The Belle’s of St Trinian’s
The antithesis of Enid Blyton…
Written By: Michaela Clement-Hayes
Date: 15th March, 2015
Before Rupert Everett donned the wig and skirts for the dual role of Miss and Mr Fritton in the 2007 film St Trinians, there was Alastair Sim.
Inspired by the works of Ronald Searle, The Belle’s of St Trinians is a film about a school that is the antithesis of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers or St Clare’s. The girls here are the daughters of crooks, gangsters and thieves; they riot, cause mayhem and have no morals.
In the first of the original St Trinian’s films, new girl Princess Fatima causes a stir as her father’s racehorse Arab Boy is predicted to win. Cue treachery and fraud as headmistress Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) and pupils plot to put all of their money on the horse, while her brother Clarence (Alastair Sim) vows to steal the horse so his own horse will win.
The film is quintessentially British, with the boarding school concept, sexy school prefects and ragamuffin pupils, plus a collection of miscreant teachers and starring a collection of Carry On favourites including Sid James, Joan Sims, Irene Handl and Beryl Reid.
Comedy is provided by George Coe (Flash Harry), the Cockney geezer who helps the girls out with their more ‘adult’ exploits – like gambling and Joyce Grenfell as WPC Gates, the hapless policewoman who is sent to the school undercover to find out what is going on. Flash Harry has his own little theme tune which is enough to put a smile on your face and Grenfell’s interpretation of her character in this film is hilarious.
The film is an arthouse classic – complete and utter chaos (but in a good way) with schoolgirls and teachers running riot. The humour is discreet, but hilarious; the pace relaxed until the battle at the end which erupts in an extremely messy fight. Yes, it’s a ridiculous wheeze and today’s audience might think it somewhat dull, but it’s a nice, harmless film.
Reading Enid Blyton made me think boarding school was a ripping idea, but watching the St Trinian’s films takes this to an entirely new level – school can be a dangerous place, but I wish I’d been there to take part in the danger!