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  Rainbow Jacket, The Don't Bet Your Shirt On It
Year: 1954
Director: Basil Dearden
Stars: Robert Morley, Kay Walsh, Edward Underdown, Fella Edmonds, Bill Owen, Charles Victor, Honor Blackman, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Ronald Ward, Howard Marion-Crawford, Sid James, Michael Trubshawe, Colin Kendall, Sam Kydd, Michael Ripper, Bernard Lee
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sam Lilley (Bill Owen) used to be a jockey until he disgraced himself by getting involved with cheaters and had his licence revoked, but he still hangs around racecourses hankering after the glory days and picking up and distributing tips on the favourites, making his living on the inside knowledge he has. One day he avoids the officials yet again and is trying to sneak back into the grounds via a loose fence when he meets Georgie Crain (Fella Edmonds), who is a young teen obsessed with horses, though he has never ridden one. After getting to know the boy, Sam realises he could have real talent and decides to act as his mentor, though nobody in the sporting body must know, thanks to his past misdemeanours - but there are more obstacles than that.

Horse racing does not occupy the movies too often, not as the sole focus of a plot at any rate, so this Ealing drama from the last couple of years of the studio's heyday has always held interest for those with a passion for the gee-gees. It certainly came across as the work of filmmakers who knew what they were talking about with regards to the subject, and screenwriter T.E.B Clarke, the studio's brightest writing talent, evidently threw himself into making this as authentic as he possibly could, so the only reason this did not look like a collection of cliches was that he was inventing a bunch of tropes on the spot. Even the most popular form of horseracing movies, the biopics like Champions, Seabiscuit and Dream Horse, tend to follow the same pattern, and they were based in truth.

Probably because they followed the pattern of most sporting dramas, the fight against adversity until the final triumph, since that's the real-life story audiences would be interested in - who wants to see a sporting tale where the protagonists lose, for instance? Fair enough, there were some of those in the nineteen-seventies, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Thus Clarke was free to explore the world of the turf and left no stone unturned in building as authentic a picture of the activity as he could, even if it meant examining the less salubrious aspects such as the unsavoury types who do their best to make profits from the gambling and are willing to go to illegal lengths to ensure they not only do not lose too much money, but get their money back at a profit too. Therefore, Sam gets involved with the darker side of the sport again, as if he cannot help himself.

Director Basil Dearden assembled a solid cast of pros for this, including real life horseracing fans (i.e. gambling addicts) like Wilfrid Hyde-White and Sid James, though the plot veered towards Georgie more often than not, with Edmonds typical of the British child actors of the day, for better or worse. Actually, he was fine, as it was the twists and turns of the narrative that were the most important element with our hero joining a riding school and almost immediately emerging as the star pupil (no surprise), but Sam's encouraging influence begins to encourage him to stray from the straight and narrow. Kay Walsh played it dowdy as the boy's longsuffering mother, Robert Morley was the owner who happens to be an official too - for those courtroom-style stewards' enquiry scenes, and Honor Blackman added glamour as a wife of one of the other owners. Maybe there were no real shocks here, it more or less wound up as you anticipated, though the presence of the criminal types added an edge because they raised the stakes (no pun intended). For those invested in the sport, The Rainbow Jacket was full of interest. Music by William Alwyn.

[Network release this on Blu-ray in The British Film, with two featurettes, an image gallery and subtitles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Basil Dearden  (1911 - 1971)

Dependable British director who began his film career working on Will Hay comedies like My Learned Friend, then moved onto a range of drama and comedy: a segment of classic horror Dead of Night, important crime film The Blue Lamp, The Smallest Show on Earth, excellent heist story The League of Gentlemen, social issues film Victim, action spectaculars Khartoum and The Assassination Bureau and quirky horror The Man Who Haunted Himself. Sadly, Dearden died in a car crash.

 
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