Two friends race against each other in their classic cars in the annual London to Brighton race.
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Having studied British film whilst at the University of Portsmouth, there were a number of occasions when our lecturer Dr Sue Harper introduced us young undergraduates to several awesome British films which seemed to personify the era of British film when they simply wanted to make you laugh. Made at the height of this era was “Genevieve”, a non-stop, laughter filled movie which even raises several smirks nearly sixty years after its initial release.
Starring those stalwarts of post-WW2 British cinema John Gregson as Alan McKim, Dinah Sheridan as Wendy McKim and the much-missed Kenneth More as the wonderfully named Ambrose Claverhouse, a name which I myself wouldn’t have minded being christened as. The main plot of the film revolves around the London to Brighton classic car race which is still held today, and the comedy that ensues after they depart from their bourgeois surroundings and take on the open road of pre-motorway Britain. Theirs is a jolly jaunt along the English countryside and down dusty country roads without a single sign of a speed camera in sight. Although Alan and Ambrose bet quite a large amount on who turns out to be the victor, their rivalry is not malicious but friendly; it is never shown but you can just picture these chaps having a jolly good laugh down the pub whilst sharing a pint of warm ale or two. At no point does the movie ever become obscene or try vulgar tactics of nudity to keep the audience interested. Instead, it relies on a solid script which never fails to entertain those who watch.
Over the course of the movie, the usual idiosyncrasies of British comedy is there for all to see; the physical comedy, bourgeois language such as “old girl” and “gosh” and the goings-on of characters which you wouldn’t really see in real-life post-WW2 Britain. More is this typical bourgeois character, but his bumbling nature never fails to please the viewer no matter how many times you watch his performance. With his role as Alan, Gregson delivers as the straight-man who wants a simple life but encounters all these crazy and madcap adventures that he just can’t resist from getting involved in at all. Damn it old bean, it just wouldn’t be cricket I can hear Alan wanting to say. Sheridan’s portrayal as Wendy, or the films token beauty as I prefer to call her, is nothing remarkable but her comedic timing is quite superb. Token doesn’t have that many lines to deliver which might raise a smile, but when it is her turn she just hits it time after time.
To those who haven’t been to Britain, I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful country. It’s people, history and tourism is rivalled by no other place on this planet. But, when it comes to our roads, they have turned into this almost monstrous creation full of nothing but concrete with only the odd tree scattered around for Grandma and Grandpa to look at on their Sunday drive. “Genevieve” is evidence that it hasn’t always been like this, with some roads lined with trees and hardly any concrete around. Gone are the odd tree or two, but what once lined the streets of Britain were mighty Oaks that looks as though they had been around since the time of Charles I or dusty roads which wouldn’t look out of place in 1930’s Depression-hit America. Although this is merely part of the scenery and nothing which the filmmakers had contributed towards, “Genevieve” acts as evidence that Britain was certainly more scenic barely fifty years ago and by all means more beautiful. For that reason alone, classic status has to be granted.