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teaser Davy (1958)

Davy (1957), produced by Britain's Ealing Studios, was a family affair, both on and off the screen. The film's director, Michael Relph, was called on to direct his own father -- one of the film's stars, George Relph. There's also young Peter Frampton (the future Oscar® winning Makeup Artist -- not the rock musician) cast as Tim; his father Harry Frampton did the makeup for the movie. Like most studios, where actors and craftsmen often worked together for years, Ealing Studios was like an extended family. The film's producer, for example, Basil Dearden (who typically directed) and Relph the director (who typically produced) teamed up on more than 30 films - including several they co-directed. In Davy, the concept of family even plays an integral part of the story. The movie revolves around a family of vaudeville performers called "The Mad Morgans," and the star of the act is Davy Morgan, played by comedian Harry Secombe.

For Secombe, Davy was an attempt to launch a solo career. He was, at the time, already a popular radio personality on The Goon Show, where his co-stars included the comedic likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Secombe got his start in comedy during WWII - when he performed in troop concerts and met up with like-humored Spike Milligan. After the war, Secombe and Milligan teamed up with Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine at The Grafton Arms pub to improvise scripts. These comedy sketches soon evolved into a radio show. The Goon Show, which was originally called Crazy People, ran from 1951 until 1960 and has been said to have "changed the face of British comedy." It certainly turned out a generation of British comedians.

While the radio show was going strong, "The Goons" released several movies: Penny Points to Paradise (1951), Down Among the Z Men (1952). Secombe also had his own TV show, The Harry Secombe Show, in 1955. But Davy was his first big screen attempt to go it alone and the movie was only a moderate success. After Davy, Secombe continued to work mostly on stage and TV. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1966 as Best Actor in a Musical for Pickwick. Secombe also made the occasional movie - his most memorable film role was probably in 1968's Academy Award winning Oliver!. But no matter what his later work, Secombe was always beloved for his Goon years and was knighted in 1981. He died on April 11, 2001.

Also worth noting in Davy: Peter Frampton, who plays young Tim and whose father Harry did Makeup for many years at Ealing, would eventually follow in his father's profession. He worked as an assistant to his father on several films, including Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) and the two also worked together on Victor/Victoria (1982). In 1995, Peter Frampton won the Oscar® for Best Makeup for his work on Braveheart. Despite his behind-the-scenes success, Frampton recalled his time in front of the camera on Davy fondly, especially since "it meant time off school and [getting the] star treatment."

Davy also signaled the end of an era. After a nearly twenty year run, Ealing studios would release just three more films: Dunkirk (1958), Nowhere to Go (1958), and The Siege of Pinchgut (1959). And for the studio known for such hilarious gems as Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955), Davy would be its last comedy.

Producer: Basil Dearden
Director: Michael Relph
Screenplay: William Rose
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Film Editing: Peter Tanner
Art Direction: Alan Withy
Cast: Harry Secombe (Davy Morgan), Alexander Knox (Sir Giles Manning), Ron Randell (George), George Relph (Uncle Pat Morgan), Susan Shaw (Gwen), Bill Owen (Eric).
C-83m. Letterboxed.

by Stephanie Thames

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