Passport to Pimlico (1949)

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Directed by Henry Cornelius
Written by T.E.B Clarke
1949/UK
J. Arthur Rank Organization/Ealing Studios
First viewing/YouTube

P.C. Spiller: Blimey, I’m a foreigner.

This is a very funny film.  I’ll bet it was even funnier to weary post-war British audiences.

Pimlico is a tight-knit London working-class neighborhood.  One day when an unexploded bomb is detonated, Arthur Pemberton falls in the resulting crater.  There he finds a treasure and an old treaty.  A history professor (Margaret Rutherford) is called in to advise and says that the document is proof of a royal grant of the land in perpetuity to the Duke of Burgundy.  Thus, she says, Pimlico is a sovereign country.

The residents gleefully exploit this fact to free themselves from the pub closing laws, rationing restrictions, and other government regulations that have been cutting back on their fun.

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Eventually, the modern Duke of Burgundy shows up.  He proves to be an amiable Frenchman who immediately begins courting a local girl.  Whitehall and the Foreign Office do not have the foggiest notion of how to deal with this development.  A ruling looks like it will take months of meetings.

In the meantime, when persuasion fails to work to stop the massive flow of Londoners into the duchy to buy rationed goods, Britain is forced to close its borders.  The Pimlicans retaliate by conducting immigration checks on all modes of transport transiting their country.  Eventually, negotiations between the two sovereigns begin.  With Hermione Baddley as a local shopkeeper and Naughton Wayne and Basil Radford as bureaucrats from the Foreign Office.

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This is a barrel of fun with some classic lines.  The state dinner at the end was right on target. How the British of the day must have relished the wicked skewering of all their trials!  Recommended.

The print currently available on YouTube is no great shakes.

Passport to Pimlico was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

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2 thoughts on “Passport to Pimlico (1949)

  1. I loved this movie and it was probably even better in its day. They are all such characters, each with their quirks, but all very likable. A true feel-good movie.

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