- This essay will inevitably contain spoilers!
'THE TOMMY TRINDER COLLECTION'
Even by modern standards of the larger-than-life celebrity Tommy
Trinder is an acquired taste. Massively popular, both on stage, on
radio and later television variety programmes, Trinder is paradoxically
unique in his trademark mannerisms (not to mention his catchphrase ‘you
lucky people!’) yet to some extent outside the major fame (and
celluloid immortality) granted to those lucky enough to have been
involved in the ‘Carry On’ film series or those who were solo
attractions in their own right (such as Will Hay or George Formby).
Unlike Hay and Formby, Trinder’s film career was very much ad hoc-
he did not debut in films until 1938, and 1944’s Champagne Charlie
marked the end of his serious box-office success. Although a handful of
film appearances followed, Trinder’s career can be pigeonholed quite
easily into a six year period which more or less spanned the war years.
- A review by Richard Harrison (2008)
In common with many great British comedians, Trinder’s work has not
been served well on DVD. In comparison, although the Will Hay films are
now available, they do not feature any extras and are an un-collated
mess spread across several releases. This Optimum box set is a
refreshing way to have a concrete group of main titles, which, even
though it lacks any real extras, offers a chance to see some titles
Unfortunately for any ‘newbie’ to Trinder’s work who decides to start
at the beginning, the first included title- Save A Little Sunshine
is without doubt the weakest, being an excruciatingly unfunny lesson in
acute boredom with an actor named Dave Willis being particularly
annoying. If one can opt instead for Sailors Three, there is
rich reward to be found. A typically patriotic flagwaver from Ealing
Studios, this 1940 film unites Trinder with the ever-endearing Claude
Hulbert and the superb Michael Wilding in an uplifting yet rousing
piece which is surely Trinder’s finest hour. Despite being a mere two
years later than the 1938 opener to the box set, Sailors Three
is sparky and genuinely amusing unlike its counterpart Save A
Little Sunshine which is to be avoided at all costs. The success of
Sailors Three has ironically little to do with Tommy Trinder and
much to do with his co-stars: the former’s breeziness is not as
dominating as it is in some other films in this collection.
The war years are well represented- The Foreman Went To France
(1942) is closely followed by Fiddlers Three (1944) and The
Bells Go Down(1943), whilst the lesser-known Bitter Springs(1950)
is a pleasing inclusion. These films are standard Tommy Trinder fare,
and worthy of merit as examples of films that featured a popular star
appearing in popular films. The set is rounded off with Champagne
Charlie (1944), an unfortunate finale for it features Trinder as
George Leybourne, a Victorian Music Hall star. Bearing absurd
sideboards and with a breeziness that is highly irritating, Trinder’s
over-acting is tempered by the brilliantly understated, aloof
performance by Stanley Holloway and a naturalistic one by Betty Warren.
The supporting cast also contains fine performances- notably from Harry
Fowler and Austin Trevor. Once again, the star of the show, for all his
bluster, is outclassed by his co-stars. Clocking in at 105 minutes, Champagne
Charlie is also rather an effort- given its pedigree (an Ealing
film directed by maestro Alberto Cavalcanti) it should not be, but its
time is tantamount to that of the unimaginably awful Save A Little
Sunshine- it feels much longer than it actually is.
Given that, in terms of releasing its national heritage, America is
virtually in the home straight whilst its Transatlantic companions are
still stuck in the starting-blocks, any effort to release archive films
is welcome. The major advantage of doing so is that myths can be
dispelled, minor treasures discovered and reputations enhanced. For
someone like Will Hay, whose movies are still genuinely funny and
joyous experiences, the availability is something to be savoured. For
Tommy Trinder, the emotions are somewhat different, but his movies
still deserve to be seen, if only to redress the balance. This box set
is unlikely to appeal to the modern audience (with a few exceptions,
such as the mesmerisingly brilliant Sailors Three, but it
should appeal to those for whom Tommy Trinder’s ebullience was all part
of his charm.
Comic Icons- The Tommy Trinder Collection is available from
Optimum Home Entertainment.