film 2 of 5

Boys Will Be Boys

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 11, 2015

This one stars and is written by Will Hay, popular of yore, pretty obscure now, and quite undeservedly so. He is a very amusing figure, here inaugurating his soon to be celebrated schoolmaster role. It’s a charming character, part clever and crafty, part dumb idiot. Boys Will Be Boys is especially admirable for what it adds to that solid centre, for the dimension and wit of any number of secondary characters: the Lord, his buck-toothed nephew, the flirty lady who’s so unconcerned about her jewelry, the larcenous butler-cum-thief, the quite defiantly and completely delinquent school boys.

These characters are involved in a plot of sorts, but in best Hal Roach fashion the participants don’t let plot get in the way of a good gag, or even, as in the final rugby game, an average gag way overplayed. Hal Roach—I’m meaning to say that this very British film is also very Laurel and Hardy-like. (And wasn’t Stan a Lancashire lad after all?) With its relaxed and spacious air it might even have been directed by Leo McCarey. It is in fact helmed by another under-remembered filmmaker, William Beaudine (Pickford’s Sparrows, etc.). Anyway, back to the jokes, that’s one of the many things that’s so marvellous about all the humbly derived—vaudeville, music hall, New Comedy and the commedia, if you like—films like these. Comic lineage comes to the fore, and the modest and pleasurable effectiveness of these familiar situations with their familiar elaborations. Innovation gives way to the humanity of tradition, in which a lame joke between friends threatens to become a positively holy thing.