I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Comedy
Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Richard Attenborough
A naive aristocrat in search of a career becomes caught up in the struggles between his profit-minded uncle and an aggressive labour union.
  • Columbia Pictures Company:
  • N/A Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 07 Mar 1960 Released:
  • 21 Jan 2003 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Alan Hackney (novel), Frank Harvey (screenplay), J Writer:
  • John Boulting Director:
  • N/A Website:

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`Nail-on-the-head' satire, very funny with a top class cast who's only weakness is it's slight anti-trade union feel5/10

After the second world war is over, a new spirit of togetherness is fostered in the UK, and industry blossoms. Eager to get involved, the well-to-do Stanley Windrush tries to get a management job but fails. However some friends of the family, head of industry types get him a job with the workers at a missile factory. However his enthusiasm gets him in trouble with the all-powerful unions – but is that what the bosses planned for all along?

First of all I cannot believe that this film has so few votes and comments (at time of writing this it's 270 and 5 respectively). I know this doesn't correlate with the number of users who have seen the film but it is a fair representation! I find that shocking, as this is one of the stronger satires I've seen for a good long while. The plot is a sort of comedy ploy by the bosses to shift work around to other firms (by relying on their own firm striking) and get personally rich as a result, however it is the satirical edge that makes it worth watching. Both bosses and unions get it in the neck here – neither coming off well in the wash!

Bosses are seen as profit driven and not looking at the greater good, workers on the other hand are seen as looking after themselves while the unions cause more problems than they solve! There is an element of truth in all this – that's why it is funny – although it is obviously laid on a bit strong in the name of comedy. As a current worker in the UK manufacturing industry (yes, there is some left – although it's an American company!) I am greatly amused by the caricatures as some elements (happily less each year) of them can still be seen in my place of employment! The management get off quite light as they are actually, at core, trying to improve the business's efficiency and thus compete with foreign firms. The workers and the unions get the hardest stick which is a little unfair – after all the workers make the least and are the ones at risk, while the unions have brought about great steps in workers rights. For example it was funny for me to see FLT's moving around in heavily pedestrianised areas – nowadays many larger factories will be totally segregated between vehicles and workers.

The plot does manage to mix the swipes so that it seems fair on the surface – it is a pretty damning dig at British industry and, from modern views, it is quite prophetic as British industry has really fallen in the past few decades. The `one out, all out' strike mentality is well spoofed here but there's no doubting the damage that it (with other factors) has had. The only downside of the film looking back, is the racist views and racist language that is used at a couple of moments – but in fairness these are not THAT offensive and can be overlooked as the culture of the film at the time.

Despite the quite anti-union feel to the film, Sellers does well to not overplay his character. The socialist worker type is really easy to get laughs off but Sellers brings out character and doesn't just go for an out and out mockery of the character. Carmichael is OK in the lead but is overshadowed by the sheer depth of excellent support roles. Le Mesurier's excellent, twitchy efficiency expert, Thomas' manager – sweating and terrified of the workers he calls `an absolute shower' in the way only he can say it! Further faces fall into the film in the distinguished shapes of Attenborough, Rutherford and Price to name a few.

Overall this film comes out as a very classy satire. It hits the nail on the head and, over 40 years later, much of it can still be seen today – and the damage from the stuff it satirises is being felt. The film is funny if you have a passing understanding of British industry in terms of politics, workers rights and unions – even without this understanding the central plot is broad enough and funny enough to be worth seeing!
Why cant they make films like this anymore9/10
I remember seeing this film at the ABC Golders Green when it first came out and it seemed pretty funny then.It was on Channel 4 recently and i just believe that this gets better with age.I just wonder why cant they make films like this anymore.Do we have to rely on TV and "Little Britain"to satirise modern Britain.There are just so many small as well as big laughs .It makes you think whether you saw that first time round.Everything about this film was so true about Britain at the time that it was made.I recall that the Boultings were involved with a dispute with trade unions over which they litigated and which i believe they lost.This was their way of getting revenge.Every character is perfectly cast from Sam Kydd and his memorable stutter to dear Margaret Rutherford who was at her comedic zenith in the cinema at that time.Of course Peter Sellers gives what must be one of the top 5 comedic performances in British cinema.His shop steward is just so perfect.Oh why don't they make films like this anymore?
Benchmark British satire10/10
Along with Alexander Mackendrick's "The Man in the White Suit," this is THE great satire of management-labor relations: less allegorical and more cheerfully crass. In a way this movie seems like a sort of crossroads in British comedy, poised between the warmer eccentricities of the Ealing films and and the screw-'em-all pop irreverence of the rising New Wave.

These days the film seems to be primarily remembered for Peter Sellers' magnificent caricature of socialist sanctimony, Fred Kite, but the whole gallery of players, many reprising roles from the earlier "Private's Progress," is excellent. Carmichael, all inane, wild-eyed grins, is Woosterish as ever as the brainless but well-intentioned Windrush. Terry-Thomas produces a very funny sketch of middle-class middle management. It's a perfect picture of lazy hypocrisy: the man who settles into a do-nothing job, knowing exactly how awful it is but not caring so long as he gets through the day. He had a face made for contempt; watching his mustache curl as he reads an entry in the workers' suggestion box ("Filthy beast," he mutters, as he tucks it away in a pocket) or as he picks his way through the rubbish of Kite's wifeless home is a joy. Price and Attenborough are, as always, first-class rotters, the iciest of the moneyed class, and Handl, Le Mesurier and Rutherford add vividly funny moments. As the war over Windrush expands from workplace to societal to domestic spheres, watching the various characters bounce and interact provides some of the movie's best-observed moments, such as the brief tea scene between Rutherford and Handl, who, though inhabiting utterly different worlds, seem to interact perfectly in mutual obliviousness.

And there is Sellers, of course, pitch-perfect whether marching around the factory like the lead float in a parade or rhapsodizing about Russia or going hilariously blank on live television. It's memorable work that might overbalance the movie's double-edged attack if it weren't human enough to be sympathetic as well.

All in all, silly, clever, raucous fun.
Review of "I'm all right Jack - 1959.10/10
For me, this is the best film of all time. A superb cast of the UK's finest character actors and an A1 script.

Peter Sellers was truly magnificent as the left wing union shop steward and Terry Thomas excelled in playing the two faced Personnel Manager. Among his classic comments are "The Management have behaved like absolute stinkers" when talking to the union and " They are a complete shower" when talking to Management about the unions. Another fine comment is when on being told that some bigwigs are visiting the factory, Terry Thomas replies "You better spruce the place up a bit, you know soap in the toilets, that sort of thing".

I must have seen this film at least 20 times and I never grow tired of it. Great story, fine comedy and great acting. Never has a film handled the issue of industrial relations in such an amusing and pertinent manner.
Great, acerbic British comedy7/10

The cast alone is a triumph in this movie - some of the best British character actors who ever lived are here: Terry Thomas, Miles Malleson, John Le Mesurier, all backing up Ian Carmichael as the earnest, silly-ass upper-class bumbler and Peter Sellers as Fred Kite, the Marxist shop steward. Sellers in particular is wonderful; his Fred Kite is a lower class striver who has acquired just enough education to give him an inflated idea of his own abilities, but not enough to realize the gaps and inadequacies in his views. He is a perfect realization in miniature of Taine's statement that there is nothing more dangerous than a general idea in a narrow, empty mind. He boasts to his Oxford-educated gentleman lodger about the summer course he took at the university once, reminding him in a familiar fashion about the very good marmalade and toast provided by the college, while the obviously wealthy young man politely admits that he wasn't acquainted with the public dining hall during his years there.

The plot becomes more and more complex as the movie progresses, with almost everyone turning out to be on the take. The climax comes in a free-for-all over a bag containing thousands of pounds intended to bribe Stanley into joining the sensible schemers plundering the public while paying lip service to public service and solidarity with the working class. Malcolm Muggeridge has a interesting cameo in this scene, playing himself. Most recent broadcasts of this movie have edited out the disturbing racist statements of the working class characters, but the original movie had no sentimental soft spot for anyone, workers or bosses.