Climbing High (1938)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Screwball Comedy  |   Release Date - Nov 1, 1938 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - UK  |  
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Climbing High (1938) came at the tail-end of Jessie Matthews' first screen career, and was one of her best vehicles, a surprising result considering that it is devoid of the musical numbers that one would have expected from one of England's top dancing and singing talents of the period. What it has is a brilliantly piercing, witty script -- one worthy of a Hollywood screwball comedy -- superbly engaging acting performances by all concerned (highlighted by Alastair Sim as a would-be Communist agitator), and superb pacing. Carol Reed was only three years into his career and, based on the evidence here, was already was one of the top comedy directors in England, working so deftly that one scarcely notices the absence of the musical numbers that were planned for the film but never used or shot. In that regard, Reed succeeds where Michael Powell, working in a similar situation a little more than a decade later on The Elusive Pimpernel, from which intended musical numbers had also been removed, failed. The verbal acrobatics and the breezy pacing combine to make this one of the more entertaining British comedies of the period, with some piercing topical humor (especially about the advertising business, and political activism) that still holds today. And Matthews is a treat to watch, even in a straight (albeit comedic) acting role, supported more than ably by Tucker McGuire as her gal pal, and Michael Redgrave in a romantic part with Basil Radford providing the comic grace notes to his scenes.