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Film / Passport to Pimlico

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A 1949 comedy film from Ealing Studios, directed by Henry Cornelius and starring Stanley Holloway, Hermione Baddeley, Margaret Rutherford, and Paul Dupuis.

When an unexploded World War II bomb is accidentally set off in the working-class Pimlico district of central London, long-buried documents are uncovered proving that the area is legally part of the Duchy of Burgundy, and therefore foreign territory. While the locals are only too glad of the opportunity to declare their independence from the bureaucracy and austerity of post-war Britain, the UK government responds by setting up border controls and export restrictions in an attempt to starve the Burgundians into submission. Hilarity Ensues.

The film was a big influence on the 1959 Columbia Pictures comedy The Mouse That Roared.

Passport to Pimlico provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Title.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba:
    Professor Hayton-Jones: Picture a battlefield. 9,481 frozen corpses are all that remains of Burgundy's pride. The Duke himself lies slain among them. This poor naked body, robbed by harpies, bitten by wolves, the visage battered beyond recognition, this they accept as the last earthly remains of Charles VII, Duke of Burgundy, last of the line of Charolais. Do they judge correctly? Is this indeed the cadaver of Charles the Rash? Ha-ha! If so, then I am Joan of Arc.
  • Creator In-Joke: The radio announcement at the start mentions Latin music performed by "Les Norman and his Bethnal Green Bambinos". This is an in-joke referring to Ealing producer Leslie Norman. Bethnal Green was an unattractive area in the East End of London.
  • Dramatic Thunder: At the very moment Britain and Burgundy are reunited once more, as marked by the chimes of Big Ben, there's a clap of thunder, and rain pours down on the celebration banquet.
  • Foreigner for a Day: The Burgandians.
    Mrs Pemberton: We always were English and we always will be English; and it's just because we are English that we're sticking out for our right to be Burgundians!
  • Heat Wave: The lunacy takes place during an uncharacteristic London heatwave. Only when the more traditional rain returns is normality restored.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The British civil servants negotiating with the Burgundians aren't very competent. Usually it's themselves they obstruct. War-ravaged Brits had had enough of officialdom, which didn't let up during post-war reconstruction, and would have been glad of the opportunity to have a laugh at the officials' expense.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When the film was shot, the UK was indeed going through a Heat Wave, (1949 is considered one of the greatest summers of British history) so it was decided to write it into the plot, becoming one of the most loved plot points of whole film
  • The Siege: The British government cuts off supplies of food, water and electricity but the Burgundians stand firm with the help of the stock held by the pub, a water pipe attached surreptitiously to a fire hydrant on the British side of the border, and food parcels thrown over the border by sympathetic Londoners.
  • Tuckerization: A placard can be seen that says "Forget that Cripps feeling". This refers to Stafford Cripps, who was the-then Chancellor of the Exchequer.