Please Turn Over (1959)

“Yours is an urgent case of lingering morality.”

In the vintage British comedy Please Turn Over Jo Halliday (Julia Lockwood) is a seventeen-year-old girl living with her conventional parents in a quiet, small town. Jo, who’s a hairdressing apprentice, secretly writes a novel, Naked Revolt which becomes an instant, explosive, titillating best seller. The book is an expose of the hypocrisy of suburbia–with seemingly ‘decent’ people leading secret lives of sin. Since Jo is only 17, everyone jumps to the conclusion that her tawdry tale of embezzlement, lust, and adultery must be based on her real life. It doesn’t help matters that the book uncannily mirrors some salient facts about Jo’s family.

Jo’s father–mild-mannered accountant Edward (Ted Ray), Jo’s dotty, harmless mother Janet (Jean Kent), health fanatic Aunt Gladys (June Jago), her aunt’s employer, Dr. Manners (Leslie Phillips), and Janet’s old beau–Howard (Lionel Jeffries) all become swept up in the scandal of Naked Revolt. The film’s characters play both their “real-life” roles and their fictional counterparts from Jo’s book. For example, while the Hallidays employ a slovenly, mouthy charwoman, in Jo’s novel, the fictional family employs a saucy French maid. The comedienne Joan Sims brilliantly plays both parts and it’s marvelous to watch her slip in and out of these two vastly different roles (although I must say I prefer her as the formidable charwoman with a cigarette permanently hanging from her mouth.) Leslie Phillips has some of the best scenes. As Dr. Manners–he’s a doctor who cares more about his golf game than about his practice, but in Jo’s novel, he’s a “degenerate beast”–a satyr–who lines up scantly clad patients for “treatment.”

Directed by Gerald Thomas (of Carry On fame), this very, very funny film film moves smoothly from scene to scene, and the film includes one of the most nerve-wracking driving lesson sequences I’ve ever seen. The camera is positioned behind the driver for most of these scenes, and the erratic driving is enough to make the viewer hang on for dear life. Please Turn Over isn’t bawdy–and the comedy is based on misconceptions, alter egos, and “nasty minds.” Keep an eye open for Charles Hawtrey in a small role as a jeweler. If you love vintage British comedies, don’t miss this one.

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