Friday, April 30, 2021

Motorcycles mix with musical comedy in 1935 film

Man riding racing motorcycle at speed.
Actor/musician/comedian George Formby riding the TT course.

I can't see whether there are any Royal Enfield motorcycles in the 1935 movie "No Limit." The riding action on the Isle of Man TT course is too fast for me to tell.

But 1935 is certainly a classic year for all British motorcycles, and the Isle of Man course is the perfect setting, even if the movie's special effects are occasionally lame.

That's OK, because this is neither documentary nor drama. It's musical comedy of the silliest kind, featuring Britain's George Formby and his ukulele.

A talented musician, his tinny songs will remind Americans of Tiny Tim. It's cringe-worthy, especially the one song in "No Limit" that Formby delivers while in black face.

An appreciation by Corinna Mantlo on The Vintagent site alerted me that Formby had made a movie based on the TT races.

"An early George Formby film and probably his best," she writes.

You can watch it for free on The Vintagent's Vimeo channel.

Here's a highlights film from YouTube:

Formby would go on to strum Britons into better moods during World War II. In one film he gets to punch "Hitler" in the nose. Some have pointed out that these sort of antics would have done a lot more to raise morale than a realistic movie about how the war was going in 1943.

Queen Elizabeth is said to be a Formby fan. In general, I'm not.

It doesn't help that only the sight-gags in "No Limit" really work for me. The "jokes" are otherwise slow-paced and situations drag on too long, perhaps fortunately, since it gives me time to translate Formby's British accent in my mind.

But you've got to see "No Limit" for the motorcycle action. Yes, some is obviously fake, but that's part of the fun. You always know this is a joke; no one is really going to get killed.

So relax and try to imagine whether you could ride well enough at that speed to get through the corner. I certainly can't imagine doing it.

If you've read much about the historic TT race you'll recognize most of those corners. They're all hairy, and the crash-filled movie shows you why.

Naturally, our hero survives to get a kiss from his mother at the end of the race. He gets "the girl" too. Not giving anything away here: you always knew he would.

The movie has plenty of fans. A statue of Formby, in character wearing motorcycle goggles, is on a street in Douglas, Isle of Man.

Statue of motorcyclist playing the ukulele.
Our hero on the Isle of Man.
(Andrew Abbott Photo)

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