Movie Review: Dandy Dick (1935)
Dandy Dick (1935)
Director: William Beaudine
Cast: Will Hay, Nancy Burne, Esmond Knight
Synopsis: A vicar’s efforts to raise enough money to repair his church steeple result in his wagering what little money he has on the outcome of a horse race.
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Dandy Dick was an early big screen entry for former music hall comedian Will Hay (Convict 99, Hey! Hey USA!), and the great comic actor’s second appearance in a screen adaptation of a play by Arthur Wing Pinero (the first was Hay’s 1934 feature debut, Those Were the Days). Although Hay still wasn’t quite the finished article in terms of his screen persona, the constituent parts were gradually coming together; traces of the pompous buffoons he would play in the future were evident in the figure of the well-meaning but vaguely sanctimonious Richard Jedd, a man of the cloth who will lightly scold a child for trading cigarette cards before pulling out his own collection to compare.
The vicar’s church spire is crooked, and £1,000 (or £984.10s, as he repeatedly insists) is needed to straighten it. That’s about £60,000 in today’s money, so it’s no small target. Undeterred, Jedd stages a fund-raising fete, but when that generates a woefully meagre amount, he offers to pay £250 towards the fund on the condition that three other locals do the same, in the firm belief that no one will take him up on the offer. However, this ploy to divert blame for the failure to raise the necessary funds backfires when three pub landlords unexpectedly come forward with the money. So, in order to raise his share, the vicar compromises his principles by placing a wager on the titular horse, a dead cert which is part-owned by his sister (Mignon O’Doherty). Unfortunately, even that plan is in danger of being derailed when Dandy Dick becomes the victim of a doping scandal.
Hay’s third feature is a gentle farce which is typical of British comedy of its era. Men of the cloth were more highly regarded back then, and were therefore often a convenient target for comedians. To be honest, Jedd’s profession is almost incidental to the plot, although it does add an extra dimension to the unseemly scrapes in which he frequently finds himself. But Dandy Dick is fairly episodic, and the comedy is uneven and of a lesser quality to that which was yet to come. Probably the biggest laughs are provided by Jedd’s encounters with Bale (Robert Nainby), a parish councillor whose deafness leads to a number of amusing misunderstandings.
Although Hay was a superb comic actor in his own right, few of his solo movies attained the heights reached by those he made with Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. Dandy Dick is pleasant enough, and of interest as a measure of Hay’s development as a comic actor, but it falls far short of the quality of his acknowledged classics.
(Reviewed 1st October 2016)