Thorley Walters and the Dual Personality
Thorley Walters appears in both ‘Blue Murder’ and ‘Pure Hell’, but unusually, he plays different roles. Clearly there is meant to be continuity between the films – Flash, Ruby and Sammy all appearing as the same characters in the first three installments. Although there is the classic clanger of Miss Fritton’s change of first name (she is Millicent in ‘Belles’ and Amelia in ‘Blue Murder’). But for some reason, Thorley was allowed to appear as the army major in ‘Blue Murder’ and then Butters the education department man in ‘Pure Hell.’
The only reason that I can think of for this is that Thorley went down well with Launder and Gilliat, and they thought him well suited to the role of a man in authority who is brought to his knees by delinquent girls. Having carried out some research on Thorley Walters (read my potted biography here) it seems that he was a very easy actor to work with. He was never out of work and this is testament to his talent and his employability. No tantrums, no ego, no scandal (apart from the delightful rumour that he was Cecily Courtneidge’s toyboy) Thorley was simply a grafter. His aptitude for comedy roles shows that he was not afraid to make himself look daft – I bet he was a dream to work with compared with wrangling Alastair Sim and a gang of adolescent girls.
Both of Thorley’s roles are made to look ridiculous by femininity. In ‘Blue Murder’ his army Major enters the school to give the girls a jolly good talking to. He is sent out again dressed in a gym slip. Meanwhile in ‘Pure Hell’ he is turned into a gibbering wreck by the Shakespeare striptease and turns to a few effeminate dance moves to calm his ragged nerves. The clear message is that girls who do not behave are emasculating and if a man lets them win then he degrades himself by becoming feminine too. So you’d best keep your girls under control. The same could be said of Lionel Jeffries’ role in ‘Blue Murder’ – he has to pose as a headmistress because the St Trinians mob have him over a barrel – if he doesn’t do as they say then he will be turned over to the police as a jewel thief. By being check-mated by the girls, he too becomes feminine and finds it degrading.
Earlier posts in this blog series laud Launder and Gilliat for being feminist film makers, but here’s where they let themselves down. Being like a woman isn’t that demeaning, is it chaps? After all we’d been though in the war? In the 1950s it was time to put us in our place again…have we recovered yet?