Piccadilly Jim (1936)

… a review, to be followed (probably tomorrow) by some ramblings on film adaptations of books, and why so many tend to fall flat on their faces.

I adore the books of P G Wodehouse. His writing is utterly charming, very witty, and very intelligently (not to mention intricately) plotted. From the loony Lord Emsworth and his pig, the Empress of Blandings, to the always-broke-but-ambitious Ukridge, to Psmith, Bertie Wooster and the omniscient Jeeves… all absolutely fantastic.


Piccadilly Jim
, first published in 1918, features none of these famous Wodehouse characters. Instead, it’s about the American ex-newspaperman Jimmy Crocker, who now lives in London. In the words of the blurb on the back of my copy:

“…But no sooner has Jimmy cut a wild swathe through fashionable London than his terrifying Aunt Nesta decides he must mend his ways. He then falls in love with the girl he has hurt most of all, and after that things get complicated.
In a dizzying plot, impersonations pile on impersonations so that (for reasons that will become clear, we promise) Jimmy ends up having to pretend he’s himself…”

Sounds entertaining? It is, and it’s been one of my favourite Wodehouses as long as I can remember. And, ever since I discovered that it was made into a 1936 film starring Robert Montgomery (another favourite), I’ve wanted to lay my hands on a copy. I still haven’t been able to find a DVD, but some kind soul has uploaded the film on Youtube.


This is how the story (in the film) goes. Jim Crocker (Robert Montgomery) is a caricaturist who lampoons British politicians, the glitterati of London, and other celebrities for The London Gossip. Jim himself isn’t a pattern card of respectability; his nights are spent carousing around town, and he spends the day sleeping—to be woken up at ‘the crack of dusk’ by his butler Bayliss (a delightful Eric Blore).


Also part of Jim’s life is his father, Mr Crocker (Frank Morgan). Mr Crocker was, some twenty years ago, an actor on stage. Even now, he keeps practising in an attempt to not lose the touch, but it’s painfully clear that he may never have had the touch. As it is, he prides himself on his greatest role: that of Osric in Hamlet.


Mr Crocker gives Jim some good news: he (Mr Crocker) has fallen in love. The lady is the sweet, shy, gentle Eugenia (Billie Burke), an American who is visiting England with her sister Nesta Pett (Cora Witherspoon), Mr Pett, and the Pett son, Ogden. Mr Crocker hasn’t met them yet, but they’ll be coming to his house the next day. Nesta Pett has already expressed her disapproval of Mr Crocker, so he needs his son to be there to buoy up his spirits.


Jim agrees, and goes off happily for his night out on the town.
He and a friend end up at a bar, quite tipsy and singing crazy songs together, while they address each other as ‘Mr Black’ and ‘Mr White’ (Jim being ‘Mr White’)…


…when they see a gorgeous girl (Madge Evans) walk in on the arm of a young man (Ralph Forbes).  Both Jim and his friend are struck by the girl, and concoct a silly little escapade to get acquainted with her. (It involves the friend pretending to be more drunk than he actually is, and trying to make a pass at the girl, until Jim comes and drags him away, thus enchanting her with his gallantry).


The girl, unfortunately, isn’t quite as enchanted by the gallantry of ‘Mr White’ as Jim would’ve liked her to be. She would much rather be left alone with the man she’s with.
Jim, however, refuses to acknowledge any of their hints, and even trails them into the restaurant next to the bar.


…and when the girl wants to tango (which her partner admits he’s no good at), Jim gleefully jumps in and takes her onto the dance floor.


It doesn’t do him any good, because the girl, while friendly, makes it quite clear that she’s not fallen for Jim, nor in any danger of doing so. Jim has to sorrowfully take his leave.
He realises, though, that there may be a chance for him. When he’d been pestering the girl for a date, she’d turned him down for everything—lunch, dinner, breakfast; even before breakfast, since she had a ‘date with a horse, down the bridle path’.

So Jim goes riding before breakfast. Sure enough, perseverance pays, and he discovers that:
(a) the girl’s name is Ann
(b) the man she was with at the restaurant is Lord Frederick ‘Freddie’ Priory
(c) she really, really, doesn’t love Jim


Later in the day, Jim goes to his father’s home. The Petts have already arrived, and haven’t quite hit it off with Mr Crocker.
Mr Pett (Grant Mitchell) is a very wealthy man—his is literally a ‘rags to riches’ story, since he’s pioneered a method to convert scraps of cloth into new fabric. He is very proud of ‘Glorious Blossom: the Reconstructed Fabric’.


Nesta is even more proud of their money and social position. This is largely why she looks down on this two-bit ex-actor Eugenia wants to marry; she’s certain that Mr Crocker wants to marry Eugenia for her money.
Nesta’s disapproval is compounded further when she discovers that Mr Crocker is the father of the irreverent ‘Piccadilly Jim’ (as Jim signs his caricatures).


When Jim puts in an appearance—not quite sober, it seems, and accompanied to the door by two policemen—any last hopes of the Petts giving their blessing to the Mr Crocker-Eugenia match go flying out the window. Nesta puts her foot down. There is no way Eugenia can marry someone so disreputable, and with a son who’s so equally disreputable, too.


And, to ensure that Mr Crocker stays out of Eugenia’s way, she decrees that the family—including a niece of Eugenia’s and Nesta’s—will go off to the French Riviera for a month.

Thus, we end up with Mr Crocker being disappointed in love, and Jim in the same boat, since he’s now certain he’s in love with the elusive Ann. He spends the next few days moping about, trying to find her—he goes riding every morning, to no avail—and has so completely left off working that the editor of The London Gossip fires him.


After some more moping and blaming his (and his father’s) misfortunes on the Petts, Jim realises that that is a great idea for a comic strip: a series caricaturing the henpecked Mr Pett, the bossy, snobbish Mrs Pett, and their vile offspring. He quickly draws up some samples of what he has in mind (naming the family ‘The Richswitch Family’). Before he knows it, it’s been lapped up by The London Gossip—and it’s become a hit all over London.


…So much so that when the Petts, Eugenia and their niece return to London after a month in the French Riviera, everybody in town is sniggering at them. At first, the family is puzzled; when they realise what’s happened—that ‘Piccadilly Jim’s’ cartoon strip has made them the laughing stock of all of London—Mrs Pett insists that they immediately sail on the next boat to America.


Meanwhile, the lovelorn Mr Crocker has discovered a newspaper photo of his beloved Eugenia, ‘just returned from the French Riviera’, and has cut it out. He shows it off to Jim, who—instead of noticing Eugenia—notices her niece. It’s Ann! He scurries about, getting his gloves and coat and hat, telling his puzzled father that Ann’s the girl he’s in love with—and then Mr Crocker points out a hitch: considering Jim has poked so much fun at Ann’s family, will Ann want to have anything to do with him?


Ouch.

But Jim cheers up. Ann doesn’t know his name. He’ll sweeten her up until she falls for him too, and then he’ll confess who he is. In any case, he’s not caricatured Ann or Eugenia in the comic strip; just the pesky Petts.

Jim manages to find Ann, who’s rushing around trying to get some last-minute dresses that she and her aunts had ordered in London. In the course of their conversation, Ann tells Jim why she and her family are leaving (that very evening) for America: because of this infernal Piccadilly Jim. She makes it very clear that she thinks Piccadilly Jim is a cad, a rotter, and a bounder.


Jim tries to get into her good books by saying he knows Piccadilly Jim and has some influence with him—he’ll get the comic strip stopped.
In the process, Ann asks Jim what his name is. And Jim, stuck, gives the first name he can think of: Bayliss.


And with that, things start getting complex. Despite all of Jim’s efforts (he takes her out into the countryside for tea), Ann isn’t persuaded to stay back in England. She laughs off all of Jim’s attempts to convince her he loves her. Even Jim’s plans to delay her so that she misses her boat cause further complications. She can’t get back to town in time to catch the boat train, but when she phones her family to let them know, the zealous Lord Priory jumps into the breach and offers to chaperone Ann on the next boat, a great relief to Nesta Pett.


…and Jim, desperate to not let Ann out of his sight, buys a ticket on the same boat.
Bayliss, summoned to pack a suitcase and bring it for Jim to the boat train, arrives—and Ann, seeing Jim with him, calls out to Jim, “Mr Bayliss!” And Bayliss turns. “Yes, ma’am?”
So Jim, thinking on his feet, introduces Bayliss—so obviously a butler—as his father.


Little knowing that Mr Crocker, in pursuit of Eugenia, has also gone off to America, disguised as a European aristocrat named Count Olav Osric of Denmark.


There’s lots more to come as Jim tries to woo Ann against all odds, and a variety of unforeseen obstacles crop up. But it’s all loads of fun, and you can see the happy end coming a mile off. It always does, in films like Piccadilly Jim. Thank goodness.

What I liked about it:

The sheer light-heartedness of it, and the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously. Piccadilly Jim is a good example of the 30s and 40s screwball comedies that combined a basic romantic theme with comedy (a lot of it pretty slapstick), witty dialogue, and pretty faces. It’s fun, period.

The acting, especially of Robert Montgomery, Eric Blore and Frank Morgan. Between them, these three stole the show for me, though Cora Witherspoon is very good too.


What I didn’t like:

The plot elements that didn’t really go anywhere, or the characters that didn’t actually need to be there. I won’t say more, because that could constitute spoilers, but the scripting could’ve been tighter.

Madge Evans as Ann. She’s lovely, but she doesn’t quite fit her role here. Her dialogues are witty enough in places, but as an actress, she’s rather more the chic, elegant sort than the spunky and fiery character Ann might appear from her dialogues—Ms Evans isn’t able to portray Ann as anything more than a pretty face. And, frankly, her chemistry with Robert Montgomery doesn’t work too well.

Comparisons, comparisons:

This had to come, didn’t it? After all, when it’s a question of a film based on one of my favourite books, I had to end up comparing the two.

Well, the book is vastly superior to the film. The problem with the film is mainly in the scripting—it retains only about the first one-third of the book. The convoluted (and vastly more entertaining) latter two-thirds of the film involves impersonations, criminals, detectives, and some absolutely crazy and hilarious jugglery of identities. Remember that bit in the blurb about Jim pretending to be himself? That’s what happens in the book. The film, in contrast, just about touches on these impersonations, and leaves out the rest. It focusses largely on the Jim-Ann romance (which, by the way, is only one of the angles in the book).


There are other differences, too; for instance, in characters. In the book, Eugenia is already married to Mr Crocker, and far from being a submissive little woman, is a very bossy female who bullies her husband no end—all because she wants to score over Nesta. Also, two characters who are present in both book and film—Nesta’s obnoxious son Ogden, and Ann’s aristocratic suitor—are actually there in the book as an important part of the cast, since they play pivotal roles in the story as it unfolds. In the film, both Ogden and Lord Priory are reduced to characters who don’t have much to do with the plot.

Incidentally, Ann’s reason for loathing Jimmy Crocker sight unseen is much more believable in the book; it’s not a mere ‘he slighted my family’ thing, as it is in the film.

Verdict: The book’s a winner (you can read it here, legally). The film is pleasant—but it lacks the punch of the book. It’s better than the execrable A Damsel in Distress (1937) or Thank you, Jeeves! (1936), but it’s not Wodehouse.

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44 thoughts on “Piccadilly Jim (1936)

  1. Kahan Gaye Woh Din when stories were king? Well once again thanks for giving the you tube link, to be honest I am starved of films that have some good stories and not just special effects. Of course I do enjoy special effects provided there is a story too.

    • There’s something very endearing about these good old films, isn’t there? While the film version of Piccadilly Jim pales in comparison to the book, it’s still an entertaining film. And good, wholesome entertainment at that. These days, romantic comedies are invariably pretty bawdy stuff. Not all, of course, but a lot of them.

  2. Madhu, the *one reason I never ventured into seeing any of the Wodehouse adaptations on screen was because BBC (BBC!) massacred Jeeves and Wooster. I honestly do not understand why they have to tinker around with Wodehouse – he has enough tangled strands in his books without scriptwriters adding any more (and murdering his plot). Besides, half the fun of his books lies in the minor characters, and it is a shame that they are sidelined in the films.

    And somehow, his brand of humour doesn’t translate well onto screen – blame it on the severe lack of talent among the actors chosen to portray his characters. Sorry. Feeling almost murderous myself at some of the – what did you call it? Execrable? – execrable screen transfers. Have added this, though, to my to-watch list.

    • You didn’t like Jeeves and Wooster? The Hugh Laurie-Stephen Fry series? *blink*

      Okay, then we finally have something to disagree about. While I agree that it wasn’t exactly the same stories, I thought the entire series captured the essence of the world of Wooster pretty well – and Laurie himself was Bertie Wooster to a T. I actually admit to loving that series. As do my father and my sister (both of whom are Wodehouse devotees like me).

      Have you seen A Damsel in Distress (starring Fred Astaire) or Thank you, Jeeves! (David Niven). Now, those… those are what I call murdering Wodehouse’s humour. They are simply frightful.

      One series I’d love to see is the Blandings Castle one (I believe it was done by BBC in the 60s – and only the reels for one season remained, because the rest were wiped clean in later attempts to reduce costs or whatever). Some of my father’s 60s editions of the Blandings Castle books have stills from that series on the covers.

      But see Piccadilly Jim. It’s not Wodehouse – not by a long shot – but it’s fun nevertheless, and Montgomery is great. :-)

        • My sister has the entire pack too! Tarun and I are planning to borrow it from her and watch all the episodes sometime soon. :-)

          Tell me what you think of Piccadilly Jim once you’ve seen it.

      • Madhu, couldn’t see Fry as Jeeves, if you must know, and somehow (to me) Laurie never got around to being quite the silly ass that Bertie Wooster was in the books.

        I guess we do need *something* to disagree about. :)

        • I guess we do need *something* to disagree about. :)

          Yes, we do – and I guess we’ve found it! The next time anybody talks about the two of us being long-lost sisters, we can fling this in their faces and show them that even long-lost sisters needn’t be the same (ah, well, Sharmilee and An Evening in Paris and Do Behnen probably already proved that, but still…) :-D

  3. I only read the introduction and since you have provided the link to the film, I’ll have a look at the film first and then read you review and then comment.
    Well, you already know how I love P. G. Wodehouse, particularly Wooster and Jeeves and the Blandings Castle crowd. Psmith leaves me cold though. maybe I just haven’t read good books with him as the main character. My first and last Psmith was in the English textbook in Xth class. It took me two years to come to Jeeves and Wooster, after that there wa sno looking back!
    Thank you for the link!

    • “My first and last Psmith was in the English textbook in Xth class.

      Which, if I’m guessing correctly, might have been one of the Psmith and Mike school stories. Wodehouse wrote a series of Psmith books, the first one (if I remember) being with them at school (pretty boring), the next being when they leave school and begin to work (Psmith in the City) and so on. I don’t remember reading Psmith, Journalist, but I recall these two vaguely, and they did leave me cold.

      What made me adore Psmith was the fact that the first Psmith book I read was one my father has in his collection: Leave it to Psmith. It’s an awesome, Wodehouse-at-his-best book. It takes Psmith to Blandings – and there, of course, are the Blandings crowd, along with a valuable diamond necklace (which Freddie Threepwood needs to be stolen), an assortment of crooks, and a series of impersonations going on.

      It’s a fabulous book, Harvey. And Psmith is a total loon, whom I couldn’t help but fall in love with! :-D

      • *sadly* I *love* his school stories, and he had plenty of them – The Gold Bat and other stories, The Politeness of Princes and other stories, Mike at Wrkykin, Mike and Psmith, The Head of Kay’s, A Prefect’s Uncle, The Pothunters, Tales of St. Austin’s … they are priceless! Of course, they all focus on footer, and Rugby and cricket, so if you can’t stand to read about them, you aren’t going to like them much, but I grew up with boys all over the place, and these were prized possessions. :)

        • I don’t mind the school stories (and I love cricket!), it’s just that I don’t find Wodehouse’s school stories as enjoyable as his Blandings, Uncle Fred, or Wooster-Jeeves series. I’m not even terribly fond of his golf stories, actually. There’s no Wodehouse that i hate – he’s too good for that – but there are just some characters and milieus that I like more than the others. :-)

        • Yes, you should certainly give Leave it to Psmith a try!

          Is he also so delightfully loony like Bertie and unsuccessful in love?

          Difficult to answer. He’s loony, but not in the Bertie way. Bertie is dumb, really. Endearingly dumb, but still dumb. :-) Psmith isn’t dumb – he’s very street-smart; a ‘chaaloo cheez’, as we’d say. He’s loony in a very witty, young Gally Threepwood way.

          Is he unsuccessful in love? Now that would be giving the game away. But let’s say it’s not roses all the way!

  4. this is the third attempt at writing a comment here. I hope this one remains and just doesn’t disappear in ether!
    I just finished watching the film. It was delightful, but it just didn’t have the craziness of Wodehouse. Maybe because it was an early work of his? I don’t know! The love story gets the centre stage, which really doesn’t help the main characters though, they seem to be too two-dimensional and not at all endearing. This makes (for me at least) the side characters much more attractive. Nesta for example, I was waitin for her to appear again (“But my dear good woman” “I’m not a good woman”) Loved her! The butler Bayliss was great! And so was the father!
    Personally I think, Ann would have been better off with Lord Percy! That Jim character is going to have a love affair in two years the latest! :-D

    • Harvey, the problem doesn’t lie in Wodehouse’s book – even though it was one of his earlier works, the book itself is delightful and just what you’d expect of Wodehouse. The problem lies in the film, because they’ve only picked up the first one-third of the book and changed that as well, so that all you get is a very watered-down version of a fragment of the Piccadilly Jim plot. In the book, for instance, the romance is only one of the angles – and it’s important only because it helps as a motive for all the madness that takes place as a result of Jim falling for Ann.

      Read the book, I think you’ll like that much better. :-)

      • Last night, after I finished watching the movie, I wrote the above comment. Now I had time to read your lucid review and could read that you had warned us about the failings of the movie.
        But even we have now something to disagree in that you didn’t like the side characters and I loved them.
        Nesta was gloriously wonderful. I wish she had more screen space. She is one of the delightful aunt characters in Wooster and Jeeves!

        • Hah! We still don’t really disagree. ;-) Because, this is what I actually wrote:

          …The plot elements that didn’t really go anywhere, or the characters that didn’t actually need to be there…

          I do not actually name Nesta, and she was not the person I had in mind, because I do think of her as one of the main characters in the film. There are others – more minor characters in the film, but important in the book.

          Nesta was a hoot, wasn’t she? Typical ‘nasty aunt’ type!

  5. One of my favourite Wodehouse novels, but from what I can make out, the film’s line is pretty different from the original. As you said, the reason why Ann hates Jim is much more in keeping with her character in the book. I hope they got a suitably supercilious kid to play Ogden though : )

    Should eventually get around to watching. Tangentially, I saw an old movie version of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun … and it turned out to be pretty good.

    • Yes, if you’ve read the book (which was why I wanted to see this film in the first place), the film can be a disappointment. On its own, it’s fine, even a lot of fun. Compared to the book, it falls pretty flat.

      And no, the kid who played Ogden wasn’t supercilious, just thoroughly irritating. Also, the kid was probably only about 7 or 8 years old (to Ogden’s 14 in the book), which made a big difference to the plot, as you can imagine.

      Did you watch the 1982 version of Evil Under the Sun (with Ustinov)? I’ve only heard of it, never seen it – but if you give it the thumbs-up, I’ll put it on my watch list.

  6. I have read so much Wodehouse and so often, but not this one. I have an e-book, but that is always a pain to read.

    I have the first episode of Jeeves and Wooster, featuring Stephan Fry and Hugh Laurie (sigh.. he is so sexy yet as House), it is a winner through and through.

    This movie sounds pretty entertaining too, I guess it picked up more of the ‘romantic elements’ of the book for the film.

    I often like to compare books and movies if they are an adaption too. Once or twice the movie is better, say, Sound of Music. The book was dull dull dull, whereas i dont have to say what the movie was. Similarly I found Candace Bushnell a tedious writer, I did not read Sex and the City, but another (Trading up) and it was totally putdownable. The series were fairly engaging, by my surmised comparision.

    • I haven’t seen House. TV series? (I have to admit to being completely clueless when it comes to TV series over the past decade or so – that was about when I stopped watching TV). But I did think Hugh Laurie was fantastic as Bertie Wooster. That floppy-jawed, vacant-eyed look was spot on!

      Oh, so you’ve read the book on which The Sound of Music was based? Thank you for warning me off. I will make it a point not to read it. :-)

      I do remember reading a web page on the Von Trapp family, and being rather disappointed that they didn’t look anything like Plummer, Andrews, & Co. Completely off-topic, one very good TV series where they actually went out of their way to find actors who looked uncannily like the people they played was Bodyline, about the infamous bodyline bowling technique, and the Ashes tournament where it was used.

      P.S I’ve just discovered that somebody’s uploaded Jeeves and Wooster on Youtube. Here is part of the first episode of Season 1:

  7. Haven’t seen the movie but I absolutely LOVE Wodehouse. When I was about 15-16, I’d visit the local library almost every day to pick a Wodehouse (and the library had a great collection!). I was the only person of my age who would do this – the librarian had a soft corner for me because of this. :-) I remember we were normally allowed only one book at a time but sometimes he’d allow me two books. I’d start reading the book as soon as I got back home – and not put it down till I’d finished it, no matter how late it was.

    After that wave, there was a second wave when I was working in Bombay. We were a few Wodehouse fans in our office – and we found ourselves talking in Wodehouse-speak all the time. Drove our other colleagues up the wall though! :-)

    For example, instead of saying “Should we go for lunch?” we’d say something like “Would this be an appropriate moment to consider partaking of such nourishment as the body, limited as it is in its ability to endure discomfort, would appear to feel necessary?” or some such rubbish. It was SO much fun.

    Ah, the memories!

    I’m going to watch this one. Without any expectations – that’s usually the best way to watch a film, I think.

    • I love that anecdote about the librarian allowing you two books instead of the usual one! My sister and I never got to be members of any libraries (the small towns we spent our childhood in never seemed to have any libraries, or at least no good ones). But my father had a huge collection of Wodehouse at home – so we fell in love with him very early on! :-)

      Interestingly, a few years ago, when I was talking to the CEO at Hachette India, he mentioned that India is one of the few markets in the world where Wodehouse is still hugely popular. He said that most publishers stopped publishing Wodehouse years ago – but those that still do, cater mainly to Indian readers. Thank goodness for them!

      He seems to be pretty popular in Russia too:

      http://wodehouse.ru/

  8. I did read a few Jeeves and Wooster books and also remember seeing a few episodes of the BBC series and they were all so hilarious .

    Going through your post brought back memories and smiles back just thinking about them :)

    • I loved the BBC Jeeves and Wooster too. There was an earlier series called The World of Wooster, filmed in the 60s. It starred Ian Charmichael as Wooster and Dennis Price as Jeeves. I haven’t seen it, but frankly, both Price and Charmichael look too long in the tooth to be playing Jeeves and Wooster:

  9. Years ago I tried to read some of Wodehouse’s books but somehow never got very far in them. There was another British tv series of the 70’s “Wodehouse Playhouse” in which Pauline Collins and John Alderton starred in adaptations of his short stories which I remember enjoying. I didn’t know he had written school stories. This film looks interesting, I like the plot involving a comic strip. Arthur Treacher starred in a couple of 30’s film as Jeeves.

    • I’ve heard of the Wodehouse Playhouse series (in Wodehouse’s filmography on IMDB, I think), but haven’t ever seen the series. I must look out for that, now that I have a recommendation from you. Thanks!

      I know about Arthur Treacher as Jeeves – I’ve seen him in Thank you, Jeeves!, which was really quite a mehhh film. It reduced Wooster and Jeeves to slapstick comedians, and Jeeves in particular appeared to be not endowed with much brainpower…

  10. Ooooo I put in the first comment on this post: but its not there!!!
    Just to say that I love P G WOdehouse and I am NOT going read this post until after I have watch the film from the link :))

  11. I’m flabbergasted! I wouldn’t have expected a rigorously faithful adaptation of Wodehouse to the screen, but the changes you describe boggle the mind. I am so very grateful to you for writing this review, thereby reminding me that I had the book available to read, but now that I’ve read both the book and your review, I’ll be giving the film a wide berth.

    • Yes. I couldn’t see why they should’ve made the changes they did in the film – since the book itself has plenty of action that could have translated brilliantly to screen. They turned it completely topsy-turvy and made it just a romance. No crime, no nothing. A good entertaining film if you hadn’t read the book, but if you’ve read it, a frightful disappointment.

  12. Thank you for your review of this film which I just ran across. I think I may have been more fortunate than your other correspondents in that I saw the film before I read the book. The film holds up very well by itself if one hasn’t read the book. You are correct that only about a third of the book was used but the script writers had to make some major revisions to the story line without having another hour for the production. I liked the choice of Madge Evans because she is believable in the bar and nightclub scene where Montgomery is blown away by Cupid’s arrow. As for the film concentrating on the romance, the fact that they both had starred together in four earlier films probably had a lot to do with that. This was a vehicle for Montgomery in every sense of the word and he and Madge had become lifelong friends. Montgomery worked very hard in this film… even going to London to visit locales in the script. I haven’t seen the newer version of PICCADILLY JIM but from what I’ve heard, I haven’t missed anything. For me Robert Montgomery is James Crocker and Madge Evans is Ann.

    I must add that your selection of photographs is superb. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Paul, thank you – I’m glad you liked the review and the photos. If I hadn’t loved the book so much, I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed the film much more. As it was, I’d spent most of the past 20 years wanting to see the film, because I adored the book – and so few films ever manage to recreate the book perfectly. Incidentally, there was a later cinematic version (made in 2005, and starring Sam Rockwell and Frances O’Connor) which did a pretty good job of retaining the plot of the novel – in its entirety. The only problem was, it just didn’t work for me, because the ‘period’ flavour was farcical and completely over the top. Plus, there’s a world of difference between actors of the likes of Montgomery and Madge on the one hand, and Rockwell and O’Connor on the other…

      • I have heard that same criticism of the newer version from others and am inclined to believe it. The further away we get from the Wodehouse era, or even, say the thirties, the more difficult it seems for the latest film makers to really understand the true rhetorical tone of the characters and plot lines. Wodehouse is simply too sophisticated for some of these film makers. However, what I really cannot understand is why Turner has never released PICCADILLY JIM on DVD. It’s not as if Turner hasn’t released other films starring Madge Evans or Robert Montgomery. Of course they haven’t released LOVERS COURAGEOUS which is a dumb title but a charming little film… not quite in the class of PICCADILLY JIM.

        May I ask what your favorite Wodehouse work is. If I haven’t already read it, I’ll make it my next reading assignment.

        • It’s a bit of a coincidence, but I was rewatching clips of The Artist today, and was struck by the fact that in that case, the film makers did such a good job of invoking the 30s. Why, I wondered, were the people working with a fantastic story – the 2005 Piccadilly Jim – have to resort to sheer idiocy when it came to simple things like costumes, language, and… I don’t know; a certain je ne sais quoi? Perhaps the ability to place oneself in the sweet, very innocent world of Wodehouse is a rare thing, now.

          I’m flattered that you should think of asking me about my favourite Wodehouse work. There are lots of them out there, and I’d be hard-pressed to name a single one. But among the ones I especially like are Leave it to Psmith and Roght ho, Jeeves (also known as Brinkley Manor).

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