Monday, September 13, 2021
The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954)
St Trinian’s is a school for young ladies in Barchester in England. Only the pupils are not exactly young ladies. To describe them as juvenile delinquents would scarcely be adequate. They’re more like a swarm of wild beasts, youthful gangsters, racketeers, con artists, terrorists and hardened criminals. They have been responsible for a county-wide reign of terror.
The school, run by Millicent Fritton (Alastair Sim), is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy but salvation may be at hand in the person the Princess Fatima (Lorna Henderson). Fatima is one of the seventeen daughters of a wealthy Arab oil sheikh. Miss Fritton hopes that young Fatima will be a goldmine.
She is alarmed by what she finds at St Trinian’s. The girls are operating a very lucrative business - they have a distillery set up in the chemistry lab. They’re heavily involved in gambling. She’s also concerned by the presence of Flash Harry (George Cole) who appears to be the frontman for the girls’ gambling and bootlegging operations.
The plot revolves arounds the attempts by Clarence and the Sixth Form to nobble Arab Boy and the equally determined efforts of Miss Fritton and the Fourth Form to foil their schemes.
There’s also a hockey match. As Sergeant Gates observes, for the girls of St Trinian’s it’s more like jungle warfare than hockey with most of the opposing team ending up unconscious in the first aid tent.
Frank Launder directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Sidney Gilliat. They had worked together as screenwriters on The Lady Vanishes and plenty of other notable films. Gilliat was also responsible for the screenplay of the bizarre but fascinating 1934 British musical Chu Chin Chow.
It’s available on DVD in a Region 2 boxed set which includes the first four St Trinian’s movies.
The Belles of St Trinian’s is enormous fun. Highly recommended.