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Christmas Classic First Watch Review – We’re No Angels (1955)

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What links Batman, James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Steptoe & Son? Obviously, one answer is the 1955 film We’re No Angels otherwise I’d be rambling even more than usual! There is also more than a sprinkling of whimsy and imagination but I’m guessing you’re all getting used to that by now. Incidentally, this film was recommended to me by Terri in a comment on my review of Stalag 17. I quote…”It’s another classic that takes place during Christmas and is actually my 87-year old mother’s favorite non-traditional holiday film. Quite entertaining!” See…I do read them! 

What are the other links? Well, in reverse order, Aldo Ray was going to make a US remake of the British sitcom Steptoe & Son before it was reimagined as Sanford & Son. Leo G Carroll was Alexander Waverley in the original TV production of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Humphrey Bogart had some teeth knocked out in a car crash while filming Beat The Devil in 1953. His lines had to be overdubbed by a young Bogart impersonator named Peter Sellers who appeared in the unofficial 1967 version of Casino Royale as Evelyn Tremble and one of the James Bonds. While on that film, the ‘proper’ James Bond was played by David Niven and during World War II, Pvt Peter Ustinov was batman to Lt Col David Niven.  


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I’ll Go Buy A Turkey

So, what is We’re No Angels all about? In short, three Devil’s Island inmates, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Jules (Peter Ustinov), and Albert (Aldo Ray), have broken out and are making plans to get away on the next boat. Meanwhile they hide out in a shop run by Felix Ducotel (Leo G Carroll), his wife, Amelie (Joan Bennett), and their daughter, Isabelle (Gloria Talbott). They plan to stay overnight so they can help themselves to money and clothes when the shop is closed. However, they find themselves enjoying their stay. They help out in the shop; making sales, friends, and repairs. They also discover that the shop is struggling and about to be taken over.

The takeover is to be made by the owner André Trochard (Basil Rathbone) who is arriving imminently with his nephew Paul (John Baer). Previously the Ducotel’s thought that things might turn out all right as Isabelle is betrothed to Paul. Unfortunately, evil André has decided that he would be better suited if Paul were to marry the daughter of a shipping manager. The convicts find out all this and decide to step in and help out. I won’t go into detail here but things work out well for the good side and badly for the bad side but not necessarily in the way that you may expect! I’ll just say that there were a few surprises at the end. They did leave me with a nice warm feeling.

First I Have To Steal The Money

Whereas Stalag 17  was definitely a film set at Christmas, We’re No Angels is more of an actual Christmas film; it is set over the holiday and we are treated to the prisoners “obtaining” a full Christmas dinner. However, We’re No Angels does have similarities with Stalag 17. Both are products of the early fifties; We’re No Angels was actually shot in 1954. Both are billed as comedies. Also both feature the main cast playing the part of prisoners. I know tastes in humour change over time and around seventy years is a considerable enough period. The humour in Stalag 17 did not survive as well as that in We’re No Angels. Humphrey Bogart was not renowned for his comedic performances but he proves here that he can actually get a laugh. 

There’s no such mystery surrounding Peter Ustinov’s comedy chops and he is subtly amusing throughout the film. Aldo Ray and Leo G Carroll both manage to keep their humorous ends up. Even Basil Rathbone manages a few broad smiles as the pantomime villain André Trochard. Let me get something straight though. This is not a laugh out loud, rolling on the floor, making embarrassing puddles kind of comedy. I don’t know if it was when it first came out because this film is even older than I am! But what I will say is that it is gently amusing throughout.  Again I will thank Terri and her mother for introducing me to We’re No Angels and it will feature in my annual holiday viewing.

Movie Grade: A

Christmas Classic First View Review – A Christmas Carol (1938)

Christmas Classic First Watch Review – Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

A US Classic From A UK Perspective – A Christmas Story

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  • Terri

    Rob~

    Thank you! (I hope you didn’t feel obligated to do the shoutout and give it an A. Hahaha)

    That said, I’m delighted you legit watched it and enjoyed it enough to give such a good review. It’s a fun oldie to watch with a nice eggnog in hand.

    Now, try “The Ref.”
    That’s far more recent, absurdly funny, and one to watch with straight bourbon in your glass.

    Cheers to you and yours, and Merry Christmas!

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