There's plenty to love about the Ealing Studios comedies of the late 1940s and early 1950s. There's a certain laid-back attitude towards all the stories, rarely falling back upon melodrama and maintaining a solid feeling of everyday realism the humour is much more akin to the Australian style of comedy rather than the American, and that certainly appeals to me. Charles Frend's 'A Run for Your Money' is an undiscovered gem a term I suspect I'll be using to describe a lot of the Ealing Studio's films from 1949. The simple story concerns Tom and David Jones, two mining brothers from the quaint Welsh town of Hafoduwchbenceubwllymarchogcoch, who win a newspaper award, and so travel to London for the first time to claim their $200 prize. Once there, the two enthusiastic young men waste no time in getting separated, and their eventful day consists of numerous coincidences, near-misses, the reacquisition of a harp, a rugby match, the boss' bowler hat, and a cunning female con-artist who tries to relieve David of his money.
This is how I like comedy the best: simple, fun and effective. The two Welsh brothers (Meredith Edwards and Donald Houston playing Tom and David, respectively) are a pair of likable larrikins, though David (called by his nickname, "Dai Number 9") is naive to the point of gullibility, and Tom ("Twm") finds it difficult to say no to a drink at any time of the day. Alec Guinness has a brilliant supporting role as Whimple, the gardening-columnist who is instructed by his newspaper editor (Clive Morton) to escort the men about London. Interestingly, he is a sort of Clouseau-esquire figure, filled with a bloated sense of self-importance that is punctuated by, above all else, his terrible luck. Fittingly, and to our great amusement, the story eventually winds up with Whimple receiving the raw end of the deal, despite his best intentions. Moira Lister is adequate as Jo, the sweet-talking Londoner who tries to scam the credulous David out of the $200 prize money.
I also noticed some solid comparisons between 'A Run for Your Money' and director Frank Capra, and the sub-plot of the female con-artist finding the heart to redeem herself was reminiscent of Jean Arthur in 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).' Additionally, Capra always had a talent for celebrating of the "common man," a notable example being the singing on the night bus in 'In Happened One Night (1934).' This film follows a similar sort of path: Tom and David Jones certainly represent this noble "every-man" - they are first sighted hundreds of metres underground, as cheery, hard-working labourers in the mine, with sweaty hands and blackened faces. Director Charles Frend also uses a merry song to emphasise the magnificence of the small-town folk of Wales. On the train to and from London, the hundreds of good-natured Welshmen join each other in a jubilant chant, a symbol of their togetherness as a people. Conversely, the uptight folk of the big city prohibit music in their pubs, and, on one of the London trains, a simple request for directions leads to a heated dispute over the most efficient route to Twickenham.