The film starts out with Bob Monkhouse, ok his name is Charlie, getting married to Shirley Eaton also known as Mary Sage in the film. Well, at the reception Charlie has found out that he had been called up for duty. Please note that there was not a war going on but it was part of conscription. I talk about conscription here and here. Oddly, Charlie needs to leave that day for duty. I don’t know how conscription works but once you get the letter, do you have to leave that day? Anyway, Charlie is off. What is really sweet about this is that Mary follows him. She stows away on another truck and sneaks into the base. I thought this was going to be the main plot throughout the film. I thought there were going to be zany ways that Charlie would have to sneak out of barracks or some other duties to try and get a chance to be with his wife. One of my favourite scenes in the film is where Mary is adamant that she and Charlie spend their wedding night together. Nora, the canteen manager Mary befriends, has a room ready for them for that night. Late that evening, Mary gets there first and slowly opens the door to go in the room. She enters the room only to find Sergeant Grimshaw sleeping in the bed. She quickly leaves but Charlie shows up next. He knocks on the door only to hear snoring. He knocks louder quietly talking to through the door that he can’t wait to see Mary only for the door to open up with Grimshaw staring at him half asleep on the other side of the door. Hartnell does great comedy, it is a really fun scene.
Much of this film surrounds the men of this platoon learning how to do things in the army and failing. You have people like Peter Golightly played by Charles Hawtry who is horrible at any kind of physical endurance. There is the great Kenneth Williams who plays James Bailey who is too much of an intellectual to care too much about anything to do with the army. When Grimshaw took on this platoon, he had high hopes that he could turn these men into a champion team but sees immediately that they are a bunch of imbeciles.
Kenneth Connor plays Horace Strong. Horace is a hypochondriac. He always thinks he is sick. He goes see the nurse every day to see what is wrong with him and every day she tells him he is very healthy. He is completely fine. The nurse is Captain Clark played by the wonderful Hattie Jacques. I adore Hattie in everything I have seen her in. Of course the first time I have “seen” her I had only heard her. She had a regular role in the radio version of Hancock’s Half Hour as Ms. Pugh, Hancock’s long-suffering secretary but also played a lot of other voice roles on the show. She had a tremendous voice with lots of range. Kenneth Connor appeared years later as Monsieur Alfonse in ‘Allo! ‘Allo! Oh, his ticky-ticker! I really enjoyed the sub-plot of Nora, the canteen manager, who has an immediate crush on Horace. She chases him all over the place but he’s too shy (and he thinks too sick).
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