The Agreeable World Of Wallace Arnold: Ah, when the British were the toast of all Cannes

Share
Related Topics
Stop it, I say! Stop it this minute! We've all got one! Put it away! Is there no end to the shenanigans that now constitute the Cannes Film Festival? These days, they all walk around in their birthday suits mouthing obscenities whilst "high" (dread word!) on cocaine. And where is the glamour? Highly paid British actors and actresses seem only too happy to barge into a buffet luncheon barefoot in denims and a filthy T-shirt.

But it was not ever thus. Can you imagine the great George Formby promenading along the seafront at Cannes sporting a ring through each orifice? Of course not! George was always very spruce - and his delightfully English comedies were the main beneficiary. This is not to say George had no ring at all. I have it on good authority that he had a pierced foreskin (dread word!), which may well account for his unnaturally squeaky voice. Ever the consummate professional, he kept it to himself, displaying it only to the select few, never letting it interfere with his life as an ambassador for all-round family entertainment.

In the heyday of the British cinema, our contingent at Cannes was something to be proud of. But in those days we were able to boast stars of the calibre of Diana Dors and Norman Wisdom, Frankie Vaughan and Graham Stark. In the early 1950s, I was widely credited as the man behind the renaissance of the British film industry, and my annual trips to Cannes remain a cherished memory.

It must have been '53 - or was it '54? - when I first escorted Diana Dors to Cannes. I had produced her latest vehicle, a lively update of the story of Cleopatra, set in Chiswick, with the then unknown Russ Conway as Antony and the late, great Gracie Fields turning in a legendary performance as Cleopatra's long-suffering mum. Alas, we don't seem to be able to produce home-grown films of that calibre any more, but at that point in British cinema history we were the toast of the town.

These days, we seem to have forgotten how to publicise a movie. Back then, we spared no expense, hiring the breakfast-room of a three-star hotel and serving a choice of red or white wine supplemented by a finger buffet with neatly cut sandwiches containing Gentleman's Relish, Sandwich Spread or Salmon Paste (a shilling extra). These were, you will remember, the truly great days of the publicity stunt - and sure enough we managed to create quite a splash. After all the various celebrities (two Beverley Sisters, Norman Vaughan, Reg Varney, the lot) had foregathered, I waited for a given moment and then waved for the pudding trolley to be wheeled on amidst a tumultuous fanfare from Larry Adler on his mouth organ. Atop the aforesaid trolley was a large cake, and at an agreed signal this cake exploded - and out popped little Arthur Askey dressed in brightly coloured blazer and swimming togs!

Needless to say, this glamorous, devil-may-care gesture firmly established us as a force to be reckoned with. Within weeks the film had opened to enthusiastic audiences in three major movie houses including the Bridport Astoria and the Regal, then the second largest cinema in Basingstoke. But by this stage, our attention was already being diverted to our next project: a tense, high-action thriller, Truncheon at the Ready (A), starring Reg Varney as Police Sergeant Corbett, the young cop who'll stop at nothing to get his man, Bryan Forbes as the oik on a motorbike, and George Formby as the sinister villain who leaves a little ukulele beside each of his victims, the grimmest of calling-cards.

Once again, we premiered at Cannes. The foreign critics were riddled with jealousy, even going so far as to claim it was "miscast". When award time came, the British were treated with shameless discrimination, the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman picking up the gong for a lightweight piece involving a skeleton and a chessboard, and Truncheon at the Ready refused all prizes - including, if you can believe it, Best Costumes, even though everyone featured, including the villain, was wearing a clean shirt, smart tie and well-pressed suit. Nevertheless, we pulled the rabbit out of the hat and achieved massive British press coverage with our original publicity stunt involving Miss Diana Dors driving a double-decker bus along the Cannes seafront.

0 tempora! 0 mores! Whatever happened to good old-fashioned family entertainment? I am hoping to revive it next year with a remake of Summer Holiday by Mr Gus Van Sant with Cliff Richard and Hank Marvin reproducing the roles they made so uniquely their own. Cannes, you have been warned: the British are coming!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?