Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Joan Carries on in The Naked Truth

 

I've just caught up with one of my favourite old comedy films from the 1950s, the superb The Naked Truth. The film, first released in 1957, is yet another classic comedy shown on the brilliant Talking Pictures Television. I saw The Naked Truth many years ago but it has not been shown on terrestrial telly for ages, a great shame I think. 

Featuring an all star cast including Peter Sellers, Peggy Mount, Terry-Thomas, Dennis Price, Joan Sims and Shirley Eaton, this Mario Zampi film tells the story of the attempted blackmail of several high profile public figures and their collective attempts to basically bump him off! This film is a little-known classic of its kind and definitely deserves much more acclaim due to the calibre of its cast and the quality of the script. The film fairly whips alone, shot in glorious black and white and featuring just the right mix of clever dialogue, sparkling performances and out and out slapstick.

At the centre of the tale is the slimy Dennis Price, playing very much to type as the slippery blackmailer Mr Dennis. His targets are a rum bunch of comedy favourites. Terry-Thomas plays a caddish Lord who is trying to hush up many ill deeds from his suspicious and disapproving wife, Georgina Cookson. Peter Sellers plays "Little Sonny MacGregor" a rather twee Scottish(!) television personality with a dubious sideline as an East End landlord. Shirley Eaton is the glamorous model Melissa Wright, again attempting to hide shocking scandals; while the glorious Peggy Mount plays crime writer Flora Ransome, desperate to hide a past of ill repute! 

 

When such a cast is involved it's hard to pick out favourites but I do love Sellers in this film. His role as MacGregor allows him many Goon-like touches, particularly a wonderful range of silly voices pretty much taken from some of his radio performances. He also glories in a range of absurd disguises and characters with many dodgy fake noses and beards involved in the deception! It's a tour de force and no doubt this film led to him starring in many of the wonderful film comedies that followed.

At the heart of The Naked Truth is the great double act of Peggy Mount and Joan Sims as her timid daughter and unwilling accomplice, Ethel. Joan is very much the downtrodden character doing all her scheming mother's donkey work which involves mistakingly drugging Terry-Thomas, carting about a heavy trunk from pillar to post and even a dunk in the river! Poor Joan, always suffering for her art. Peggy and Joan are superb and I only wish they had acted together again in other pictures. Joan is eye-catching in her supporting turn, twitching and twittering with beautiful comic timing. Although only 27 at the time and capable of much more glamorous performances, this is an early indication of Joan's willingness and natural ability to tackle a wide range of challenging character parts.

Joan herself mentioned The Naked Truth in her autobiography, High Spirits. In her memoirs Joan fondly recalled working on the film with her fellow cast mates and obviously saw it as a turning point in her career. At the time she had been playing a series of small-ish cameos in a never ending stream of British films. With The Naked Truth she moved into more substantial featured roles and within a year she would make her debut with the Carry On team in Carry On Nurse as Stella Dawson. Joan also became friendly with the director and producer of the film, the Italian Mario Zampi. Sims and Zampi got on like a house on fire with Joan even joining Mario and his wife on holiday in Italy once the film had been completed. 

 

So if you get the chance, do check out The Naked Truth. It's well worth a go!



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2 comments:

  1. Everyone is brilliant in this smashing film, but Joan Sims steals it, for me! Much of the time her character is highly traumatised, to play those kind of high emotions both convincingly and hilariously is a masterstroke.

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    1. Yes I agree Chris, definitely her best early role

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