Boys Will Be Boys

William Beaudine | 1935 | ★★★★
In the first film to mine something approximating his musical hall schoolmaster persona, Will Hay made quite the creative breakthrough with Boys Will Be Boys – a film that proved to be by far and away the best work of his burgeoning big screen career to that point. In it, he plays Dr. Alec Smart – a teacher given the headmastership of Narkover School on the back of a forged recommendation. Unsurprisingly, his tenure proves fraught, with three enemies soon making themselves known. The first being the school’s mischievous student body, most of whom (if history is anything by which to go) will end up at his previous place of employment – Blackdown Prison; the second is the vice-chairman of the board of governors, who wanted the position of headmaster to be given to his drippy nephew; with the third being the man whose “penmanship” facilitated Smart’s appointment in the first place – an ex-con determined to steal a £10,000 diamond necklace from another member of the board. Conflicts with all three adversaries come to a head during a Founder’s Day rugby match played between pupils and old boys – a hilarious sequence that brings the film to a glorious climax. Other memorable scenes include: a disappearing watch trick and the Hau-hi/how high is a Chinaman routine. Excellent comic performances abound, with Claude Dampier, Gordon Harker, Davy Burnaby, and Hay himself proving particularly good.