Formby was a great favourite of my grandfather, who came from the London/Barnstable area. This fondness for Georgie quite surprised me, as Grampa was an extremely conservative and doctrinaire guy -- he referred to the Beatles as "scum of the earth from Liverpool" and was too genteel to spit when he said "Liverpool" but you know he was doing it mentally.Donald Binks wrote:George Formby was much the same character in all his pictures - a gawky lad with prominent teeth in a perpetual grin who was a bit of a naive nincompoop and shy with the girls. He can be admired for not wishing to "cultivate" his strong Lancs. accent but one wonders why he achieved such popularity? Methinks it perhaps because audiences tend to show some sympathy towards the hopelessly inept, e.g., Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. George was after all, a harmless and affable character - and why, he could handle a ukelele and warble in tune.
George breezes his way through "Much too Shy" (1942) which has him this time around as a village handyman in love with a local maiden of alluring qualities (Kathleen Harrison) who unfortunately is engaged to someone else (Eric Clavering). He has a little brother aged about 10, played by an actor - Jimmy Clitheroe - who was actually 21 (he had suffered damage to his thyroid gland at birth and never grew beyond 4'2", nor developed a deep voice).
George wants to be an artist but can only draw heads, so he enlists the aid of an art school in order to be able to draw bodies. Here he meets up with Charles Hawtrey, who despite having having a bit of a part, is only given scant mention in the credits. Charles and a bunch of others are heavily into abstract art and manage to fill in one of George's works with some nude (but discrete) representations. One thing leads to another and George's work is sold off to an advertising agency who use it in one of their advertising campaigns. Well, the whole thing creates a scandal in George's village because the heads on the figures are those of local women. They sue, but in the end we can say, along with George "that everything's turned out nice again". (Naturally he also gets the girl in the end.)
Plotwise, it's rubbish, but we take that for granted in films of this nature. Some of the dialogue is witty and funny - courtesy of Ronald Frankau who was one of the writers. There are a lot of nice set-ups and accompanying gags and a rather novel "chase" scene. George gets to sing a bit - well, it wouldn't be a complete picture if he didn't. The songs are of his normal slightly risque nature, pleasant enough at the time, but instantly forgetable after one has seen the picture.
It's interesting to spot the bit players - one of whom is Valentine Dyall (playing a defence barrister). Others partaking include Hilda Bayley, Eileen Bennett, Joss Ambler and Wally Patch. The direction is by Marcel Varnel. Made in 1942 it was surely a picture that would have taken the audience's minds off what was going on in the world around them at this particular time.
Perhaps Formby was like Vera Lynn, in the right place at the right time to have his/her somewhat limited talents and great personal charm become heroic wartime symbols of "England at its best".