On Sunday night, BBC4 broadcast The Cricklewood Greats, a mockumentary charting the rise and fall of a fictional film studio, invented by writer/director/host Peter Capaldi. The programme doubled as a cheeky history of popular British cinema, featuring eerily accurate pastiches of everything from ersatz Hammer Horror productions to “Carry On” style comedies.
My favourite section focussed on a disgraced actress from the ‘30s named ‘Florrie Fontaine’, who supposedly starred in over 140 films (such as Dial F For Florrie, Florrie Takes the Biscuit, and Florrie Drives a Lorry), before betraying her country by dyeing her hair blonde and cosying up to Goebbels! Despite that horridious error of judgement, I thought the little lass’s pre-war films actually looked a lot of fun… so it’s a shame they don’t actually exist outside of the few brief clips included here. Florrie herself was perfectly played by Lyndsey Marshal, who’s no stranger to wearing old timey dress, having previously appeared in period dramas like The Hours and Garrow’s Law, as well as HBO’s Rome… although I mostly remember her from Annie Griffin’s excellent Festival, as an actress attempting to drum up interest in her one-woman show about Dorothy Wordsworth.
Overall I thought Cricklewood Greats was a little light on laughs and rather too mean-spirited when it came to mocking the uniformly tragic lives of its subjects, but the film parodies were incredibly well done, and actually made me a little nostalgic for the bygone days of cheap-but-cheerful Britflicks. We sure don’t make ‘em like we used to!