Cast & Crew
An earnest young man gets a job at his uncle's factory, but his intelligence grows in conflict with his crooked uncle's schemes and the Labor Union's way of doing business. Soon, his actions cause a major strike to unfold.
John Le Mesurier
Kenneth J. Warren
John Van Eyssen
E. V. H. Emmett
I'm All Right Jack
The film's plot based on a short story by Alan Hackney hinges on the absolute and almost cosmic guileless stupidity of one Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael), a Candide-like scion of old-money gentry who simply thinks he might like to go "into business"; given his gormlessness, he is encouraged to "work his way up" to a management position, and so Stanley interviews for various working-class factory jobs and gets none, and eventually lands a job at his uncles' munitions factory, running forklifts and such. Of course, the family see Stanley as their toehold and spy amid the unionized workers, but Stanley is oblivious, just as he is oblivious to everything else, including the principles of union labor and rules. On Stanley's one hand, we have Peter Sellers as Mr. Kite, an uneducated laborer-turned-Marxist ideologue and shop steward, sporting a Hitler mustache and a glowering suspicion of every management move. On the other, we have Terry-Thomas as Major Hitchcock, the front-line manager who must try to manipulate the union to increase profits. Real trouble begins when the guileless Stanley shows off his new forklift prowess to an undercover "time and motion" manager, unintentionally quadrupling the job-efficiency requirements for the entire factory.
With this manpower, the Boultings' screenplay hardly has to stretch: Sellers was obviously already his generation's most gifted comic actor, and Kite, which is a relatively reactive and soulful straight-man role in the Sellers catalogue, was his last as a supporting and/or ensemble player. (The Mouse that Roared, the first of his multi-character charades, was made later that same year, though released in the U.K. a month earlier.) With his gratuitous overenunciations and oily duplicity, Terry-Thomas, reprising his role from an earlier Boulting film, Private's Progress (1956), might've been the funniest English persona until the descent, as it were, of Monty Python. (Generally, you can hear the ripe-fruit comic inflections of Michael Palin's and John Cleese's most hilariously ultra-Brit skit characters echo from this film, which hit theaters when the Pythonites were still in high school and college.) But it may be Carmichael, coming off like a retarded clone of Dirk Bogarde, that is the revelation here; his irrepressible gaiety and sincerely dopey smile are a wonder to behold, and reminders of the fact that in 1959 he was as much of a beloved star in the UK as Sellers and Thomas. He is the movie's glue, and remains one of the primary reasons why, in its day, it was so revered, finding a place on The New York Times's top-ten best films, Time magazine's top-ten imports, the National Board of Review's top-five foreign films, and, unsurprisingly, a British Oscar for Best Screenplay.
But why has it been more or less forgotten? In some ways, I'm All Right Jack may be too intensely British in social context in short order, U.S. audiences became ignorant of the particulars of the postwar British industrial scene, which was for awhile one of the most heavily unionized in the world and which was effectively deunionized, disastrously, by the Thatcher administration in the 1980s. But therein lies another glitch in the movie's arsenal: can a satire take aim at *both* labor unions and corporate ownership? What is I'm All Right Jack actually saying, except that the extremes in both directions are absurd? Is mocking Socialist cant and labor solidarity which were employed, however ineffectively, for the purposes of treating workers fairly and humanely the same as making sport of exploitative greed? How can you satirize two opposing ideals at the same time? The Boultings' film attempts to remain politically neutral while wrestling with overtly political forces, and as a result the movie emerges, rancorous and entertaining and sharp-toothed, with no ethical or sociocultural position at all, a mistake Voltaire, Swift, Wilde, Mencken and the filmmakers behind, say, Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Network (1976) couldn't be said to have made. Satire is an attack what's I'm All Right Jack attacking? This lack of moral courage or a focused target may be why the film, as expert and fabulously inventive as it is, remains to a large degree neglected and overlooked outside of England it stands for nothing beyond its formidable ability to entertain.
Producer: Roy Boulting
Director: John Boulting
Screenplay: John Boulting, Alan Hackney, Frank Harvey
Cinematography: Mutz Greenbaum
Film Editing: Anthony Harvey
Art Direction: William C. Andrews
Music: Ken Hare
Cast: Ian Carmichael (Stanley Windrush), Terry-Thomas (Major Hitchcock), Peter Sellers (Fred Kite/Sir John Kennaway), Richard Attenborough (Sidney De Vere Cox), Dennis Price (Bertram Tracepurcel), Margaret Rutherford (Aunt Dolly).
by Michael Atkinson
I'm All Right Jack
Voted One of the Year's Five Best Foreign Films by the 1960 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best English Language Films by the 1960 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States 1960