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