Champagne Charlie – 1944 | 105 mins | Comedy | B&W
Alberto Cavalcanti, fascinated by the possibilities of Victorian England, directed Champagne Charlie, which was set in the music halls of the 1860s. Tommy Trinder played George Leybourne, a popular performer of the day, and Stanley Holloway his rival, the Great Vance. Each tries to outdo the other with drinking songs and the feud culminates in an absurd duel. But the very existence of the halls is under threat from the theatre owners who try to have them shut down as disorderly houses. The rivals unite and succeed in satisfying the inspectors that there is nothing wrong with the robust music-hall tradition, which becomes established as part of the folk culture of the time.
Cavalcanti’s film, laying on the smoke-laden, beer-swilling atmosphere with relish, managed to capture the boisterousness of a less restrained age, as well as giving both Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway a chance to deliver several songs, some of them contemporary, such as the title number which was a Victorian favourite, others specially written for the film by Lord Berners and Tibby Clarke. While the Leybourne – Vance feud had its basis in fact, the film was not entirely accurate in its portrayal of the mid-Victorian halls, which were really large ale houses – it was only later in the nineteenth century that the variety theatres emerged, with greater respectability. Yet in the film the daughter (Jean Kent) of a proprietress (Betty Warren) ends up engaged to a scion of the nobility. Experts who had studied Victorian music hall felt that the Ealing version was far too jolly and genteel, missing the Dickensian poverty and sordidness of the period. Had it not been so, however, the film would have been a lot less entertaining.
ExtractŠ George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Alberto Cavalcanti: Director
Michael Relph: Art Direction
John Croydon: Associate Producer
Wilkie Cooper: Cinematography
Charles Hasse: Editing
Tom Shenton: Make-Up Artist
Ernest Irving: Music
Michael Balcon: Producer
Hal Mason: Production Supervisor
Angus MacPhail: Script
John Dighton: Script
Austin Melford: Script