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  It's in the Air George Is Plane Crazy
Year: 1938
Director: Anthony Kimmins
Stars: George Formby, Polly Ward, Jack Hobbs, Garry Marsh, Julien Mitchell, Ilena Sylva, Frank Leighton, C. Denier Warren, Michael Shepley, Hal Gordon, Joe Cunningham, Jack Melford, Eliot Makeham, Esma Cannon, O.B. Clarence
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: George Brown (George Formby) is hoping to be recruited as an air raid warden and shows up at an exercise in town with his gasmask, though that is on his dog, Scruffy rather than on himself. He assembles with the other hopefuls but doesn't make a good impression and is told his services will not be required, so crestfallen he starts to walk out when he hears something from a side room. It is radio equipment and an operator is talking to the pilots running the exercise from the air; George is fascinated and asks about the equipment, getting a rudimentary lesson in the process. Once the mission is over, the operator leaves briefly, and George hears the pilot wants to listen to a record: luckily he has his banjolele with him, and sings him a song.

Yes, George wanted to join the Royal Air Force in this one, an example of the propaganda movies that were going to be a lot more important to the British war effort and indeed Formby's later career, leading up to the moment he punched Adolf Hitler on the hooter. But Britain was not quite at war in 1938, though that is what many were anticipating, so here you had a movie that told the public, get ready for this, be prepared to be called up to fight, without ever mentioning the looming global conflict. For that reason It's in the Air is a curiously tense affair, largely because just as the Brit on the street could not escape the battles to come, George could not find his way out of the forces that he was not really a part of in an official capacity.

How come? Because his sister's fiancé, who is in the RAF, works at the local airbase and George manages to get it into his head that he has forgotten to deliver an important letter, so donning his prospective brother-in-law's uniform, completely illegally of course, he sets out to make amends and get that missive to the right person. There followed a selection of scenes where our hero gets embroiled with typical military slapstick of the type that would have been appreciated by followers of The Reader's Digest Humour in Uniform page, except of course he is not supposed to be there, and the more he tries to get out of this situation the more they get their hooks in him and refuse to let him leave. With a few tweaks this could have been a horror movie on a surrealist bent, but as it was there were largely harmless shenanigans for him to be stuck with for around ninety minutes.

Nevertheless, that sense of panic barely held in check was never quite far away enough to make this one of the more relaxing Formby vehicles - it was up there with his murder mystery entry of a few years later. This is supposed to be funny, naturally, and it did raise a few titters, plus the songs were some of his strongest with You Can't Fool Me a traditional cheeky chappie, saucy lyrics effort, his ode to the Sergeant Major (Julien Mitchell) given two variations, one insulting and the other respectful, and then there was the title tune. This afforded Formby a chance to perform a little crooning, at least in its earlier stages, not exactly Bing Crosby but a change of pace from his usual material, especially as it launched into a male voice choir-enhanced hymn to the Air Force, out of the blue, as it were. The grand finale was action packed as George, still unable to escape, goes for an impromptu flight in a biplane bomber - it's safe to say he didn't bother with his own stunts in this one, but it added more peril, physical this time, and gave love interest Polly Ward a chance to admire him for his (dubious) bravery.

[Network release this on The British Film label with an image gallery and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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