Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940)

Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Graham Moffatt, Moore Marriott,
Taking inspiration from a well-known Victorian play, a modern-day prankster poses as a wealthy woman in a ploy to prevent him and his friends from being expelled from college.
  • 5.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Brandon Thomas, J.O.C. Orton, Marriott Edgar, Ralph Smart, Writer:
  • Walter Forde, Director:
  • Edward Black, Producer:
6 / 10

A silly reworking of the old story.

I was surprised when I looked on IMDb to see how many versions there are listed of this story. There are TONS--and in many different languages--all beginning in 1915. However, the story predates this, as it was a VERY successful London play in the 1890s--with over 1400 performances! Because of this, there's a very good change you've seen one of these versions or films that seem to have been influenced by "Charley's Aunt" (such as "Tootsie" or "Some Like it Hot").

Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt were most often seen in films supporting Will Hay. However, after quite a few successful films together, the pair began working with Arthur Askey--another very successful film comedian. Moffat and Richard Murdock are students at Oxford--though how these boobs got into the school is beyond me. The three are constantly in trouble and sooner or later, they're bound to be 'sent down' (that's British for 'expelled'). So, when they finally have pushed too far, the dean sends a letter to their aunt to report their indiscretions. However, the letter is intercepted by Askey and he is persuaded to impersonate the aunt--and try to charm the school officials out of the expulsion. In a twist from the original story, it seems that Askey had learned how to play a woman (badly) by playing the lead in the school production of "Charley's Aunt". In other words, it's like a play within a play. I could tell you more about what happens next, but it's best you just see it for yourself.

This is a pretty typical Askey film. Pleasant and silly, but certainly not brilliant or a must-see movie. It's funny, but my wife had no idea what I was watching but when she came in the room she saw Askey in drag and said "who's that guy". And, if it's THAT obvious to the viewer, perhaps they didn't do the best job in the film.

7 / 10

"Aunts In Their Paunts"

I've never been a drag fan, I enjoyed Danny La Rue's turns on the Good Old Days on TV when I was a kid for the songs I suppose, but the humour and enjoyment in cross-dressing has always been a mystery to me. Ergo I don't have many such films in my collection. Having said that Arthur Askey looked pretty convincing as an old and rather plain Auntie, more so than either he or Richard Murdoch looked as "young" Oxford students. Although Graham Moffat almost got away with it and Moore Marriott as the venerable caretaker certainly did!

As a result of heinous crimes against the University that would get them admiring kudos and Awards nowadays Askey/Murdoch/Moffat face expulsion. To escape this Askey pretends his rich Auntie is keen to finance an archaeological expedition to Egypt (a subject very close to the headmaster's heart) but later has to impersonate her. Farcical confusion is the result of the deception. Watch out for that 5,000 year old vase!

A good cast with some good lines, good situations; shame that Wally Patch only showed in the first reel; I almost felt sorry for schoolmaster Felix Aylmer floundering in the Isis; Phyllis Calvert never looked more decorative; but overall not among the best Askey vehicles. I think all it really needed was a bit more witty repartee between Big and Stinker inserted into the plot, not only to pad the running time out but for a few laughs not associated with cross-dressing for the likes of me! But for anyone who sits through the entire 72 minutes not liking it: don't you ever feel a little foolish for having wasted your time?

8 / 10

Hilarious High Spirits in Drag

Very amusing comedy about an Oxford student who, on a week's probation for drunken school hijinks, decides to go ahead and perform in Oxford's production of "Charley's Aunt" hoping the female costume will hide him. Well, it doesn't - caught, he and his two roommates, accused of having a "long list of delinquencies", are about to be expelled from school. But our man gets the idea of disguising himself as "Aunt Lucy", in hopes of tricking the school dean into keeping them on by telling him the Aunt is devoted to putting money into expeditions to Egypt (the dean's pet hobby). Dressed in drag (and looking a lot like Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie"), he arrives at Oxford and proceeds to fool all the old boys.

This film is highly amusing and fun to watch, particularly the segments with actor Arthur Askey in drag as the Aunt - he is just great in this, absolutely hilarious. Okay, yes a couple of the actors look a bit long in the tooth to actually be realistic as Oxford students - but I actually found that bit to be part of what makes this film funny. I also really enjoy the camaraderie seen between the actors here, who all appear to be having a lot of fun with this. An enjoyable and humorous film.

7 / 10

One of the funniest films I've ever seen

To appreciate the humour of Charley's Big-Hearted Aunt, I suppose you have to be an Askey fan, and used to his types of jokes - for example, plenty of dress-ups! I found this to be one of the funniest Askey comedies I have ever seen. And it was lovely to see Phyllis Calvert in an early role, before she became typecast as the perennial Lady. Here she was perfect as a young college student - a real goody-goody at times, and as cheeky as the boys at others. I'd recommend anyone who's a fan of either (or both), or who's just after an easy laugh, to give this a go. There's some real laugh out loud and "oh no!" moments and the whole thing works wonderfully well. 10/10