The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954) – Frank Launder 


The exploration of family titles continues in my time with the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book. This one is one of the recommendations for my viewing of Way Out West, and it has the luxury of introducing me to an Alastair Sims film that I didn’t know about (though admittedly my knowledge of his work is extremely limited).

For this one, Alastair Sims pulls double duty as the head mistress, Millie, of the all girls school, St. Trinian’s as well as her devious, gambling brother Clarence. This alone makes this film a fun watch, but when you add in the wide cast of young girls who seem more intent on causing problems than studying maths, it makes for a really enjoyable family film.

Every term that St. Trinian’s is in causes worry amongst the local villagers, it seems troubling incidents mount, yes, even minor crime, property damage, theft.

When a wealthy maharajah arranges for his daughter, Fatima (Lorna Henderson) to attend the school, conveniently located near the stables and race track where his horse will run, and hopefully win, Millie sees the opportunity to finally find a way to raise her school out of debt, and perhaps pay her staff, which hasn’t been done since Easter.

When Clarence arrives, she begrudgingly re-admits her niece, Arabella (Vivienne Martin) to the program. But he has a cunning plan to use her to get close to Fatima so he can learn if her horse poses a threat to one he plans to bet on. Well, he and a number of his gang.

While Millie sidesteps tricks, pranks, and violent attempts on her life by the students, there are other forces at work…


There’s an undercover police officer, Gates (Joyce Grenfell) attempting to investigate the spikes in local crime that occur in and around the school when term is in.

There is also Harry (George Cole), previous, perhaps still employee of the school who has made a bit of coin with the girls’ help and can be summoned at anytime from the bushes by a whistle. He’s a bit of a con man, but mostly honest in his dealings with the school and the girls. Mostly.

As the film rolls along there is horse-napping, all out war between the girls and Clarence’s gang, all culminating on Parent’s Day for the school. The girls are unstoppable however, and are really funny. There isn’t enough time or attention paid to them, so their characters tend to blur together, but they do provide some wonderfully comic moments.

In the end, the school may be saved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is actually every going to change there. Not if the girls have their way.

This one was a cute little film, and was fun to see Sims playing both sides as a goodie and a baddie.

Have you seen it?




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