Alastair Sim is Wetherby Pond, the unyielding headmaster of Nutbourne College, struggling with a wartime blunder that merges his all-male establishment with a girls’ school, led by the fearsome and terrifyingly competent headmistress Muriel Whitchurch (Margaret Rutherford).
The two head teachers are soon battling for the upper hand with each other and the Ministry of Education (Resettlement Department), amidst a landscape of dazed, eccentric teachers and a student body whose mischief knows no bounds.
A crisis (or two) forces the pair to work together when they discover they are faced with two troublesome visits on the same day: one from a group of parents who must believe the school is only for girls, and one from the ministry who must be presented with an all-boys establishment.
It’s a perfect vehicle for Sim’s comedy of exasperation, with director Frank Launder expertly juggling the farce, and – in the process – establishing the template for the highly successful St Trinian’s series.
Frank Launder and John Dighton wisely discarded the original John Dighton farce and re-wrote it wholly for the screen.
Joyce Grenfell is a standout in one of her archetypal roles as sports mistress Miss Gossage (“Call me sausage”). Richard Wattis is also a joy as the cynical mathematics master,
The movie was filmed in Liss, Hampshire, at the village infant school. Real pupils were featured as extras.