July 31, 2014

Films

The Duke Wore Jeans – 1957 | 90 mins | Musical | Colour

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Plot Synopsis

The Duke Wore Jeans

Married without his parents consent, the Hon. Tony Whitecliffe (Tommy Steele), whose main interest is cattle breeding, is horrified when his parents ask him to woo a European Princess (the reason being that they are after her wealth). By chance, a Cockney double (also played by Tommy Steele) arrives at their stately home and the Hon. Tony plans to send Tommy to woo the Princess in his place. Tommy travels to the Principality with his manservant Cooper (Michael Medwin) in support (who has a nice ‘tipsy’ scene- incidentally this is not the only ‘pop’ film in which he provided valuable support – he was also in the Billy Fury vehicle I’ve Gotta Horse). The Princess initially takes a dim view of Tommy, but soon falls for his informal, unstuffy style. By the end, Tommy wins over the court by proving that he is an aristocrat after all – his parents being a ‘Pearly King and Queen’, and leads them all in a ‘knees up’.

This is a real old fashioned musical comedy plot, with doubles (Cockney pretending to be aristocrat, in order to woo a Princess), which borrows freely from vintage 1930ís and 1940ís shows such as Mr Cinders, Ivor Novello (pretty foreign Princess, ‘Ruritanian’ atmosphere), Me and My Girl (The Lambeth Walk /Cockney Pearly Kings and Queens), and the films of George Formby (with Steele’s, at times, outrageous mugging to camera). This rather silly story is rescued by the vitality of Tommy Steele, (fondly remembered for the leading role in David Heneker’s musical Half a Sixpence in the West End, on Broadway and on film) who proves here that he always was a ‘family entertainer’ even in the early rock n’ roll’ years. He is a natural performer, and a much better actor than most other pop performers of the era (compared with say, Billy Fury for example). The film also stars (as the romantic lead) the deliciously pretty, beautiful and graceful June Laverick (note the scene where she appears in the top half of a bathrobe displaying her beautiful legs, 1950ís cheesecake style!). June made a couple of films under a Rank Contract (1958-1959), and is perhaps best remembered for her weekly leading role opposite Dickie Henderson in the Dickie Henderson Show (Associated Redifussion Television), a popular sitcom of the early 1960ís.

The songs in the film by Lionel Bart and Michael Pratt include: It’s All Happening, What Do You Do? (Tommy Steele duets with himself); Our Family Tree (Tommy introduces himself to the court); Happy Guitar (the ‘Top Ten’ hit from the film, a skiffle type number performed with ‘The Steelemen’); Gotta Let Your Hair Down (a 1957 Rock n’ Roll number); May I Call You Princess? (an attractive romantic ballad, with a lovely atmosphere, performed on nice studio set, with Tommy and June on a tree swing); Photograph My Baby (a duet, performed by Tommy and June); ‘Thanks a Lot, I’ve Had a Ball’ (in which Tommy leads the court, and the Pearly King and Queens in a ‘good old knees up’). Orchestrations and Incidental music are by Bruce Montgomery.

The songs in The Duke Wore Jeans are all attractive, especially for such a modestly budgeted movie (black and white, and no foreign locations beyond what seems to be Elstree aerodrome!), and are in varying styles: from early rock n’ roll, to skiffle, to lush romantic ballads, with some fine musical scoring by Bruce Montgomery. It is interesting to note that, in 1957, the producers did not go for an out and out ‘rock n roll’ musical – they still wanted to retain the older, family audience, so the film includes something for everybody. In summary, a pleasant, watchable but totally undemanding musical/comedy in the George Formby tradition! Produced by Anglo Amalgamated/Insignia at ‘British National Studios’, Elstree.

Review© Roger Mellor.

Production Team

Gerald Thomas: Director
Otto Heller: Cinematography
Peter Boita: Editing
Lionel Bart: Music Score
Bruce Montgomery: Music Score
Mike Pratt: Music Score
Nat Cohen: Producer
Stuart Levy: Producer
Norman Hudis: Script

Cast

Tommy Steele: Tony Whitecliffe/Tommy Hudson
June Laverick: Princess Maria
Michael Medwin: Cooper
Elwyn Brook: Bartolomeo
Alan Wheatley: King of Ritallia
Eric Pohlmann: Bastini
Noel Hood: Lady Marguerite
Philip Leaver: Factory Manager
Arnold Diamond: MC



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