An article published in Theatre World 1947 by Looker On
Whispers from the Wings
From every point of view the theatre is a gamble. Chance rules the fate of playgoers and players with an equal degree of blindness. The fact that we have derived such rich enjoyment from the ideal partnership of Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford for the best part of a decade is all due to chance.
The paths of these delightful comedians first crossed in that popular pre-war film, The Lady Vanishes. The script was not specially prepared for them. They were engaged individually for their respective parts, but as soon as they played their first scene together it became obvious that a new comedy team had been born. Here was humour of a new calibre, played by polished artists for whom vulgarity possessed no attraction.
Other films followed - Night Train to Munich, Dead of Night and A Girl In a Million. The team was heard on the air in such features as Crook’s Tour, Secret Mission 609 and Double Bedlam. Aping no one who had gone before, they established themselves in a position unique in the world of entertainment.
They saw the possibilities of comedy in a couple of monosyllabic slow thinkers. Unlike Robertson Hare and Alfred Drayton, there is no mental conflict in the Radford-Wayne comedy-team. Their minds work the same way. They have a similar mental outlook. They are vaguely pathetic and unquestionably lovable, but miles behind everyone else. In fact, one wonders how on earth such characters manage to earn a living.
Though these artists have endeared themselves to the public with their serious-faced nit-wittery , they have no intention of exclusively devoting their careers to such highly specialised comedy. Their presence in Clutterbuck is helping to pack Wyndham’s Theatre night after night, yet though they play scene after scene together, the characters in this comedy are far removed from their radio creations. Though these new parts fit them like gloves, Benn Levy did not write them with any particular actors in view, but Wayne and Radford, like all great artists, have left the stamp of their own personalities upon on them.
Both Radford and Wayne can be individually comic. Singly they have made us laugh for years in dozens of West End successes, before they met in The Lady Vanishes. Together, they somehow develop a new comic streak, which neither possesses alone. In a recent film they had to walk quite seriously towards a work bench, with no attempt to be amusing. When the “rushes” were screened in the studio theatre, the audience of technicians and film personnel roared with laughter at the mere sight of Radford and Wayne together. Neither would have evoked as much as a smile, had they walked up to the bench singly. Their joint presence causes a curious comic reaction, which has surprised even them on more than one occasion.
Wayne really prefers working in the film studio. He enjoys the satisfaction of filming a good sequence, knowing it will be equally effective upon every screen upon which it is projected. There is no fear of an off-night ruining his performance. Radford prefers working on the stage. He likes the warmth of laughter in the house and enjoys the thrill of “getting an audience going”. Normally he considers film scenes too short to be really interesting.
Two artists who gain a reputation as a comedy-team are faced with one major disadvantage. After long association, one is not accepted without the other. The public don’t want Nervo without Know or Laurel without Hardy. If one of the partners happens to be ill, no known star can be offered as compensation. Naunton Wayne could be teamed up with Sid Field, Bob Hope, Hartley Power, Roland Young, Leslie Henson, Ronald Squire, Ralph Lynn or Harry Green . . . but it would not be the same. The public would still clamour for Basil Radford. They know a once-in-a-lifetime comedy-team when they see one, and they want to enjoy it, intact, on every possible occasion.
at Wyndham’s Theatre
Review in Theatre World November 1946
It is not surprising that Benn W. Levy’s new comedy has been playing to capacity business ever since the opening night in August, for the author’s polished wit is most felicitously served by as talented a comedy team as the West End is likely to see.
The plot, if one can so call this light-as-air tale of two married couples on a pleasure cruise who are confronted by their amorous past, somehow does not strain one’s credulity even when approaching its most farcical. Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford are at their unique funniest as two husbands who discover that they once shared the same illicit lady love, while Constance Cummings and Patricia Burke are brilliant exponents of feminine psychology when they learn that the amazing Mr. Clutterbuck was the cause of the lapses of both in romantic Venice. To these delicious improbabilities is added the fact that the wives’ paramour is married to their husbands’ Melissa, and that both are fellow passengers.
The play is produced by the author and presented by Stephen Mitchell by arrangement with Howard Wyndham and Bronson Alberry. The décor by Micahel Weight is a happy ingredient of London’s most scintillating piece of entertainment.
The following photos by Angus McBrean are annotated with descriptions of the scenes and relevant script.
Programme for Clutterbuck
This programme from 1946 is an 8 page document that appears to have been priced at 6d for theatre goers.
The cast last includes Naunton Wayne as Julian Pugh but not Basil Radford as Arthur Pomfret. Whether this is due to Ronald Ward, the understudy, performing in this particular show, or whether Basil Radford had a pro-longed absence during the performance is unclear.
Other cast members for this performance include Patricia Burke, Constance Cummings, Gordon Bell, Charles Wade and Lalage Lewis.
There are some interesting advertisements for products of the time.