1937.Director:Marcel Varnel. Producer:Edward Black.
Sreenplay:Val Guest ~Marriott Edgar & J.O.C.Orton
Adaptation by Stephen Clarkson and John Cousins
Editor:R.E.Dearing ~ Story:Frank Launder
Art Direction:Vetchinsky. Cutting:Alfred Roome
Musical Direction:Louis Levy.
A Gainsborough-Gaumont British Picture.84mins
Oh,Mr Porter! is Hay's most famous film and no doubt his most loved comedy. Oh,Mr Porter! represents one of the peaks of Will Hay's achievements in the cinema. It is a undisputed classic of British Comedy.
We find Hay being dispatched to Ireland to take over as the new stationmaster of Buggleskelly after a series of misadventures in England. When William Porter arrives at the apparently deserted railway station on a dark rainswept night the ticket sellers hatch suddenly opens and Harbottle (who describes himself as porter, shunter, and signal-man) snaps 'The next train's gone' 'What do you mean the next train's gone?' asks Porter 'there's no sense in that. You might just as well say that the last train that came in..er..hasn't' 'Hasn't what?' 'Hasn't gone..er..hasn't come...don't argue with me! Come out and let me in!'
Hay arrives for breakfast the very next morning with Albert and Harbottle in attendance. Hay picks up a slab of cheese from the table and says 'You've got a big cheese here.' Harbottle grunts 'Yeah, this is were you sit!' Right from the very start Hay's futile attempts fail to impose any kind of authority upon his new staff. The new stationmaster decides that the station needs putting on the map and a spring clean of the station is in order. Harbottle sets to work writing the station name of Buggleskelly using stones on a rockery. He spells it Buggleskkely. 'That's not the way to spell it' says Hay. 'There are two l's in kelly.' Harbottle replies 'Can't do that, thirteen letters, unlucky.' 'Well take one of the k's out', comes Hay's reply, 'Nobody will notice.' The keenness of Hay, taking his job of stationmaster so to heart and trying to make a good job of it is quite a role reversal for Hay, as in other films he is usually trying to hang on to his job, often with dire consequences.
A little later in the film Hay spots Harbottle kicking the platform chocolate machine and obtaining some chocolate without paying. 'Hey! what do you think you are doing to that machine?' asks Hay. Harbottle replies 'Taking a bit of chocolate.' 'Well what's the idea of kicking it..what do you think the slots for?' 'To blow down if the kick don't work!' answers Harbottle. Hay is non to pleased but moments later we see him return to the chocolate machine, and after a couple of good kicks, he successfully obtains his 'free'bar of chocolate.
Hay decides he wants to run a excursion from his station and gets into conversation with head office on the telephone and whilst speaking he gets a lot of barricking from Harbottle. 'Listen, I'll kick that one tooth of yours out and leave you stark naked you old fool.' snaps Hay. The excursion is arranged and it is all set to go to Connemara to appease the local shopkeepers who have been supplying goods to the station in return for tickets. Hay asks what rolling-stock they have, it turns out that everything on the station is either too old or will not work and according to Hay Harbottle is both.
Unfortunately for Hay the excursion becomes the dupe of gunrunners. They comandeer the train using the cover of the local football team Buggleskelly Wednesday going to play in a cup-tie, but they take it to their headquarters which are on a dis-used loop-line. Albert and Harbottle having been carried home by Hay on the station trolley the night before, all the worst for drinking and fighting do not know of Hay's intentions to set up this special excursion and do not belive it ever exsisted after it disappears off the main line. The football team can't play without me insists Harbottle. 'I'm their centre-forward!' Hay has to gain the trust of his men and leads them to a closed up tunnel where he finds his missing train and traps the gunrunners inside the carriages when they return with their guns. He puts the carriages in motion, pulled by Buggleskelly's finest, Gladstone the steam engine. Hay and Harbottle comandeer the footplate and Albert takes up residence on the carriage roof, picking off the gunrunners with hefty blows of his shovel each time they look out of the carriage. Gladstone's runaway journey gathers at momentous speed, going through main line junctions at break neck pace. It all ends when Gladstone crashes into a siding dead-end. The gunrunners are arrested and poor old Gladstone lets out sigh of steam, then explodes and we find the boys, hats removed paying their last respects to a fine old engine.