Best Pair of Legs in the Business (The)

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REVIEW

Every so often a part will come along that allows a comic to begin a new career as a straight actor. Think of Hylda Baker, Max Wall and Lenny Henry among many others. The Best Pair of Legs in the Business should have given this opportunity to Reg Varney. But it wasn’t to be. In the early 1970s, when he was making the TV series On the Buses and three spin-off films, Varney was one of the best-known and best-loved comic actors in the UK. At a time when it seemed as though On the Buses might run and run, he tried something completely different, this tragicomedy in which he’s “Sherry” Sheridan, a song-and-dance man and drag act of the (very) old school reduced to performing for jaded punters in a caravan park. (He’d played the rôle before in the 1968 TV play of the same name also directed by Christopher Hodson).

Sometimes the action seems very modern. Sherry thinks nothing of dragging up in front of his hostile son Alan (Michael Hadley). But generally the mood must have appeared dated even in 1973. Expanding a 50 minute play to a 97 minute film, writer Kevin Laffan (who went on to create the TV soap Emmerdale Farm) adds hoary old material more suited to a pre-permissive generation. Two lads are too embarrassed to buy contraceptives from a female pharmacist. Sherry’s greatest faux pas is to speak his mind and upset the vicar. But still there’s much here to treasure. Varney plays a classic fool, unaware that almost everyone and everything is conspiring against him, sometimes to perfection. His grasp of pathos is very impressive indeed. He is in some ways more authentic than Laurence Olivier, who played a similar rôle in The Entertainer (1960). Unfortunately Varney’s fans didn’t want to know. The response was very poor indeed and The Best Pair of Legs in the Business ended up on the bottom half of a double bill with The Best of Benny Hill (1974). Varney never played another straight part and his career was effectively over. Now is the time to re-evaluate the talent of a great British entertainer. And watch out for future star Jane Seymour in an almost silent bit part.

David McGillivray

The Best Pair of Legs in the Business

PRODUCT DETAILS

Capitalising on his remarkable success in On the Buses, Reg Varney took on the contrasting role of a third-rate holiday camp entertainer dreaming of stardom in this mid-seventies tragi-comedy feature. Also starring Diana Coupland and Lee Montague, The Best Pair of Legs in the Business was adapted from an individual ITV Playhouse drama and scripted by Emmerdale Farm creator Kevin Laffan – presented here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements, in its correct aspect ratio.

‘Sherry’ Sheridan, a middle-aged compere and drag artiste currently stationed at a caravan site, is low on talent but high on ambition. Convinced he just needs one decent break to launch himself into the big time, he’s relentlessly optimistic – but sadly unaware that his family life is crumbling around him. Can Sherry manage to secure both his job, and his marriage?

SPECIAL FEATURES:
[] Full-frame as-filmed version of main feature
[] Original theatrical trailer
[] Image gallery
[] Promotional material PDFs

The Best Pair of Legs in the Business


Reference
7953911
Barcode
5027626391140
Classification
TBC
Number of Discs
1
Picture
1.75:1 / Colour
Sound
Mono / English
Subtitles
None
Region
2 / PAL
Time
95 mins approx