alive. In the meantime, Cromwell decides to go to Doverhouse Castle with a body of dragoons on the pretence of friendly business, intending to discover the traitor who, he has heard, will be there to plot his overthrow. Late that night Nell is awoken by urgent banging at her door, it is Lovelace, who breathlessly announces that Sidcup is walking into a trap that will mean certain death for him and others. As Lovelace hurries out to try and overtake the unsuspecting Sidcup he is arrested by a Roundhead spy, Smug, and his men.
Sidcup goes to Doverhouse Castle. He swaggers up to Squire Mosspot and demands to see Milady Doverhouse. Mosspot’s answer is to have him run out of the castle. Sidcup merely shrugs, and as the drawbridge raises slowly after him strolls away. Looking back, he sees the drawbridge come down. He smiles wisely to himself, turns, and then suddenly rushes furiously at the drawbridge. As he leaps through the air to it it shoots up quickly and he lands in the moat. He surfaces and is helped ashore by Nell, who has arrived to give him Lovelace’s warning. Together they manage to re-enter the castle as a dancing master and his assistant. In the hours that follow they have some bad moments, and Sidcup enough makes blunders to hang them both, but they survive. Then Cromwell arrives, and among his men is Tom Pride, Nell’s lover.
Fearing recognition, Sidcup and Nell escape through a door, unaware that a spy named Croup has overheard their talk. In the bedroom Sidcup and Nell tap and bang the walls, hoping to find a secret passage in which to hide. As they do so, a huge folding double bed swings out of the wall, almost knocking Sidcup unconscious. Colonel Lovelace is imprisoned by Cromwell in a cell in the haunted tower of Doverhouse Castle. That night Sidcup and Nell steal towards Lovelace’s cell. Nell, draped in sheets and with her face whitened with powder, leads the way, giving ghostly moans as she approaches Tom Pride, on guard outside Lovelace’s cell. When her sheets catch on a hook and fall off Tom recognises her and drags her off to Cromwell, who orders her to a cell.
In the meantime, Sidcup, hiding in a corner, sees a ghostly figure advancing towards him. It is Lady Agnes (Irene Handl), the genuine ghost of the castle, who walks about with her head under her arm. She leads Sidcup into a secret passage running behind the cells. There they rescue Lovelace and Nell, and with Lady Agnes leading the way descends a steep spiral stairs into a vault, from which they pass through a tunnel to the village church. In the village a coach is waiting to take them to the coast to board a ship for France. All hurry on except Sidcup, who rushes back to thank the ghost. As he kisses her and hurries off she melts away. The party take their places in the coach. Sidcup has to ride up on the box, and as the coach starts off with a jerk he turns a somersault, falls off, and is left behind.
A year later there is great jubilation in England as Charles II rides in state through cheering crowds welcoming him back to the throne. Behind the King ride Doverhouse and Lovelace, and prominent in the group is Nell. Sidcup fights to the front of the crowd. His face joyful, he doesn’t notice the soldiers rushing to push the crowd back, and he is trampled in the mud. Rising slowly, covered in mud from head to foot, he still cheers wildly, and Nell recognises him and tells the King about him. So grateful is the King that he draws his sword, and Sidcup arises from the mud Sir Sidcup Buttermeadow.
Walter Forde: Director
Carmen Dillon: Art Direction
Jack Hildyard: Cinematography
Eleanor Abbey: Costume Design
Alan Jaggs: Editing
Tony Sforzini: Makeup Department
Vivienne Walker: Makeup Department
Lambert Williamson: Original Music
Walter Forde: Producer
Noel Langley: Script
Reg Barnes Heath: Sound Department
Desmond Dew: Sound Department
Eric Wood: Sound Department
Patrick Troughton: Bit Part
Sid Field: Sidcup Buttermeadow
Margaret Lockwood: Nell Gwynne
Mary Clare: Milady Doverhouse
Jerry Desmonde: Lovelace
Claude Hulbert: Sylvester Clutterbuck
Brian Worth: Tom Pride
Anthony Hulme: Charles II
Edmund Willard: Cromwell
Irene Handl: Lady Agnes
Miles Malleson: Judge Gorebucket