“Upstairs and Downstairs” (1959) Starring Michael Craig, Anne Heywood, Mylene Demongeot, James Robertson Justice, Daniel Massey, Sid James, Joan Hickson, Joan Sims, Claudia Cardinale. Written by Frank Harvey, based on a novel by Ronald Scott Thorn. Directed by Ralph Thomas. What is it about British comedies that they seem to be populated by an unfair abundance of quirky, happily oddball characters who effortlessly operate in a world of their own individual behavioral devising- a quality that in genteel American terms might be referred to (if Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is used as a barometer of appropriate living) as “being pixilated” but in British terms might be more appropriately identified as “eccentricity”? Successful British comedies are abundant with eccentricity, more often than not with a seemingly inexhaustible population capable of all manifestations of drollery from deliciously awkward mannerisms, to comically twisted asides. Somehow, in the world of British comedy, even the normal is slightly askew, but in a civilized way, which makes the social aberrations all the more delicious. Ralph Thomas’ “Upstairs and Downstairs” is a fine example of the sturdy social center upended by a dizzying orbit of eccentricity.
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