Your Past is Showing (a.k.a. The Naked Truth) (1957)

“Getting rid of people seems to be a hobby of yours!”

Synopsis:
A game show host (Peter Sellers), a mystery writer (Peggy Mount), a model (Shirley Eaton), and a womanizing lord (Terry-Thomas) unsuccessfully try to murder the journalist (Dennis Price) who is blackmailing them.

Genres:

Review:
The premise of this amiable British black comedy starts off with a bang, as Price’s unapologetically sleazy gossipmonger provokes consternation (or worse) in a bevy of celebrities with smear-worthy skeletons in their closets — until a small handful of his victims suddenly decide that enough is enough. The rest of the film is taken up with their various attempts (solo or collaborative) to “off” him, with Sellers having plenty of fun dressing up in various disguises, gap-toothed Terry-Thomas playing essentially a variation on his usual self, and gravelly-voiced Peggy Mount exhibiting fine comedic rapport with Joan Sims as her nervous-nellie daughter. Unfortunately, the one-note situation eventually wears out its welcome: it drags on for a bit too long, and (ironically) Price is gone too long off-screen. While it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics, however, fans of Sellers will surely want to see this early pivotal film in his career — one which afforded him his first leading role, and catapulted him to even greater fame.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Sellers as Sonny MacGregor
  • Peggy Mount and Joan Sims as as Flora and Ethel Ransom

Must See?
No, though it’s worth seeking out for one-time viewing.

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One Response to “Your Past is Showing (a.k.a. The Naked Truth) (1957)”

  1. A must, for its unique premise, its very game cast, and esp. for one, long, extremely memorable sequence.

    I’d not seen this before – yet it gripped me throughout. I do agree that the film begins with a bang, but I found that it holds steady as it goes along, without really faltering. I’m a great admirer of farce, and am particularly pleased when a farce script meets the demands of the genre – and I feel this one does.

    Perhaps what sets farce apart from general comedy is the added element of hysteria – making it something of a drama disguised as comedy. Stakes tend to be high in farce and characters are often placed in very vulnerable positions.

    They couldn’t be more vulnerable than they are here. (Before the story proper begins, a number of off-screen characters are driven to suicide.)

    One of the most satisfying aspects of ‘YPIS’ is its structure, and the subtle way the four main characters eventually bond in order to plot revenge (safety in numbers, and all that). Along the way, it becomes evident that, without the unity of a group, the individuals have no power at all to save themselves: their foe is relentless and seemingly unstoppable. (I didn’t mind Price being absent for periods of time; I found it a welcome reprieve when he disappeared. His character is vile to the core – and the film really isn’t about him anyway, so…)

    The best of farce equally demands it be played by those considerably adept at carrying it off. Eaton, though not bad, is perhaps the most serviceable of the four: she’s not asked to do much, tho it’s intriguing that her jealous boyfriend keeps coming back to her after promising not to (I found myself hoping they’d work things out, oddly). In later years, Terry-Thomas would become something of an exaggeration of what he exhibits here; as a result, there’s a freshness (esp. in some of his double-takes) that, with subsequent films, would become more of a caricature. Sellers is indeed interesting in this early piece, revealing his uncanny ability to be chameleon-like.

    But my hat’s off to Peggy Mount and Joan Sims – and the two together are ultimately why this film must be seen. ‘YPIS’ contains one long stretch which is the perfect marriage of performers and material: in it, mistaken identity (a staple of farce) leads to attempted murder – and I have rarely felt myself so equally tense while simultaneously equally amused. Mount and Sims know they’ve got great material right here and they run with it. (To some degree, they are even allowed to reprise their excessive panic near film’s end.) This is an extremely rich chunk of wackiness – and ffs shouldn’t miss it.

    The film also benefits from a steady flow of charming one-liners: perhaps my fave has Terry-Thomas introducing Eaton to someone as ‘Miss Right’ – which is actually her character’s name – and he is congratulated on his ‘success’.

    Overall, a good show!

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