A box office behemoth in his day, but largely lost from public consciousness for decades until a 1980 resurrection via a BBC-2 film season endeared him to a new generation of schoolkids (myself included), Will Hay is undoubtedly one of the greatest comedians British Film has ever produced. Once resurrected, the inevitable re-releasing and re-packaging of his output on both VHS and DVD has ensured that Hay's popularity stays continually high, but there still remain certain gaps in the availability of his back catalogue - especially his early films. Thankfully this imbalance has now been partially restored with a brand-new transfer of 1935's Dandy Dick from film elements held by the bfi. Previously only released in reasonably ropey quality (with the opening overture rudely truncated) this example of early Hay from his BIP days is sure to be a must-buy for many people.
Based on Arthur Wing Pinero's evergreen 1887 comedy, Hay heads a frisky cast in what was his third starring role to date (if you count ensemble piece Radio Parade of 1935). Of particular note in a key supporting role is an alarmingly young Esmond Knight in full matinee-idol mode - something cruelly put paid to six years later during military action against the Bismarck, his resulting blindness forcing a career change that turned him into arguably one of the best character actors of his generation. Though respecting the confines of the play, Hay's performance here is a cat's whisker away from his well-known screen persona as Doctor Benjamin Twist/Captain Ben Cutlet/William Porter and the rest - he is not as venal, duplicitous or cowardly as what would come after but the seeds of his comedic greatness are definitely present. Those who are only familiar with Hay through his lauded Gainsborough films will find much to admire and enjoy here.
This 1935 film farce was an early showcase for the comedic brilliance of Will Hay, marking the first of four collaborations with American director William Beaudine. Based on Arthur Wing Pinero’s 1887 stage play, Dandy Dick also features a minor role for Moore Marriott, later ‘Jeremiah Harbottle’ in the hugely successful run of Hay comedies made throughout the thirties. Dandy Dick is presented here in a brand-new transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.
The Very Reverend Richard Jedd has a problem: the church spire, now in a parlous state of repair, will cost nearly £1,000 to fix. When various money-raising schemes go awry, he is persuaded to waive his principles and bet what’s left of his savings on Dandy Dick, a 10-1 odds-on at the local races. A simple tonic to enhance the nag’s performance seems a good idea… but when the butler decides to intervene, the respectable clergyman finds himself in the middle of a doping scandal – and worse!
Extensive image gallery including deleted scene and behind-the-scenes pictures