Cast & Crew
J. Lee Thompson
Peter Weston is engaged to Vanessa Colebrook, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. On a journey home on a steamer he meets an old sea hand who shares with him how his wife won't let him keep his pet Daisy anymore. Weston offers him a kind ear and the sailor takes him for a kind man. When Weston wakes up later in the journey he finds that the sailor has left Daisy in his care. The problem is that Daisy is a middle sized alligator. Whilst trying to throw the beast overboard, he meets Moira who helps him out. He is desperate to see her again and uses the alligator as an excuse.
J. Lee Thompson
An Alligator Named Daisy
The Rank Organisation was more known for the deep, psychological works of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Red Shoes (1948), Black Narcissus (1947)) than comedy when An Alligator Named Daisy (1955) was released. It was Ealing Studios, late of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955) that had a lock on comedy in Britain just as MGM ruled the musical landscape in America. But Rank had Dors, Sinden and Thompson and set out to make a farcical comedy, with a couple of musical numbers, in an attempt to take some of the business away from Ealing. They even got Ealing regular Stanley Holloway to play a major supporting role and, for good measure, hired Margaret Rutherford to do what Margaret Rutherford did best: be eccentric.
The resulting film is a hodgepodge of comedy, romance and music with an alligator at the center. Peter Weston (Donald Sinden), returning to England from Ireland on a ferry, involuntarily acquires an alligator (named Daisy, of course, and oddly adorable in her own way) when her owner abandons her to him, explaining his wife will no longer accept the large-tailed reptile in her house. Weston's only wish is to rid himself of her but before he can, he runs into, and immediately falls in love with, Moira O'Shannon (Jeannie Carson), a zoo employee who loves all animals, including gators. Since Daisy seems to be the way to her heart, he vows to keep Daisy if only to get visits from Moira from time to time. The problem is, he's engaged to Vanessa (Diana Dors) and he and his parents stand to make a lot of money from Vanessa's wealthy father (James Robertson Justice) if the marriage goes through.
An Alligator Named Daisy could not be described, realistically, as a musical, and yet, it does have two musical numbers, performed by the charming and talented Jeannie Carson. When the first one strikes up, a good fifteen minutes into the first reel, it comes as quite a surprise. Usually, if a movie is going to have its characters break into spontaneous song, it's made sufficiently clear somewhere within five minutes of the opening credits. However, since Rank didn't have the budget for large-scale musical numbers in a production such as this, they spread the two numbers out, putting in one at fifteen minutes and the second roughly halfway through the film. They also relied on the talents of Miss Carson to sell the numbers all by herself and, surprisingly, she doesn't do a half-bad job, considering she's given almost no choreography and nothing, prop or set-wise, with which to work. The film contains other songs too, but performed by bands and singers on stage rather than spontaneously, within the action.
In the first number, "I'm in Love for the Very First Time," about her love for Peter, the lovely Miss Carson is forced to perform at a rather stark, flavorless petrol station, bounding from one oil drum to the other and doing her level-best to make grease rags and rubber tires into workable props. That she succeeds is a testament to her charm and likeability. The second number, in which she once again sings about her love for Peter, is even more confining, keeping her not just in her apartment, but in the bedroom, in slippers, shifting from one end of the bed to the other.
In the end, alligators, fiancées and wealthy benefactors all end up at the estate of Vanessa's father where an alligator beauty contest is being held simply to get Vanessa and Peter back in good graces (after Daisy caused a falling out). Stealing most of the audience's attention during these proceedings are Stanley Holloway, playing Peter's Grandfather, who believes all alligators should be shot on sight and James Robertson Justice, scheduling the proceedings as well as his daughter's impending nuptials as if he were scheduling a stockholders meeting.
An Alligator Named Daisy didn't perform as well as Rank would have liked and so didn't signal the beginning of a new comedy era with the studio but it did help further the career of both Dors and director Thompson. The two would work together the very next year in Yield to the Night (1956, American release title Blonde Sinner) about a murderess, played by Dors, awaiting execution by hanging. The film, which was inspired by the real life Ruth Ellis murder case, would receive three British Academy Award nominations, including Best British Film and Best Film from any Source.
Within a few years Thompson would find himself as a director in demand after the mega-success of The Guns of Navarone, followed by the moody and creepy Cape Fear (1962). While he never had hits those big again, he maintained a steady career, eventually teaming up with Charles Bronson for several films, including St. Ives and 10 to Midnight(1983).
Diana Dors was praised for her performance in Yield to the Night and it revealed that the actress, previously thought of as only a sex symbol, an "English Marilyn Monroe", was really so much more. Diana Dors would have a long and successful career, easily transitioning into more mature roles in the late sixties and seventies. She succumbed to stomach cancer in 1984, leaving the world behind at the too young age of 52. From An Alligator Named Daisy and Yield to the Night to Deep End (1970), There's a Girl in My Soup (1970) and her final film Steaming (1985), Diana Dors was a lovely and charming presence, and a good actress to boot.
Producer: Raymond Stross
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay: Jack Davies
Cinematography: Reginald H. Wyer
Production Design: Michael Stringer
Music: A.E. Durandeau, Ken Mackintosh, Edward B. Osborne, Edward W. Rogers, Stanley Black
Film Editor: John D. Guthridge
Cast: Donald Sinden (Peter Weston), Jeannie Carson (Moira O'Shannon), James Robertson Justice (Sir James Colebrook), Diana Dors (Vanessa Colebrook), Roland Culver (Colonel Geoffrey Weston), Stanley Holloway (The General).
by Greg Ferrara
Diana Dors Official Website
An Alligator Named Daisy
TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson
Released in United States 1957
Released in United States 1957