Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1968)
“London is for the “birds” – and the loveliest birds of all are flocking to Herman and his Hermits!”
Director: Saul Swimmer
Cast: Peter Noone, Karl Green, Keith Hopwood
Synopsis: Friends Herman, Karl, Keith, Derek and Barry are working class Manchester lads who aren’t getting very far in their respective working lives. That fact is epitomized by Herman’s failure to get the promotion to junior account executive at the advertising company at which he works
Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter is one of those films that probably became outdated during post-production, and we can only wonder why, in 1968, the executives at MGM thought there was any mileage left in Herman’s Hermits, one of the lesser British pop groups of the mid-sixties who were still clinging stubbornly to their mod clothes and haircuts when everyone else had followed the Beatles’ lead and gone all hippified.
Peter Noone stars as Herman Tully, who lives with his Gran (Marjorie Rhodes) and owns a greyhound in which he has sold shares to his friends — collectively known as the Hermits I suppose — with the promise of big returns when the dog, Mrs. Brown, starts winning races. The problem is the boys don’t have enough money to enter Mrs. Brown into any races so they form a band to raise the necessary and travel down to London to hit the big time.
At first, this looks like it’s going to be a shameless rip-off of Richard Lester’s Beatles flicks, but it soon goes off in its own rather vague direction. This film can’t decide whether it wants to be a classical Hollywood style musical with ordinary people suddenly bursting into song or whether to confine the musical numbers to stage performances or rehearsals by the band. The numbers themselves, apart from the well-known couple of hits, are fairly pedestrian and only vaguely typical of Herman Hermit’s pop output up until then.
The story never really seems to know where it’s going. You think we’re going to have this big conflict between Herman’s feelings for model girl Tulip (Sheila White) and the devotion of girl-next-door Judy (Sarah Caldwell) but the storyline just sort of fizzles out — as does the film. Herman and Judy don’t really get it on, Mrs. Brown doesn’t win any big races, and the band never hit the big time. It’s weird, the way the story ends so abruptly with hardly anything resolved, almost as if the final reel is missing.
On the plus side, Peter Noone does quite well in the lead role — although he did already have acting experience so a degree of professionalism is to be expected. He’s certainly better than any of his Hermits who act exactly as you’d expect musicians to act. The real honours go to the older members of the cast, however: Stanley Holloway as a millionaire fruit-and-veg king who hasn’t lost his common touch — the film works hard to identify itself with its working class target audience from the outset — effortlessly steals every scene he is in, as does Lance Percival with his upper-class tramp routine. There’s even some funny moments, and some great location shots of grimy Manchester, although the London shots are strictly tourist stuff.
You’ll probably enjoy this if you were a Herman’s Hermits fan back in the sixties, even though seeing them now might make you wonder why you were a fan, but everyone else will be turned off by how badly it has dated and the overlong running time.
(Reviewed 17th October 2005)