70 years of Passport to Pimlico

70 years of Passport to Pimlico the classic 1949 Ealing Comedy

Happy Birthday to “Passport to Pimlico” which turns 70 today!

 

Today marks a very special celebration for fans of classic films as it’s 70 years to the day since the birth of the British film institution that became known as the Ealing Comedies.

On the 28th of April in 1949, “Passport to Pimlico” opened at both the Gaumont and Pavilion cinemas in London and proved to be a box office success.

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Passport to Pimlico pair of stylish pop art prints by Art & Hue
The studios had released comedies previously, such as “Hue & Cry” in 1947, but Ealing’s prolific output in 1949 was a boom period for the studios, with critical and commercial success.

Produced under the stewardship of Michael Balcon at Ealing Studios, “Passport to Pimlico” was one of the most popular films of 1949 and, along with “Whisky Galore!” and “Kind Hearts & Coronets”, all released in the same year within the space of two months, firmly established the Ealing Comedies.

The post-war films tapped into the public mood, presenting tales of the small underdog battling a larger enemy, generally state bureaucracy or established institutions, and whilst the morals of the time couldn’t allow crime or rebellion to go rewarded, for a brief moment, audiences could will on the unlikely heroes.

“Passport to Pimlico” established the pattern of employing a regular cast, similar to repertory theatre, with actors & actresses being used across several films. The film starred Stanley Holloway, Barbara Murray, Charles Hawtrey, Naunton Wayne, & Basil Radford, who all went on to appear in another Ealing comedy film.

In “Passport to Pimlico”, Basil Radford & Naunton Wayne continued their on-screen partnership that began in Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Lady Vanishes” when they first appeared together as Charters & Caldicott.

The film also featured the formidable Margaret Rutherford as Professor Hatton-Jones, who demonstrates that Pimlico is actually part of Burgundy in France, following the discovery of a long-buried decree (it seems apropos that the tale of a community looking to declare independence from the larger state should be marking its 70th anniversary today).

Nominated for a BAFTA, along with the Ealing Comedies “Whisky Galore!” and “Kind Hearts & Coronets”, it missed out to Carol Reed’s film noir “The Third Man“, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019.

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70 years of Passport to Pimlico the classic Ealing Comedy
In various ways, the Ealing comedies set the groundwork for another successful comedy film franchise: the Carry On films. Both series of films shared an ensemble cast who were employed across different productions, tales of the underdog overcoming authority, and a very home-grown British humour with no concessions made to international audiences.

Many Carry On actors cut their teeth in the Ealing comedies, for example, Sid James was in “The Titfield Thunderbolt” and “The Lavender Hill Mob”, Charles Hawtrey was in “Passport to Pimlico” and “Who Done It?“, Hattie Jacques was in “The Love Lottery“, Joan Sims and Irene Handl appeared in “Meet Mr. Lucifer”, and Liz Fraser‘s first ever film role was in an Ealing comedy.

Art & Hue had the pleasure to delve into the archives of the Ealing Comedies to create a new collection of stylish pop art prints related to the films, all available in three sizes and many colour options.

Discover the full Ealing Comedies collection here and, should you be in the mood to re-watch the film, or discover it afresh, you can order the film on DVD or Bluray via Amazon here, or watch it on iTunes now.

Even though the Pimlico residents in the film prefer pints of beer in their local pub, whilst Charles Hawtrey bashes out a tune on the piano, it seems more appropriate to raise a glass of wine from the Burgundy region of France to toast the film’s 70th birthday.

So charge your glasses with a crisp Chablis and raise a toast to “Passport to Pimlico”!

Happy 70th to “Passport to Pimlico” & the birth of the Ealing Comedies!

 

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