Mr Pastry - on the big screen
, 17 Feb 2013
For those old enough to remember the UK's 'Mr Pastry' TV series of the late 50's-early 60's, this film will come as a welcome surprise and a reminder of a once popular star of British family culture. Richard Hearne, star of that long-vanished show here plays Richard Ningle, a mild-mannered family man pretending to work in an office all day while in fact he is an 'art dealer' each day - out begging on the side of a busy London thoroughfare. Complications ensue when his daughter announces her engagement to a snooty couple's son, the father of whom promptly dispatches an investigative reporter to check out the status of Ningle. None of this is of very much import: what matters here is the physical comedy and treasured screen presence of Hearne whose structured physical comedy (as opposed to the musical-hall slapstick variety more common elsewhere in British cinema) is a delight. Hearne's droopy, pale 'tache is arguably as much a signature of his persona as Harold Lloyd's glasses or Chaplin's cane, and at the moment when it appears in the film (to usher in Ningle's alter-ego 'Artie') this watcher, at least, enjoyed a small frisson which must have also been enjoyed more strongly by contemporary audiences. A good deal of the running time of Something in The City is Taken up with physical comedy, as Ningle or 'Artie' escape from various pursuers, and for the most part this is successful. Indeed Hearne's natural grace and movement, his use of props and situations, avoidance of cheap laughs and his lack of bumbling through the various narrative mishaps occasionally reminded this viewer of Buster Keaton. There's plenty of comic support too, notably a very young Dora Bryan as an increasingly exasperated cafe waitress. The comedy is lightly done and ultimately the whole thing is something of a delightful fantasy. Hearne disappeared from our screen too soon and his memory is faint now (The comic mantle he left was perhaps passed on to figures such as Harry Worth then Michael Crawford for new generations). We are lucky to have this film to see now as a reminder of once what was, and how good it was. The picture and sound is perfectly acceptable. Look out for a brief appearance by Stanley Baker as a young police constable at the end. There are at least two other Richard Hearne vehicles out on DVD, check them out.
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