For Wally (Tony Hancock) – the Punch and Judy Man in a small seaside town – and his wife Delia (Sylvia Sims), the approaching end of the summer season also seems to be bringing to an end their unsuccessful marriage.
Wally is an artist of sorts, with his own kind of integrity, but he faces opposition from both the town’s Mayor (Ronald Fraser) – a progressive individualist who looks down on the men who entertain on the sands – and Delia herself, a social climber who sees her chances of settling comfortably into the town’s higher bracket jeopardised by her husband’s reputation.
Wally has long been an assailant in the fight against snobbery and misses no opportunity to display his feelings.
Those who share his feelings are his assistant Edward (Hugh Lloyd), the quietly droll Sandman (John Le Mesurier), and – to a certain extent – the beach photographer, Nevil (Mario Fabrizi).
The summer season ends on a high note with the gala celebrations to mark 60 years of the town’s history. The Mayoress (Pauline Jameson) visits Delia and asks if her husband will perform at the cabaret which will follow the celebration dinner.
Delia accepts, knowing full well that Wally will be horrified by the idea, so she can see Lady Jane Caterham (Barbara Murray), the darling of the gossip columns who has been invited to switch on the illuminations.
At first, Wally refuses to perform at the function, but a small spark of loyalty and affection still remains in his relationship with Delia, and he finally agrees.
It is at the gala that Delia’s eyes are opened for the first time about the sugar-candy world in which she would like to live.
And though the evening ends in total disaster for both Delia and Wally – making it impossible for them to continue living in the town – it seems their marriage may have found new life, based on mutual understanding.
As his second film failed to live up to the promise and success of his first, The Rebel (1961), The Punch and Judy Man turned out to be Hancock’s last.
Lady Jane Caterham
John Le Mesurier