Three Men in a Boat

At this time of year the TV companies decide that we are all on holiday, outside in the garden or down the pub and put out shows and series that are either repeats or of no interest to man nor beast.

Three Men in a Boat

Rather than be bored to bits Mrs B and myself dig out some old favourites on DVD and watch these instead.

The film of Three Men in a Boat is based very loosely on Jerome K Jerome’s novel. See my article on the Buckinghamshire section of Jerome’s trip.

I say loosely because it is almost impossible to make a film of Three Men in a Boat the book and comparisons will surely lead to disappointment. It follows the adventures of J, George and Harris (and Montmorency the dog) on a boating trip down the Thames.

There is not much in the book about the trip but a lot on Jerome’s musings on life which sometimes borders on the excruciating and romantically naive. But there are lots of amusing anecdotes from all three friends which make up the bulk of the book and on which nearly all adaptations rely.

The film version of Three Men in a Boat stars Laurence Harvey, David Tomlinson and Jimmy Edwards. It is a classic portrait of what we all believe England was like in Edwardian times, maybe how we would like England to be now; and how most foreigners still believe we are.

The three men wear outrageously striped blazers and white trousers with occasional boaters. They decide on a boating holiday but have no idea of how to row, steer or when it comes to it, luff and reef on a sailing craft.

It doesn’t matter; it is the spirit of an Englishman to take to the water and experience the charm, grace and adventure of the River Thames. They first alight at Hampton Court and enter the obligatory maze. Harris has a plan which he explains to everybody else in the maze who are completely lost that the simple way out is to keep turning right. Which they do and still get lost.

At Hampton Court George meets Miss Daisy, Miss Primrose and Miss Clutterbuck; Lisa Gastoni, Jill Ireland and Shirley Eaton respectively and three more attractive English roses you could not wish to meet.

The romantic adventures lurch form bad to worse with mud and water playing a large part including getting their nose (of the boat) stuck in the lock whilst the photographer takes a flash portrait. ‘Oh calamity’ gasps Robertson Hare as the three men fall over. Indeed!

They are not finished. Harris tries to sing a comic song from Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, if only he sang the song that the accompanist was playing.

They arrive at Oxford where they somehow find themselves taking the field in a cricket match, Montmorency causes mayhem and the wives and girlfriends finally catch up with them.

The scenery is picturesque, the Thames glorious, the ladies dresses pretty, the weather everything from sunny to wet and the men as daft as we expect Englishmen on holiday chasing beautiful girls to be. A classic. Do not expect great acting or a side splitting script but do enjoy a slice of England that has gone and will never return.

This page and more in a similar vein comes from a collection in my eBook So! You want to be British.