Frank Randle on film

People in the southern half of England have hardly heard of Frank Randle : but in the North of England during the 1940s he was an immensely popular music-hall comic, noted for slapstick, vulgarity, and frequent run-ins with the authorities over his material. He also made a number of films - all very cheaply made, mostly in Manchester - which were popular in the North and never shown in the South. Indeed when I saw Somewhere in Camp (1942) at the National Film Theatre in 1971 it was apparently the first time a Randle film had ever been shown south of Birmingham. (The title derives from the wartime habit of live radio being announced as from 'somewhere in England' for obvious security reasons.)

Recently the BBC showed Somewhere on Leave (1942) as part of a season of British Films - in the small hours of the morning, and I can't blame them: Randle's films are something of an acquired taste. The supporting straight actors are only a notch above amateur level, but at least Randle and his usual team of Robbie Vincent as the stupid 'Enoch', Dan Young as the monocled twit, and Harry Korris as the Sergeant, know what they are doing. Most of their scenes look as if they had been roughly blocked out and then improvised and filmed in one take - Randle trying to ride a horse, or three of them trying to move a piano (resulting it its total destruction): because they had worked as a team often enough they play off each other well and the result is fast, vulgar, tasteless and funny (sometimes just because it's so bad).

This and other similar films all seem to have the same plot - Randle and sidekicks in the Army, get friendly with a well-off young recruit who eventually invites them to his home - cue for a ball and much chaos, plus a romantic subplot. The Army scenes take the usual wish-fulfilment 'cheek the Sergeant' format so appealing to Servicemen. Harry Korris can't get rid of his stage technique - he always stands in front of his troop facing forward and addressing an imaginary theatrical audience.

This is the authentic whiff of Northern comedy (I once saw a pantomime - not with these performers - in Huddersfield in the 1950s and it had the same reek of vulgarity - worse if anything). Southern students of comedy should see one of these films (once) - it's an education.

Posted: Sat - September 15, 2007 at 10:31 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM