BACK ROOM BOY(Gainsborough, 1942)—Comedy. Director: Herbert Mason; Producer: Edward Black; Script: Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, and J. O. C. Orton; Photography: Jack E. Cox; Music: Hans May; Cast: Arthur Askey (Arthur Pilbeam), Moore Marriott (Jerry), Graham Moffatt (Albert), Googie Withers (Bobbie), Vera Francis (Jane), and Joyce Howard (Betty).
When Will Hay* moved from Gainsborough to Ealing Studios just before the outbreak of World War II, popular radio comedian Arthur Askey was chosen to replace him. Askey's first film, Band Waggon (1939), was based on his successful BBC radio program. In Band Waggon, Askey, forced to leave his living quarters on the roof of Broadcasting House, moves into a castle that is supposedly haunted. The ghost is exposed as Moore Marriott, who is working with a gang of spies to scare away any outsiders. Askey followed with a new version of Arnold Ridley's play Ghost Train (1941), with German spies replacing smugglers.
In Back Room Boy, Arthur Pilbeam loses his girlfriend Jane when their romantic moments are interrupted every hour because of his vocation as the man responsible for pushing the button for the BBC's “six pips” time signal. Determined to get away from all women, Pilbeam moves to an isolated lighthouse off the Scottish coast where he finds himself surrounded by females—first, a young independent girl who lives nearby and then by a group of chorus girls forced into the lighthouse when their boat sinks.
The film balances a clever mix of music hall comedy, with a leering Marriott perpetually trying to peek at the girls while they undress, with the thrills of a suspense film. The inhabitants of the lighthouse mysteriously disappear one by one, leaving Pilbeam to combat the Nazi spies who are utilizing the lighthouse while planting sea mines. Small, with huge horn-rimmed glasses, Askey milks every possible situation in this film, which was one of his best.
BAKER, ROY WARD (b. 1916). After the success of Morning Departure (1950), Roy Baker's fourth film, Twentieth Century Fox invited him to Holly
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Guide to British Cinema. Contributors: Geoff Mayer - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 16.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.