Arthur Askey was born in Liverpool, England in 1900. He was small in stature, only five feet two inches tall, “with a breezy, smiling personality, and wore distinctive horn-rimmed glasses”. He served in the British armed forces during World War I and began performing in army shows. Arthur got his big show business break in 1938 on the BBC radio comedy series Band Waggon. The first few episodes of Band Waggon were not very popular and the show was almost canceled but Arthur and his partner, Richard Murdoch, took over the writing and came up with a better format that had Arthur and Richard sharing a flat on top of the Broadcasting House. Radio fans loved the new format and sent hundreds of letters each week to the fictional flat. The popular radio show was adapted as a stage production and a 1940 film, Band Waggon, starring Arthur and his partner Richard. The two men made several films together until Richard was conscripted into the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the War, both Arthur and Richard went on to star in various films and television shows, including the short-lived television series, Living It Up, that brought the Arthur – Richard partnership back after an absence of 18 years. Arthur Askey continued to work into his eighties until poor circulation resulted in gangrene and the amputation of both legs. He died a few months later at age 82.
Arthur Askey’s popular comedy style combined a lovable persona (he was nicknamed “Big-Hearted Arthur”), rapid-fire humor, and the “masterly use of the ad-lib”. He was also well known for his popular catch phrases which included: “Hello playmates”, “Before your very eyes”, “Doesn’t it make you want to spit”, and “I thank you”. Arthur’s first ad most famous catch phrase “I thank you” (pronounced in Arthur’s particular Lancashire provincial accent as “Ay-Thang-Yew”) was used as the title of Arthur and Richard’s 1941 film I Thank You.
I Thank You is a black and white film that premiered in the United Kingdom on October 20, 1941. The film is set in World War II London in the midst of The Blitz. In fact, the film opens with Arthur waking up among a crowd of people all sleeping in the subway for safety during the Nazi bombings. Sounds like a rather dreary opening doesn’t it? But it’s not. This is my third Arthur Askey film and so far they have all been big-hearted, fun, and simple but lively films. This film is no different. Arthur may be waking up in a make-shift bomb shelter but he wakes up with a song in his heart and on his lips as he happily sings “Hello to the Sun”. It turns out Arthur is an actor and singer who is determined to get the financial backing to put on a new show. Arthur merrily makes his way to his agent’s office with the rest of his troupe. Unfortunately for them, their agent has mishandled their funds and their wealthy backer, Lady Randall (played by Lily Morris), wants nothing to do with any new ventures. Arthur and his partner “Stinker” (Richard Murdoch) decide they have to approach Lady Randall themselves. When they can not get in the front door to see the formidable lady, Arthur and Stinker go around to the back door and get in by pretending to be applying as servants. Stinker gets the job as new footman while Arthur has to don drag as Stinker’s “wife” and the new cook. When he does not have the proper uniform and apron, Arthur simply “borrows” one from the house next door. He also “borrows” their lunch which results in all sorts of problems when the angry cook next door goes on a rampage in search of her missing clothes and food. Lady Randall thinks she has hired two good servants and leaves on a trip before Arthur and Stinker can reveal themselves and ask for money for their show. Arthur and Stinker are supposed to care for Lady Randall’s house, dogs, and rascally old father but almost immediately everything descends into chaos as the old man blackmails Arthur and Stinker and purposefully sets them up for trouble, the dogs run wild through the house, the theatrical troupe all arrive ready to sing and dance, and the cook next door and her bruiser of a boyfriend seek revenge. Throw in a disdainful doctor, a drunken brother-in-law, and a rifle on the rooftop and Lady Randall will be lucky if her house is still standing when she gets back.
I Thank You is a short but happy little musical comedy. It runs about 78 minutes long. Besides the opening song, Arthur and Richard together sing “Half of Everything is Yours”. Various members of the acting troupe sing “Oh, Johnny Teach Me to Dance” and a catchy anti-Nazi song “Let’s Get Hold of Hitler” and even Lady Randall belts out “Waiting at the Church”. The songs are cute, the characters are all gung-ho, and the film trips along at a pretty fast pace. There are some absolutely hilarious chase and fight scenes as Lady Randall’s house is steadily smashed to smithereens. Count me a confirmed Arthur Askey fan, I had a grand time and, Arthur Askey, I Thank You.
The Internet Archive has five versions of I Thank You available to watch online or download absolutely FREE. I watched Version #1 and the film is in great shape. Audio is crisp and clear, video is just a bit blurry but there is no real damage. The film is fast paced and the perfect mix of a little history (World War II London subway stations double as bomb shelters and underground theaters) and lots and lots of hilarity. Just click on the following links, sit back, and get ready to laugh:
Do you want more Arthur Askey? I have reviewed two other Arthur films. Click the following and get links to watch: