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Friday Film Review: Geordie

Geordie (1955) (aka Wee Geordie)
Genre: sweet romance/athletics
Grade: sentimental B

“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.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

6 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 08:39:30

    i haven’t seen this film for years and years and years! Yes, it is a sweet movie, without the resonance of “I know Where I’m Going,” but lovely to watch.
    Make it a trilogy of Scots films by doing “Whisky Galore!”

  2. Maili
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 20:41:09

    omg. I mentioned that film last week. I still don’t know how this film managed to advertise itself as a Scottish film when pretty much no one in the film could speak with a decent accent and it’s filled with stereotypes and, as you noted, sly digs.

    But friends and I like watching this film because it makes a great companion to a drinking game. I also watch it almost every day [edited: year, not day. My god, I'll never survive if every day]. For the giggles and all.

    Nice timing, too. Today I’d attended a Scottish short film festival, which screened Polaris (Filipino fishermen working in northeast Scotland’s coastal towns), Water of Life (1920s-era history of Japanese whisky manufacturer – Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife Jessie Cowan – in Campbeltown, Scotland), Thomasina, The Cat Who Thought She Was God (based on Paul Gallico’s novel), The New Scots (history of South-Asian Scots; btw, the earliest documented highland settler is a lascar (Indian seaman) in 1573, which blew my mind), The Returner (a doc of a half-Scottish and half-Singaporean woman and her cancer-stricken Scottish mother visiting Scotland to meet with the family she never met; this one had me sobbing into my drink), Takeaway (the musings of Jerry, a Chinese takeaway delivery driver in Edinburgh), Chinese Whispers (memories of Liverpool’s Chinese immigrants, which includes a number of Scots), and the one about Eric Liddell and his legacy in Tianjin, China. Fun and inspiring day.

    Actually, will you review a couple of short films some day? They tend to be widely available on YouTube and other video streaming sites.

  3. Jayne
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 03:48:50

    @Lynne Connolly: I finally managed to get a copy of “Whisky Galore” a few months ago and hope to review it at some point.

  4. Jayne
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 04:04:15

    @Maili: I’ll have to see which of these films might be available to me. Have you ever seen “Lost and Found?” AKA: “Tin aai hoi gok.” It’s partly set in Scotland and offers a chance to drool over Takeshi Kaneshiro should you find him drool worthy.

  5. cate
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 08:04:51

    What can I say – this film would have Alex Salmond frothing at the mouth it’s so stereotypical – but it’s SO sweet . Bill Travers is rather gorgeous and Alastair Sim just totally rocks (any film he’s in actually !) .
    So, Jayne, if you haven’t already seen it – I highly recommend Gregory’s Girl, another lovely Scottish tale from the great Bill Forsyth.

  6. Jayne
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 13:16:23

    @cate: Several people have mentioned “Gregory’s Girl” so I know I need to check it out.

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