The Lady Vanishes is, obviously, terrific, and it's difficult to decide which is the better British Hitchcock film between it and The 39 Steps. 'Steps', as I'm irritatingly going to call it, has a brisker-paced story and a more likeable, better-named male lead (Richard vs Gilbert - no chance, Gilbo), but 'Lady' - I'm annoying myself now - has two things going for it that are hard to top: Caldicott and Charters.
These two towering examples of upper-class English twittery are creations of such genius that they steal the film from under the nose of lead twit Michael Redgrave. Unfortunately they didn't steal his ludicrous moustache from under his nose as well, but you can't have everything.
Single-mindedly obsessed with getting back from some eastern European backwater to England in time for the cricket, Caldicott and Charters refuse to let anything stand in their way, especially not some silly cow whining on about a missing old biddy, and certainly not the evil forces of an unidentified fascist army trying to put bullets in their cummerbunds.
Watch the film to see exactly how Englishmen should behave abroad, but for now here are some examples of how the C&C Stiff Upper Lip Factory roll:
How to ascertain the cricket score over the phone to a complete stranger in London who doesn't know what you're on about:Caldicott: "I'm enquiring about the test match in Manchester! Cricket, sir, cricket! What, you don't know? You can't be in England and not know the test score!"
Charters: "Silly arse"
Caldicott: "The fellow's an ignoramus!"
How to respond to hysterical women:
Hysterical woman: "Well, I don't see how a thing like cricket can make you forget seeing people."Charters: "Oh, don't you? If that's your attitude, there's nothing more to be said! Come, Caldicott! 'A thing like cricket!'"
When sharing a set of pyjamas and the smallest bed in the world, retain some dignity by displaying a perfect side parting:
Created by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, Caldicott and Charters appeared in several other films, and actors Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne went on to play similar, differently-named double acts. A 1985 TV series about the dapper duo went wholly unnoticed by The Incredible Suit, but through the medium of bloggery I hope to kick-start some kind of religious cult devoted to these two legends of mighty Blighty.
Allow Mr Charters to have the final word, in this demonstration of exactly how one should keep calm and carry on when being shot (from 4:40):
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