These are a few of my favourite scenes
I’ve been focussing on the first three St Trinians films – ‘Belles’, ‘Blue Murder’ and ‘Pure Hell’. Basically, it is my opinion that they are the best ones, because they are the ones that feature Joyce Grenfell. I also think that in this series, each subsequent film is not quite as good as the one that went before it. So at the top of the tree we have the 1954 ‘Belles of St Trinians’, the one that I like the most. And if you were to ask me which was my favourite scene in this film, I would have a think, and then probably plump for one single line, delivered by Alastair Sim in the most devastatingly funny way. It happens during the hockey match. Joyce Grenfell’s ‘Creepy Crawley’ character has just been belted over the head with a hockey stick, leaving the match without a referee. The headmistress of the opposing team protests vociferously and then bustles in to take control. Inevitably, she too ends up on a stretcher. At this point, our Miss Fritton leans into nobody in particular and states “I did warn her.” It always makes me laugh and I wait for that line with a sense of anticipation. Though perhaps it shouldn’t, this violence perpetrated to mature single women who, because of their unmarried status, are fair game as ‘old hags’.
Moving onto ‘Blue Murder at St Trinians’, one of my favourite scenes is a re-occuring one. Near the beginning of the film, the delinquent girls drill a large hole in the floor at the Ministry of Education in the process of securing the school’s victory in a writing competition. After discovery of this hole by the unfortunate ministry staff, workmen are brought in to make repairs. We then regularly see them through the rest of the film – and not once are they doing any work. They are on a perpetual tea break! There’s a bit of business between them and the suited ministry staff in passing each other the sugar that makes me laugh every time. It all goes to prove that the cliché of the English workman sitting by the side of a hole in the road, never doing anything to repair it, is one that has been around for some time now. This attitude to our labouring classes was only going to get worse, culminating in the 1971 film ‘Carry on at Your Convenience’. Today, I think that things have changed because the trade unions don’t have so much influence on our working conditions, yet we haven’t quite shaken off this feeling that the British workman isn’t working quite as hard as he might. Especially when we are sat at temporary traffic lights and there is no sign of any movement…
Finally, ‘Pure Hell of St Trinians’ brings us a Ruby Gates who is finally preparing for her wedding. For her gown, she visits Myrtle’s West End Modes (above the fish shop) – a business I long to patronise. Not for a wedding gown you understand, I see myself being fitted for a twin set to wear at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. But as a favourite scene, this is pipped at the post by Ruby’s well-provisioned lifeboat. While hiding away on the boat that has been used to carry our unsuspecting St Trinians heroines to their arranged marriages in the Middle East; Ruby has made herself a home beneath the tarpaulin. Not only are some of the items that she has packed rather amusing (a live chicken, a tea service, a recorder, asparagus tips – it’s like The Generation Game) they are also historically interesting. What would the 1950s housewife pack for a desert island? I particularly like to see the old Kelloggs packets.
But don’t just take my word for it. Revisit the films yourself and make your own mind up about the best bits of St Trinians.