Cottage to Let (1941) - British Thriller with Humor

Thriller Thursday

Cottage to Let (1941) follows an eccentric inventor and his wife who rent out property in the English countryside during the blitz. Many interested parties arrive. The movie immediately sets up thrills and suspense. Almost every character on the property is deceptive.

A new tenant has concealed weaponry.
A wounded lieutenant (John Mills) recovering in their makeshift cottage/sick room pretends to make calls on an unplugged phone.
The butler is enigmatic.
There are locked rooms and suspicious characters moving in and out all day.

Are these spies? What are they after? Who is there to sort it all out? Ronald (George Cole), a boy from London sent to the country for safekeeping. Ronald is a devotee of Sherlock Holmes and immediately sets about to solve the wide range of mysteries going on in what he thought would be a boring turn in a rural area. There is danger and drama and a shocking, action-packed ending.

Cottage to Let (1941), aka Bombsight Stolen, is a whodunit and a comedy! Mrs Barrington (Jeanne De Casalis) is my absolute favorite character in the film. She flits about making arrangements, forgets that she's overbooked her rentals, makes do and is so cheerfully absent-minded.  She's a mix between characters often played by Billie Burke and Spring Byington.  Great for a laugh!

The 1940s were Gainsborough Pictures' most prolific and eclectic decade as a movie studio. Whether it was a corset and bustle movie, a modern comedy or a musical, there is something distinctive about this company that makes even the most staid and mundane of plots fresh and exciting. There seems to be such chaos and anarchy in these films that the audience is never sure where the story will go.

It's a shame, really, that Gainsborough was forced to close its doors in the 1950s. I love plucky, unpretentious, little studios like this. With its in-jokes, popular culture references and up-to-the-minute concerns, one feels he/she is eavesdropping  on someone's private conversation with a friend.

  • Watch Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) for another dose of Gainsborough Pictures. It follows a new railroad station master's bid to make his little spot a train destination for tourists. This entire film feels like a in-joke to which I am not privy, yet it is still charming in a half-baked way.


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