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  Follow a Star Singin' On The Brain
Year: 1959
Director: Robert Asher
Stars: Norman Wisdom, June Laverick, Jerry Desmonde, Hattie Jacques, Richard Wattis, Eddie Leslie, John Le Mesurier, Sydney Tafler, Fenella Fielding, Charles Heslop, Joe Melia, Ron Moody, Dick Emery, Pat Coombs, Charles Gray, Dilys Laye, Glyn Houston
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Norman Truscott (Norman Wisdom) works in a dry cleaners, operating the steam press, but dreams of becoming a successful singer so when one day an actual singing star, Vernon Carew (Jerry Desmonde), enters the shop, Norman is enraptured and offers to clean his clothes for free. The performer is flattered, but does not realise how their fates will be intertwined as Norman really does have a great voice and is very promising - yet he can only sing in the presence of his lady friend Judy (June Laverick), which is both a blessing and a problem...

Wisdom contributed to the script, not to mention the songs, of what was effectively a musical with him in it, although predictably the critics were deeply unimpressed. They could not see past the sentimentality which to them was laid on with a trowel, the most egregious example of that being Judy spent the whole film in a wheelchair, so no matter how well-intentioned the moviemakers were in supplying a positive image of the disabled, to those who found this resistable it was simply mawkishness writ large. Wisdom's fans, however, were far more forgiving.

He has been described as an acquired taste, and certainly Follow a Star represented him at the most Norman Wisdom-esque he would ever be, so if you were unmoved by the tugging of the heartstrings then you'd likely be equally as stony faced during the comedy. The fact remained that he was a populist comedian, shamelessly so, and with works such as this you could see why Charlie Chaplin rated him so highly. If he never quite made a masterpiece on the level of that superstar, it was not through want of trying, and to back him up there was an array of British comedy talent that set off his antics to pretty good effect.

Desmonde was a regular foil to Wisdom, and here he received one of his biggest roles opposite him as the duplicitous singer who decides that now his act is growing stale he will pretend to be crooning new numbers when he is actually using Norman's voice on a recording to mime to. Norman is unaware of this, believing Truscott has simply taken him under his wing, thereby retaining the usual poor little man type of role that he always played and was so admired for by his public. But even if that aspect left you cold, you had to admit he was skilled at the laughs, combining as they did the verbal and the physical sides of his style.

This effectively led to a series of sketches linked by a common theme, that being the Singin' in the Rain-inspired plot, but finding room for Norman to visit, say, psychiatrist Richard Wattis who hypnotises him into sustaining his confidence when Judy is not around, but not before regressing him back to childhood for some ridiculous "Norman as a baby" nonsense; this does result in another musical number, a comedy one that suggests these might have been more successful than the outright sincerity of the other numbers, the bathtime one aside, which demonstrated Wisdom's fine voice but tended to kill the humour until they ended. There were plenty of compensations in the genuinely funny moments, and the support which included Hattie Jacques as a crusading singing teacher down to Dick Emery as a drunk at a party was solid. But really, you'll know if you'll like this kind of thing: there were few Wisdom cynics turned converts. Music by Philip Green.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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