Make Mine Mink (1960)
Director: Robert Asher
Cast: Terry-Thomas, Athene Seyler, Hattie Jacques
Synopsis: Zany collection of misfits led by aging military man (Terry-Thomas) go on a spree of robbing mink coats.
‘How can she hope to come out successfully?’ asks a butch Hattie Jacques of Terry-Thomas in Make Mine Mink, referring to a buxom blonde in a low-cut top to whom Jacques has been trying to teach manners. ‘She’s half out already!’ exclaims our gap-toothed hero. Yes, we’re in the land of the post-Ealing British comedy in the days before the Carry On franchise had really taken hold. The Carry Ons would spawn bastard children with titles beginning ‘Confessions of…’ and ‘Adventures of…’, heralding a low-point in the history of British movie comedy, but back in 1960 the industry still churned out reliably entertaining movies like Make Mine Mink with reassuring regularity.
Jacques’ Nanette Parry and Terry-Thomas’s Major Albert Rayne are two of the residents in the boarding house of Dame Beatrice Appleby (Athene Seyler), a lady of charitable persuasion who is finding the rigours of fund-raising a little too trying in her later years. The other resident is Elizabeth ‘Pinkie’ Pinkerton (Elspeth Duxbury) a timid, nervous spinster. The needs of these four are attended to by Lily (Billie Whitelaw), a reformed thief whom Dame Bea was the only to give a chance to upon her release from prison. Lily’s so grateful to Bea, that when she sees a neighbour throw a fur coat out of his window during a row with his wife, she appropriates the coat and gives it to her employer for a present. Bea immediately suspects Lily has stolen the coat and quickly gets a confession from the girl. Led by Rayne, she and the other residents hatch a plan to return the coat to the couple before the theft is discovered, and they’re so thrilled when their plan works that they get seduced into stealing others furs and donating the proceeds from their sale to worthy charities.
There’s a certain gentility about Make Mine Mink that can only be found in British movies of a certain era. Made in 1960, this movie pretty much sneaks in near the end of that era. Although the main characters are thieves, they’re not villains and their motives are honourable, even if their means are a little misguided. Athene Seyler, whose career dated back to the silent era, makes an endearing dowager who seems to grow funnier as the movie goes along, while Terry-Thomas also gives a typically polished performance. He was one of those actors so full of character that he was guaranteed to lift any movie he was in, no matter how poor it might otherwise be. A young Billie Whitelaw is also appealing.
While Make Mine Mink perhaps doesn’t belong in the top tier of British comedy, and can’t be compared to the great Ealing comedies of the 1950s, it definitely deserves a place in the second tier. It contains few — if any — laugh-out-loud moments, but will leave most people with a contented smile on their face.
(Reviewed 20th July 2013)