Gini’s back talking 1968’s Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.
The young lady handling afternoon film intros over at TCM shared that, while this Herman’s Hermits movie is nowhere close to as good as the Beatle’s A Hard Day’s Night, it did what it’s target audience (young girls) wanted – gave them cute boys and popular music.
Sure it did…
First off – I really enjoy Herman’s Hermits. While they aren’t the most brilliant band to ever come out of England, I think their songs are entertaining, particularly their version of “A Kind of Hush” and “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”. So, while I wasn’t expecting brilliance, I was expecting to actually see Herman’s Hermits perform in this movie. And perform they do, but not as I was expecting.
Herman (Peter Noone) is trying to move up in his advertising agency while simultaneously making money with his mates in their band (presumably that band is named Herman’s Hermits, but the band’s name is never, ever mentioned in the entire movie) so that they can race their prized Greyhound, Mrs. Brown, and make lots of money. Because there are lots of bands but not a lot of good racing dogs and the lads apparently never believe that they’ll “make it” as a band but they all believe in Mrs. Brown’s abilities to run fast.
When Mrs. Brown wins her first big race, the lads meet G.G. Brown (Stanley Holloway) and his wife, Mrs. Brown (Mona Washborne), a rich grocer and his lovely wife. They happen to have a lovely daughter, Judy (Sarah Caldwell) who is a model.
The lads also have Herman’s grandmother (Marjorie Rhodes) and Tulip (Sheila White), the “younger girl” who hangs out with them pining for Herman, both of whom support the lads’ goals, whatever they happen to be. Herman befriends a charming bum, Percy (Lance Percival), as well. (I seriously think that the script didn’t give the bum a name, but the actors called him by his last name because that’s the kind of script this is.)
The first sign of trouble with this movie is that everyone is from Manchester, England. And the Manchester accent is, literally, unintelligible to Americans. They sound sort of British and sort of not, but what they don’t sound like is comprehensible.
Most everyone other than the five members of the band manages to speak up, but the boys in the band spend a lot of time talking very fast and mumbling at the same time. Combined with their accents, it’s a miracle if you’ll catch a full sentence at any time.
The biggest issue with this movie, though, is that it’s basically three stories all vying for attention and not being given any kind of coherence or connectivity. We have the dog racing plot: Mrs. Brown is proving the lads right and winning, but she gets lost right before her biggest race…will they ever see her again? We have the romance plot: Tulip loves Herman, who’s clueless, but when Herman meets Judy, he falls in love, but Judy cares more about her career…what girl will Herman end up with? And the music plot: the lads get breaks…will they ever “make it”?
Based on the title of the movie and the song of the same name, this movie should have been about the romance plot, only. But while Mrs. Brown (the person) tries to fix up Herman and
Judy and she and Mr. Brown clearly care for and about the lads, Mrs. Brown (the dog) is found by Percy (so his – and only his – reason for being in the movie makes sense) pregnant and she has ONE puppy and it’s a girl, so the boys croon the title song to the dog…even though logic shares that the song is actually about Judy.
There is a bar scene where jolly songs are being sung. But not one of Herman’s Hermits’ biggest hits, “Henry the Eighth”. That is literally a bar song, and one that made the American as well as English charts, but it’s never used in this movie. Instead, they include the Hermit’s Ode to the Manchester United football (soccer) club – seriously, there’s more screen time given to that song and the soccer team than to anything else.
Also, this movie clearly had no budget. There are more stock footage shots used in this film than any other I’ve ever seen. Any time you’re not looking at one of the cast, and that happens a lot, you’re looking at stock footage. There’s some stock footage they manage to shove Herman into, too, which was pretty snazzy for 1968.
Also, in 1968, Manchester was FAR from London. The boys have to raise money to get to London, and, once in the big city, fall prey to conmen and such because they’re just simple Manchester lads. Fortunately, the Browns live in London and they manage to find them, so Mr. Brown can give the lads jobs selling his produce so that they don’t starve and such. I have no idea how far Manchester is NOW from London, but since I watch Premier League Football (soccer) all the time, and all the English teams play each other all the time, I have to think it’s a lot closer now than it was in 1968. In 1968 London was as far away as New York from Manchester, apparently. The times they have changed.
I was going to tell you what happens in this movie in chronological order, but the movie is so disjointed that it would seem like I didn’t understand what chronological order actually meant. Instead, I’ll give you the so-called highlights.
The boys never play together on stage – the band is on stage once, but Herman is not – and they really seem uninterested in musical success.
Herman decides that Judy is never coming back (I guess he does, anyway, it’s not clear) and chooses Tulip (“lucky” girl). We are supposed to think, possibly, that Judy is a loser for choosing her modeling career over Herman. Or else we’re supposed to think that she and he were just too far apart from a money and class standpoint to ever work. Or we were supposed to just like Tulip more (not hard, neither girl has a lot of role to work with) and cheer that she got Herman (who has vampire/dog teeth which made me worry for whoever he ended up with in terms of him accidentally tearing the girl’s neck out while trying to be awkwardly romantic). Or else we were to understand that Herman was impatient and if he’d just waited, Judy would have come back to him.
The lads give Mrs. Brown’s puppy to the nice Mr. & Mrs. Brown without ever thinking of staying with the Browns and working as grocers and making hella good money and living a much better life.
The only people you want to spend time with are, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Everyone else is an unintelligible or boring mess. I’d have enjoyed a movie solely based on the Browns. They were adorable and fun and you could hear AND understand them. So, I’m Team Brown all the way.
If you want to know why this was on Turner Classic Movies, your guess is as good as mine. If you’re looking for a fun musical about a band, this is not the movie for you. If you’re
looking for an interesting treatment about class and opportunity in England, this is not the movie for you. If you’re looking for a coherent plot that makes sense, this is not the movie for you. If you want to see cute boys singing songs, this is sort of the movie for you, in that most of the band are cute in a VERY Boy Band way, only they can all play their instruments, which is nice, and they do sing some songs, but not in their entirety (other than that song for Manchester United) and not all the songs you’re hoping they’ll sing.
However, if you want to learn a lot about Greyhound racing, this is your movie. For all ten of you, enjoy.
For everyone else, the Beatles have a lot of movies, as does Elvis, and the worst of them will be better than this. If you want Herman’s Hermits, learn from my mistake and go to Amazon, iTunes, or Spotify, not Turner Classic Movies.
1 star out of 5
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