As Network’s The British Film collection continues to expand, and an increasing number of the best titles are revisited for new Blu-ray restorations, let’s look at two new additions to the catalogue: both filmed at Ealing Studios, the romantic comedies Keep Fit (1938) and Another Shore (1948).
The latter title, Another Shore is a self-proclaimed “tragi-comedy”, set in Dublin and adapted from a novel by Kenneth Reddin. Robert Beatty leads the cast (with excellent support from Stanley Holloway and Moira Lister) as Gulliver Shiels, a civil servant who dreams of leaving dreary, wet Ireland for a new life on the idyllic South Pacific island of Rarotonga.
In a twist from the screen norm, it is Lister as the well-off Jennifer who falls in love and gives pursuit. After a chance meeting on a stony beach, she falls for the poetry of Gulliver’s weariness at Dublin life and resolves to make him her husband and have him stay in his home city.
Gulliver, meanwhile, has devised a rather unique route to riches and the money he needs to make the move he dreams of, and it’s clear their two visions of the future are not compatible.
Directed by the legendary Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob, A Fish Called Wanda), it is a gentle, lightly comic tale that subverts the gender norms of most romance in literature, on stage and on screen; and is raised by a wonderful eccentric comic performance from Holloway.
At the other end of the scale is the much more riotous pre-war George Formby caper Keep Fit, co-starring Kay Walsh. Formby’s sixth feature film (and fourth with then-owners of Ealing, Associated Talking Pictures), Keep Fit is the first of the cinema icon’s 20 films to receive a high definition restoration – and sparkles all the more for it.
George plays mild-mannered George Green, assistant in a department store’s gents’ barber shop, with more than a passing fondness for manicurist Joan; unfortunately, she is already stepping out with a bullying colleague from menswear, Hector.
Meanwhile, two local newspapers are battling it out for publicity and sales. Following a successful cooking contest run by one, the other launches a health drive and is quick to rope in managers at the department store to put their finest candidates forward to a contest of gymnastics and fitness. Over-confident sportsman Hector is keen for the challenge and George sees it as an opportunity to impress Joan.
One thing, inevitably, leads to another and it’s not very long before George faces the prospect of fighting Hector one-on-one in the boxing ring. Hector, however, is hiding a secret past, whilst George has a little something working to his advantage.
Inevitably he gets the girl and humiliates his opponent in the end, but it’s a real treat seeing the escapades unfold, with superb visual and slapstick comedy along the way.
Both shot in black and white, the films have previously been released on DVD by archive owner StudioCanal, but are now available in high definition for the first time thanks to new Network restorations from brand new transfers of the surviving master prints.
Aaron Brown is a comedy historian and fan, and Editor of British Comedy Guide, promoting British comedy of all varieties to audiences across the globe.