|Directed by||Clive Brook|
|Produced by||Clive Brook|
Sydney Box (executive producer)
|Written by||Clive Brook (adaptation)|
|Based on||On Approval|
by Frederick Lonsdale
|Narrated by||E. V. H. Emmett|
|Music by||William Alwyn|
|Edited by||Fergus McDonell|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors|
On Approval is a 1944 British romantic comedy film, produced, directed and co-written by Clive Brook. Brook also starred, with Beatrice Lillie, Googie Withers and Roland Culver. It is the second film adaptation of the play On Approval by Frederick Lonsdale, the first being the 1930 film of the same name. In this version, the setting was moved from the 20th century back to the late Victorian period.
George, 10th Duke of Bristol, and his friend Richard Halton are poverty-stricken members of the British upper class, George having squandered his money on women (as he tells the film's narrator). They attend a party at George's own London home, let to the young, wealthy and attractive American Helen Hale. At the soiree, George is rude to Maria Wislack, a rich widow with whom he is acquainted. Richard is genuinely in love with Maria, but will not tell her so due to his poverty. Meanwhile, George is oblivious to the fact that Helen is in love with him, and finds the thought of marriage distasteful. Maria grows tired of waiting for Richard to make his feelings known and proposes that they spend a month together as man and wife in Scotland "on approval" to see how they get along (although he will have to sleep in a hotel). George, much to their mutual discomfort, invites himself along. They are soon joined by Helen.
The unexpected arrival of additional - and unmarried - guests disturbs Mrs McCosh, Maria's housekeeper, and she soon departs, taking with her all of the household servants. The two couples are left to fend for themselves. Richard does his best to please the demanding Maria, though Helen privately advises him to tell her to "go to hell". George, in the meantime, loafs and does nothing to help out.
At the end of three weeks, Maria tells Richard that she is willing to marry him and even to settle £5000 a year on him, but when he discovers that what he had thought was a test of his patience turns out to be the way she behaves normally, he turns her down. At the same time, George decides he loves Helen and asks her to marry him. She would have been happy to accept his proposal three weeks earlier, but after becoming better acquainted with him, she recommends that he marry the temperamentally more compatible Maria instead. Helen has long felt sympathy, but begins to feel an attraction toward Richard and suggests they leave Maria and George alone together in the otherwise deserted house. In the meantime, George and Maria declare a truce, with George suggesting they win their respective love interests over by pretending a regard for each other. Helen and Richard depart in the only boat. Richard leaves a note containing one word: "Ho!".
Helen and Richard have nightmares about George and Maria, together alone in Maria's house. They row back to the house in the middle of the night, but no one comes to the door in response to the bell. When Richard climbs up to Maria's bedroom window, she is frightened by the (to her) unknown intruder and rushes to George's room. There is where Helen and Richard find them together. Recriminations soon follow.
The film then flashes forward to Helen, who is showing the family photo album to her two sons. The narrator addresses her as Lady Bristol, only to be corrected by her. She has married Richard, while George, to the narrator's disbelief, is Maria's partner.
Clive Brook took this popular play (originally set in the early 1920s) and placed it in the late Victorian era, where the concept would've been much more shocking. Brook wrote the screenplay (keeping very close to the original play), produced and directed the film. It's one of the very few films featuring Beatrice Lillie, often referred to as "The funniest woman in the world" for her eccentric personality and portrayals in so many amusing stage plays and revues.
The film begins with an amusing documentary-style prologue about contemporary life in 1942 England, which serves to introduce Brook's character, George, in the late Victorian era.
Filmmaker Lindsay Anderson called the film "the funniest British light comedy ever made" (according to the DVD box).
On Approval was the "dark horse" of the 2014 edition of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. The first screening of On Approval, held at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on the first full day of the festival, was a sell-out prompting a second showing at the Chinese on the final day of the festival (which also sold out). The two screenings were introduced by film historian Jeffrey Vance, who also recorded an audio commentary track for the Blu-ray edition of the film.