I’m All Right Jack (1959)

I’m All Right Jack (1959)

“It’s not compulsory, only you’ve got to join — see?”

An upper-classman (Ian Carmichael) hoping to find a job in “industry” starts working for his wealthy uncle (Dennis Price) in a munitions factory, not realizing that he will quickly become embroiled in tensions between a trade union steward (Peter Sellers) and an old army buddy (Terry-Thomas) with corrupt plans for re-routing the company’s contract.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Labor Movements
  • Margaret Rutherford Films
  • Peter Sellers Films
  • Richard Attenborough Films
  • Satires and Spoofs

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “classic British satire” by John and Ray Boulting — about a “naive but enthusiastic college grad who uses his wealthy family’s connections to break into industry”:

… and then “becomes the unwitting pawn of both the corrupt management and the workers’ union” — remains a “sharp, cynical comedy” that “chastises workers, but is clearly sympathetic toward them” given “they’re not bad sorts, and much preferable to their sneaky, crooked bosses who are willing to sell out their country for a profit.”

He adds that he doubts “if an American union-made film will ever deal so bravely with similar labor-management problems”. While this film mercilessly skewers labor-related problems of the day in a way that likely resonated deeply with many viewers, I’ll admit to feeling a bit detached from it: the basic theme of corruption on both sides of the aisle — not just with smarmy businessmen (of course), but with labor unions determined to ensure that “no worker is fired, be he incompetent, lazy, or doing work that a machine could handle in a tenth of the time”:

— is loud and strong, but the protagonist is too much of a twit to relate to in any way. Sellers is a top reason to watch the film:

His devotion to the cause of Labor comes through loud and strong, and his character seems like a flesh-and-blood individual capable of authentic growth and emotion.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Sellers as Fred Kite

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look.


3 thoughts on “I’m All Right Jack (1959)

  1. A once-must, as an all-round good show and as a prime, marvelous example of classic satire.

    This is a film I’m particularly fond of and I could easily watch it almost anytime. It’s not that it’s hilariously funny (although occasionally it is); but, by turns, it’s so droll and tongue-in-cheek that it offers endless enjoyment.

    The script by Frank Harvey, John Boulting and (original writer) Alan Hackney is a verbal feast. (I love the often-pungent segues from scene to scene – as well as many of the throwaway lines.) And director John Boulting does not miss a single nuance.

    Neither does the cast. To a man and woman, each actor is fine-tuned to this particular level of comedy – and Boulting orchestrates them with individual detail (as everyone employs subtle or not-so-subtle facial expressions); the result being the sort of exemplary ensemble work that Altman (for example) would encourage and incorporate for a film like ‘M*A*S*H’.

    Carmichael and Sellers (who can I never watch in this without thinking of the Beatles song ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’) are gems, as are (in the supporting cast) Terry-Thomas, Margaret Rutherford, Richard Attenborough… well, just everybody, really.

    Well done!

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    A classic of it’s era and it has much greater significance here in the UK as it lampoon’s the UK unions and their stranglehold at the time on UK industry.

    It’d make a great double bill with Carry on at Your Convenience (1971) which covers similar ground more broadly and with more innuendo. Still good though.

    As for I’m All Right Jack, definitely must see.

  3. If you live in current day Britain then part of this film is still very topical – the satire on management of course. The view on the workers is less relevant as most of the industry depicted has disappeared over the years.

    No other film from that period managed to analyse the working conditions in such an insightful manner. It can be watched over and over again and is a pleasure because of the great script but especially the cream of 50s British (comedy) actors.

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