‘Everybody loves Jack…’
I’m All Right Jack is a 1959 British comedy film about an upper-class dim-witted buffoon who inadvertently causes a national strike.
Directed by John Boulting from a screenplay co-written with Frank Harvey and Alan Hackney, based on the latter’s 1958 novel Private Life. Produced by Roy Boulting.
The film is a sequel to the Boultings’ 1956 film Private’s Progress with Ian Carmichael, Dennis Price, Richard Attenborough, Terry-Thomas and Miles Malleson reprising their characters.
” …this film feels a bit like a precursor to Monty Python’s immortal People’s Front of Judea. The Boultons were particularly gifted at overtly lionizing institutions while implicitly making them ridiculous, as in the sequences here that mime the self-serious “British industry leads the way!” style narration used in newsreels of the period.” All Good Movies
“Beginning as a vehicle for able stooge Ian Carmichael, who plays a well-bred aristocratic dullard sent to work in a weapons factory, Jack becomes a Peter Sellers movie the moment Sellers arrives. The film turned him into a movie star, and it’s easy to see why.” AV Club
“To be sure, at the time of its release there was some concern about the escalating number of strikes and the increased power of union leaders – although to later audiences the clandestine arms dealing may well look the more topical target for satire. But maybe it was, above all, the performance of Peter Sellers as shop steward Fred Kite that skewed perceptions of the film.” BFI Screen Online
“The script is strong, with a well-constructed story and some wickedly sharp lines throughout, as well as a little visual and physical comedy from time to time. It’s not as laugh out loud hilarious as perhaps it would have been in its day and some bawdy and sillier moments get in the way of the satire here and there (mainly near the beginning and in a little coda at the end), but it does hold up rather well.” Blueprint: Review
“The film is entertaining, but its neutral stand between management and the workers and its purely British look did not serve it well with foreign audiences. It’s a mostly forgotten work today, despite its all right construction and the funny performance by a restrained Sellers.” Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews
“This film skewers labor and management alike and is pretty darned funny. I love all these actors but Sellers is the stand-out. He has the character of a stuffy but slightly Bolshevik union official just nailed, complete with Northern England accent. Recommended.” Flickers in Time
Plot [contains spoilers]:
Windrush chats with his father at the Sunnyglades Nudist Camp, and is persuaded to seek a job as a business executive: he interviews at the “Detto” company making washing detergent and making a very unfavourable impression fails to get the job. He then interviews at Num-Yum a factory making processed cakes. Although it tastes good the process of making the cakes is very disturbing. An excess of samples causes him to be sick in a large mixing bowl of the product. Again he fails to get the job.
His uncle, Bertram Tracepurcel and his old army comrade, Sidney DeVere Cox, persuade Windrush to take an unskilled blue-collar job at Tracepurcel’s missile factory, Missiles Ltd. At first suspicious of Windrush as an over-eager newcomer, communist shop steward Fred Kite at first asks that Stanley be sacked for not having a union card.
However, after a period of work-to-rule, he takes Stanley under his wing and even offers to take him in as a lodger. When Kite’s curvaceous daughter Cynthia drops by, Stanley readily accepts.
Meanwhile, personnel manager Major Hitchcock is assigned a time and motion study expert, Waters, to measure how efficient the employees are. The workers refuse to cooperate but Waters tricks Windrush into showing him how much more quickly he can do his job with his forklift truck than other more experienced employees. When Kite is informed of the results, he calls a strike to protect the rates his union workers are being paid. This is what Cox and Tracepurcel want: Cox owns a company that can take over a large new contract with a Middle Eastern country at an inflated cost. He, Tracepurcel and a Mr Mohammed, the country’s representative, would each pocket a third of the £100,000 difference. The excuse to the foreign government is that a faster contract costs more.
The union meet and decides to punish Windrush by “sending him to Coventry” and he is informed of this in writing. Stanley’s rich aunt visits the Kite household. Mrs Kite decides she is going on strike.
Things don’t work out for either side. Cox arrives at his factory, Union Jack Foundries, to find that his workers are walking out in a sympathy strike. The press reports that Kite is punishing Windrush for working hard. When Windrush decides to cross the picket line and go back to work (and reveals his connection with the company’s owner), Kite asks him to leave his house. This provokes the adoring Cynthia and her mother to go on strike. More strikes spring up, bringing the country to a standstill.
Faced with these new developments, Tracepurcel has no choice but to send Hitchcock to negotiate with Kite. They reach an agreement but Windrush has made both sides look bad and has to go.
Cox tries to bribe Windrush with a bagful of money to resign but Windrush turns him down. On a televised discussion programme (“Argument”) hosted by Malcolm Muggeridge, Windrush reveals to the nation the underhanded motivations of all concerned. When he throws Cox’s bribe money into the air, the studio audience riots.
In the end, Windrush is accused of causing a disturbance and bound over to keep the peace for twelve months. He is last seen with his father relaxing at a nudist colony, only to have to flee from the female residents’ attentions. Unlike in the opening scene this time he is naked.
Cast and characters:
Ian Carmichael … Stanley Windrush
Terry-Thomas … Maj. Hitchcock
Peter Sellers … Fred Kite/Sir John Kennaway
Richard Attenborough … Sidney De Vere Cox
Dennis Price … Bertram Tracepurcel
Margaret Rutherford … Aunt Dolly
Irene Handl … Mrs Kite
Liz Fraser … Cynthia Kite
Miles Malleson … Windrush Snr.
Marne Maitland … Mr Mohammed
John Le Mesurier … Waters
Raymond Huntley … Magistrate
Victor Maddern … Knowles
Kenneth Griffith … Dai
Fred Griffiths … Charlie
Donal Donnelly … Perce Carter
John Comer … Shop Steward
Sam Kydd … Shop Steward
Cardew Robinson … Shop Steward
Tony Comer … Shop Steward
Bruce Wightman … Shop Steward
Billy Rayment … Shop Steward
Ronnie Stevens … Hooper
Martin Boddey … Num Yum’s Executive
Brian Oulton … Appts. Board Examiner
Malcolm Muggeridge … TV Panel Chairman
John Glyn-Jones … Detto Executive
Pauline Winter … Miss Forsdyke
Maurice Colbourne … Missiles Director
Jeremy White … Young Chemist
Robin Ray … Young Chemist
Michael Bates … Bootle
Terry Scott … Crawley
Marianne Stone … TV receptionist
I’m All Right Jack was a big hit, being the second most profitable British movie of 1959 after Carry On Nurse.
“Num Yum” clip: