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  Adventures of Jane, The Cartoon Stripper
Year: 1949
Director: Edward G. Whiting
Stars: Christabel Leighton-Porter, Stanelli, Michael Hogarth, Wally Patch, Ian Colin, Sonya O'Shea, Peter Butterworth, Sebastian Cabot, Sidney Benson, Charles Irwin, George Crawford, Joan Grindley
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jane (Christabel Leighton-Porter) performs in a touring stage show for her many admirers, currently showing in London, but away from the bright lights of showbiz she does have a habit of getting into scrapes. Tonight she has come off stage and goes to her dressing room where her faithful Dachshund Fritz is waiting, but when she gets there she meets an elderly gent who has a gift for her: an expensive-looking diamond bracelet. Jane tells him there's no way she can accept such a thing, but he is insistent and leaves her with it, though once outside the dressing room door he hands over a back scratcher to a drag act, mistaking him for a real woman and telling him it's a family heirloom...

Well, the humour might not have lasted too well in this adaptation of the famed Daily Mirror cartoon strip, but how did the rest of it hold up? Jane was by 1949 beginning to wane in popularity, certainly compared to her world-beating heyday of the war years where she had been such a tonic for the troops that she was praised by Winston Churchill and copies of her stories were given out as part of the British soldier's rations, but she was considered enough of a draw to justify her own film series. Unfortunately for the producers, this cheap and cheerful concoction wasn't a hit, suggesting the character already belonged to a different time and place.

Nevertheless, Jane endured well into the future as her adventures became racier, and the tasteful nudity that had been her trademark became increasingly explicit, within the parameters of what you could get away with in a family newspaper. The original artist was Norman Pett, a man well aware of her appeal which was the way she would lose her clothes, but anyone hoping for that level of sauciness in the film adaptation would be disappointed: the British censor simply wouldn't allow it, so all you got to see here was an occasional glimpse of Jane in her underwear, showing someone the underwear she has just bought - but not actually wearing it - or the plotline pretty much bookended by her losing her skirt in a minor mishap, just to show audiences she hadn't travelled too far away from her roots.

Leighton-Porter only made one film, and this was it, having been famous for posing for Pett's drawings as his life model for the heroine. Mostly she toured, just as the character does in the film, in specially designed stage shows - she couldn't act, sing or dance much, but she could take her clothes off for tasteful tableau, which was apparently all her fans wanted to watch. She was identified with Jane for the rest of her long life, and her boon to the armed forces during their finest hour was not underestimated, so that even when the character was revived in the eighties, first starring Glynis Barber in a couple of headachey-looking Chromakey recreations for the BBC, and then for another feature film, Jane and the Lost City, it was Christabel who was the source of the interest as she was asked about her endeavours once more.

Certainly this version of Jane is little worse than the eighties film, whose proudest boast was to give popular comedian Jasper Carrott a role as a scheming Nazi (really), if just as much of its time as she gets involved with diamond smugglers, though this is noticeably less ambitious, with a few location shoots in the countryside the most the meagre budget would stretch to. Jane encounters a love interest (Michael Hogarth) who works for the law and saves her skin when necessary, as well as light comedy performers such as band leader Stanelli playing the hotel manager (composing the soundtrack, too) and a young Peter Butterworth of later Carry On fame who essays the requisite humorous drunk who has nothing to do but pad out an already slender running time with his antics. Sebastian Cabot gets a pie in the face as well. But in the main this was about the least they could get away with, coasting on Jane's popularity without stretching themselves to anything truly memorable, hamstrung by the censors, and more quaint than daring.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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