“Come away wee Geordie!”
Marianne McA mentioned this film in the comments on “I Know Where I’m Going” as one she fondly remembered. I checked into it then but at the time it was unavailable to me to watch and, frankly, I sort of forgot about it since then until I revisited that review. Following up, I discovered that it has since been released on DVD and is a rental at Netflix. Now I can say I see what she sees in it.
Wee Geordie Mac Taggart (Bill Travers of “Born Free” fame) is a small boy growing up in the glens of Highland Scotland. Tired of comments on his height – or lack of it – he sees an advert in the evening paper his father is reading one night and sends off for the body building kit being sold by Henry Samson (Francis De Wolff). Faithfully following the program of exercises and clean living – No Smoking. No Drinking – over the years he grows into a gentle giant of a lad. Working with his gamekeeper father (Jameson Clark) for the local Laird (Alastair Sim) his ambitions are only to finish the masters course devised by Samson and court his childhood friend Jean (Norah Gorsen).
Over the years, Geordie and Samson have developed a correspondence friendship and when Samson suggests that Geordie progress further by doing something suited to his Scottish nationality (the Scots seem to excel at throwing things, says Samson) Geordie begins haphazardly throwing the hammer. After a near miss with the Laird – and then the Vicar – they decide to help him train and then – with the inadvertent help of Jean – get him to enter the Highland Games where Jean’s encouragement propels him to victory. This doesn’t escape the eyes of the British Olympic committee and after right much encouragement and persuasion he’s finally talked into leaving the glen, joining the team and sailing for Melbourne.
Adventures befall Geordie along the way but does he have it in him to care enough about the competition to give it his best? Will he return to the glen the same unassuming, simple lad as he left it? And can he finally win Jean for his own when he does?
This movie is a giant love letter to the Scottish Highlands. Or the 1950s English ideal of them since it was filmed at Shepperton Studios. Someone at Netflix described it as “Brigadoon meets bodybuilding” and they’re not too far off. No singing here but plenty of “ochs,” bagpipe music, kilts – mainly at the Highland Games and worn by Geordie (he promised his mother and the kilt was his father’s), hills and dogs. The scene outside the Kirk during Geordie’s father’s funeral is enough to make a dog lover smile. By the end of the film, I wanted to pack up my bags and board the next plane to Scotland. Though I know not to let any man call me “hen” once I get there. I did notice a few less than sly digs at supposed Scottish penny pinching thrown in at the beginning and the English selection committee members had to remind each other to urge Geordie to go along in order to win for Scotland rather than throw for England. There are no subtitles on the region 1 DVD I watched so turn up the volume and be prepared to hit rewind a few times.
Bill Travers pretty much gets you to believe that he’s the simple, no fuss country lad he portrays. I had to keep reminding myself that people would have been more naive then, especially if they’d been no farther than Perth before – and didn’t really like Perth. Norah Gensen is a lovely down to earth no nonsense lassie whose cheers spur him on despite the fact that she doesn’t think much of his body building courses and not much more about his victory in Melbourne regardless of the braw hat he brings her and uses to help win his case and get back in her good graces.
But the person who I think steals every scene he’s in is the great Alastair Sim with his lovely diction and sweet dithery performance as the Laird. His attempt at hammer throwing is worth watching the movie for all by itself. Another lovely bit part is played by Miles Malleson – whom some might remember as Reverend Chasuble from my favorite version of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
“Geordie” is definitely a feel good movie and if anything like it took place in real life, during Olympic Games coverage, US TV execs would be all over it to milk it of every bit of treacley, heart warming goodness. I wish the segments of Geordie growing up had been longer but since the movie is fairly short, it’s understandable that they weren’t. I found the movie sweet and charming and am glad I finally got a chance to check it out.