Windbag the Sailor (1936)    3 Stars


Windbag the Sailor (1936)
Windbag the Sailor (1936)

Director: William Beaudine

Cast: Will Hay, Moore Marriott, Graham Moffatt

Synopsis: Ben Cutlet is a sea captain who entertains his bar room audience with tales of his days at sea, although his maritime experience extent is only the navigating of a coal barge.






Although bumbling comedian Will Hay had worked with chubby teenager Graeme Moffatt in Where There’s a Will (1936), Windbag the Sailor marked the first time that Moore Marriott, the third member of their unholy triumvirate, appeared with him, although all three interact with the smooth confidence of long-time collaborators in a largely forgotten film which is, nevertheless, vintage British comedy at its best.

Hay (Oh, Mr Porter, Hey! Hey! USA) plays Captain Ben Cutlet, a pub bore who regales gullible locals with tales of his adventures on the high seas, even though the only boat he has ever really captained is a canal barge. His tall tales get him into trouble, however, when he’s conned into captaining a death trap of a ship which its owner intends to scuttle on the high seas in order to claim the insurance. When a plan Cutlet dreams up to get out of the assignment goes awry, he finds himself in charge of a surly, mutinous crew, with only stowaways Jeremiah Harbottle (Marriott – Convict 99, Old Bones of the River) and Albert Brown (Moffatt) for support.

There’s something quintessentially British about Hay’s brand of humour. Spouting spoonerisms left and right, his misplaced confidence repeatedly descending into mumbled confusion and dithering, he was the kind of comedian who worked best with irreverent foils like Moore and Marriott around to effortlessly prick his bubble of pomposity. And yet Hay had this instinctive ability to deliver lines that appear only mildly amusing on paper in a way that was side-splittingly funny on the screen so that the level of comedy doesn’t flag when they’re not by his side. Having said that, the scene in which the three of them attempt to calculate their location after ten days at sea – they’re only supposed to be sailing to Norway – is an absolute gem, and it’s nothing short of a scandal that Hay and his team aren’t revered in the same way as such American counterparts as Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers.

(Reviewed 11th April 2015)

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