A Run For Your Money (1949)

“You and your Saxon laws.”

The vintage comedy A Run For Your Money directed by Charles Frend begins in the bowels of a Welsh coal mine. Brothers David “Dai Number 9” (Donald Houston) and Thomas “Twm” Jones (Meredith Edwards) win a prize for loading coal that includes a trip to London to watch the Wales vs. Twyckenham rugby match and 200 pounds cash. The brothers have never been to London before, and as they prepare to depart by train, they receive dire warnings about the wiles of Londoners.

Once in London, things immediately go wrong, and the brothers are quickly separated. While David and Thomas search for each other, they experience a series of misadventures. David meets a beautiful, crafty con woman named Jo (Moria Lister) while Thomas becomes embroiled with a down-on-his luck Welshman who’s taken to begging on the streets of London. To complicate matters, newspaper reporter Whimple (Alec Guinness), who’d much rather be assigned to the gardening section of the newspaper, is supposed to write a story about the brothers. Unfortunately, he can’t find them, so he spends the day searching for them all over London.

There’s more than a large dollop of Welsh whimsy here. It begins in the coalmines with the daily work of the miners who are portrayed as a happy bunch. With their coal smeared faces they whistle as they work and don’t break a sweat. There’s ample references to Welsh identity–the wearing of Leeks, the prevalence of the name Jones, the unpronounceable names of Welsh towns, and the way in which the Welsh break out in song whenever three or more of them are gathered together. But there are deeper undercurrents here; the Jones brothers are guileless targets for London criminals, and yet their very innocence has a way of shielding them from the naked ugliness of city life. Uprooted from Wales, they don’t fit in, and they long to return to their native land. The message is that the Welsh who linger in London, or try to seek their fortune there, fall into adversity and are left–like the harp player, begging on the streets.

There’s also the implication that many Londoners assume layers of falseness in order to deal with city life–for example, there’s Mrs. Pargiter (the wonderful Joyce Grenfell in a small role) who turns the charm on and off. She’s a milder version of Jo in some ways. And the London characters are in stark contrast to the Welsh who are depicted as honest, good-natured, happy-go-lucky people with values that don’t gravitate around money. This much-loved classic comedy has heart and substance and although the average miner would probably find the film’s depiction of the mines laughable and downright insulting, its Welsh whimsy is, after all, rather endearing.

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