What’s the best film on the box this week? Richard Lutz just might have the answer to this riveting earth shattering question
First of all, what the heck are you doing sitting all alone in your room with the shades pulled down, drinking lukewarm coffee and watching the tv? Why aren’t you outside where it’s sunny?
If you ignore these queries and head for the remote, then head further out for the Scottish western Isles for The Maggie (Mon, BBC2, 12 noon). No, nothing to do with El Thatcher. It’s a 60 year old comedy about Scotland.
It’s written and directed by Alexander Mackendrick (he of Whisky Galore fame) and it is one of those delightful culture clash movies that shows the Brits and the Yanks loving and hating each other- and boy, should I know having been burst onto this rock in New York and spent my twilight years in Birmingham, UK.
The plot is a joy: An American businessman (played by gruff faced Paul Douglas) arrives on a Scottish island to be conned into shipping his earthly goods on a leaking Clyde steamer called The Maggie. Oh, those Americans get a lesson or two from those crafty islanders played with twinkling eyes by the likes of character actors Alex Mackenzie ( the boat skipper), James Copland and Moultrie Kelsall.
The blissful island of Islay (home to billions of whisky distilleries) is the fictional island; the west coast and islands are the real stars; and, Douglas, who has a face that has been put through a rusty cheese grater, loses his hardnut bluff to learn about the simple pleasures of life. Yes, indeed, it does sound a bit like Local Hero. But think about it this way: The Maggie was filmed some three decades before the Bill Forsyth film with an aging Burt Lancaster- so guess who copied who.
Director Mackendrick had a dynastic right to make this Ealing studio gem. He himself was a Scotsman born in the US. His real classic was made in 1949 (five years before The Maggie) when he had steamed into the Outer Hebridean island of Barra to make another beauty, Whisky Galore. He went on to direct Sweet Smell of Success, The Ladykillers and High Wind in Jamaica.
In case you are in North America right now and have access to a tv or internetty-thing that provides old loveable movies, The Maggie is known as High and Dry.
So, sit back, put on your lifejacket and head north on a fair wind. Or better yet, go outside into the sunshine