Cast & Crew
Old Bill, a jovial Limey sergeant, discovers that the major of his regiment is a German spy in collusion with Gaspard, the local innkeeper. The spies mistrust him and poison his wine; but it spills and eats a hole in the floor through which Gaspard falls into the cellar. Trying to rescue him, Bill discovers a cote of carrier pigeons. Tipped off by the major, the Germans bomb an opera house where Bill and Alf are performing; they escape, however, in their impersonation of a horse and later pose as German soldiers in a German regiment. Bill manages to get a photograph of the major greeting the German general, but it falls into the hands of Joan, a prisoner of war. Bill is forced to join a German attack against the British, and though he saves his own regiment, he is shot as a German spy. An old friend, however, has substituted blank cartridges for the real ones, and Bill is pardoned when Joan and his friend Bert arrive with the incriminating photograph.
The Better 'Ole
The Better 'Ole (1926), an early experiment with Warner Bros.' sound-on-disc Vitaphone system, was one of Syd Chaplin's most successful vehicles. This World War I farce is based on a British stage play that in turn was inspired by a series of cartoon sketches created by Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather as he served at the front. (An earlier film version was made in England in 1919.) Chaplin plays Old Bill, a happy-go-lucky British Army sergeant who suspects that an officer in his regiment is actually a German spy. The comic complications that ensue include Bill's posing as a German soldier and facing a firing squad when it's thought that he is himself a spy. The movie's title comes from Bill's pet saying, "If you know of a better 'ole (foxhole), go find it!"
Syd Chaplin, whose other American film successes include a version of Charley's Aunt (1925), never acquired American citizenship and returned to his native land in 1925 after problems with the Internal Revenue Service. He made only one movie, A Little Bit of Fluff (1928) in England before retiring from the screen.
Director: Charles Reisner
Screenplay: Charles Reisner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Robert E. Hopkins (titles) from comics by Bruce Bairnsfather, play by Bairnsfather and Arthur Eliot
Cinematography: Ed Du Par
Original Music: Maurice Baron
Cast: Sydney Chaplin (Old Bill), Doris Hill (Joan), Harold Goodwin (Bert), Theodore Lorch (Gaspard), Ed Kennedy (Corporal Quint), Charles K. Gerrard (The Major).
by Roger Fristoe
The Better 'Ole
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Coburn both starred and produced the original play, which opened in New York on 19 October 1918 and ran for 353 performances.