Maytime in Mayfair
Maytime in Mayfair – 1949 | 94mins | Musical | Colour
Maytime in Mayfair is set in the magical world of Mayfair’s haute couture and the creators of ladies fashions. Eileen Grahame (Anna Neagle) is the designer-manageress of one of Mayfair’s exclusive dress salons. She creates designs for the rich – the lovely and the ‘unlovely’ alike: the dresses and accessories which dictate the style of the whole fashion world. Across the street is a rival establishment run by suave singing playboy D’Arcy Davenport (played by West End Musical Star Peter Graves), who regularly entertains his wealthy lady clients at the piano with a verse of "Amor, Amor". Between them Eileen and D’Arcy are the despots of women’s modes and moods. D’Arcy would love Eileen to give up her own salon, and merge with his business.
Michael Gore-Brown (Michael Wilding) appears on the scene. Irrepressible, insouciant and impoverished, he finds himself by means of a legacy, heir to the salon which Eileen runs. He is encouraged to sell the business by his cousin, Henry (Nicholas Phipps), who is totally disdainful of the fashion business, who sees this as an opportunity for Gore-Brown to sell and make some money. Michael and Henry go to check the salon over, and are pleasantly surprised by Eileen, as they were expecting to meet, in Henry’s words ‘a battleship in black satin’. To Henry’s disgust, Michael decides to take a lively interest in running the business with Eileen. Reluctantly, he is supported by the well meaning Henry, who brings the threat of disaster to the salon: surprised that Darcy belongs to the same gentleman’s club as himself, he allows himself to be inveigled by D’Arcy into a drinking session, which ends with Henry in the custody of the police, and D’Arcy gaining the secrets of Eileen’s latest "New Look" designs. He discloses these secrets to the press, with a view to ruining Eileen’s business.
Michael is also in romantic pursuit of Eileen, who initially, is not unreceptive, but later she mistakenly believes that it is he who leaked her trade secrets. In disgust, she leaves her salon, and travels to Paris to view the latest collections. Darcy goes as well. Michael pursues her to Paris, but Eileen and D’Arcy move on when the latter discovers that they are being followed. Michael dispondently returns to London, and is on the point of selling the business to two fashion ‘spivs’ (acting on D’Arcy’s instructions), when in walks Eileen, who has returned poste haste, after learning of D’Arcy’s betrayal. Eileen and Michael send the spivs packing, and Michael decides to settle the score with D’Arcy, the result of which he finds himself at the police station. Eileen arrives to bail him out, and takes charge of him herself, as wedding bells ring.
Herbert Wilcox‘s film, made at MGM Studios, Boreham Wood, is a TechniColour follow up to Spring in Park Lane, one of the top UK box office successes of 1949. It has the same stars (his wife Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding, in an very mannered performance), songs (which here include: "Do I Love You" (Music: Bruno Bidoli/Words: David Heneker), "I’m Not Going Home"(Music: Fred Prisker/Words: Kermit Goell) and "Maytime in Mayfair" (Music: Harry Parr Davies/Words: Harold Purcell), the same musical director (Robert Farnon: the score features Farnon’s composition "Melody Fair" (for a fashion parade sequence), together with arrangements of "The Moment I Saw You" and "Early One Morning"), and screenwriter (Nicholas Phipps). However, whereas ‘Spring’ was a deliciously light souffle concoction, albeit in black and white, this sequel is more of a stodgy TechniColour pudding. Thora Hird makes a good impression as a rather refined receptionist at the salon.
Maytime in Mayfair features a fashion show of top UK designs of 1950, which is of interest to fans of the ‘New Look’, and (as in the earlier film) Neagle and Wilding dance in the style of Astaire and Rogers. In an era of ration books and postwar austerity, it is not difficult to see why films such as Maytime in Mayfair were popular, particularly with female audiences, to whom the characters and their world must have epitomised glamour. As a contribution to the late 1940′s fantasy/glamour cycle of films (The Red Shoes is another example), Maytime In Mayfair is not without interest.
Review ©Roger Mellor.