One of the loveliest comedies in creation, The Happiest Days of Your Life casts a nostalgic eye backward on wartime England. Written and directed by Frank Launder from John Dighton’s play, it claims a catastrophic premise: amidst hectic demands of the Blitz, the Resettlement Department at the Ministry of Education evacuates St. Swithin’s School for Girls, sending faculty and pupils to an all-boys boarding school, Nutbourne College. Horrors!
Locking horns are the heads (Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford, hilarious), Miss Whitchurch and Wetherby Pond. Since Pond’s boys haven’t yet arrived from vacation, Whitchurch endeavors to appropriate all beds and rooms for girls, staff, herself. Nutbourne’s kitchen staff walks out; no problem: the girls can cook. (Not well, it turns out.) Until the matter is straightened out by the Ministry, which will not be anytime soon given how bureaucracy functions, Whitchurch and chauvinistic Pond will have to learn to peacefully co-exist. They plan simultaneous school tours that mustn’t cross paths lest parents of Whitchurch’s girls discover there are boys there and officials of a school considering Pond for a more prestigious post discover there are girls there. Things end doubly happily, because romance blooms between both schools’ English teachers and the audience already knows Hitler lost.
This film may hold the record for spot-on witty lines of dialogue, and the visual aspect, especially in scenes of swarming children, keeps apace. It is also a sweet film, what with the gradual thaw between ’church and Pond, with Pond at the last kissing the hand of Miss Whitchurch. Could the entire film be a look-back from the vantage of an unexpected marriage?
Change indeed looms. When Pond suggests that the girls be sent home, we learn that half of them come from “the colonies.”
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