The Battle of the Sexes is directed by Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob/ The Titfield Thunderbolt) and it stars Peter Sellers, Robert Morley & Constance Cummings. It’s based on the short story The Catbird Seat written by James Thurber, with the script written by Monja Danischewsky.
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The grand House of MacPherson in Scotland has been supplying genuine Scottish tweeds for many years. Tho Woven out in the sticks by the professionals, the tweeds are sold out of the Macpherson HQ in Edinburgh. When Old MacPherson (Ernest Thesiger) dies, his son, Young MacPherson (Morley), takes over but is hardly blessed with business acumen. Things start to get dicey when he brings in Angela Barrows (Cummings) as an efficiency expert, an American lady he met on the train. The ageing staff, led by Mr. Martin (Sellers), is horrified as she starts updating the methods of running a business. To their minds a woman is for making the tea and cleaning up, not for doing away with hundreds of years of tradition with new fangled contraptions and ideas. However, Mr. Martin hatches a plan to rid the company of this meddlesome modern tyrant.
Something of an unknown British comedy featuring the great Peter Sellers, The Battle of The Sexes sees him teamed with Crichton to deliver a smart and very funny piece. The film is dealing in cultural clashes and the battle is not just of the sexes, but also a poignant conflict between the advent of time and its impact on business’. Arcane traditionalists versus the forward thinking modern capitalist: or if you like? British custom versus American progress. Both played superbly by Sellers; as the calm and unhurried Mr. Martin; and Cummings as the get up and at em quickly Angela Barrows. Danischewsky’s script is very impressive given that the source was very slight, and Crichton has done wonders to not let the film descend into slapstick or out of place screwball. Much like Mr. Martin, the comedy is very sedate, unhurried or forced. There’s some farce in there, with one chase sequence in Angela’s apartment wonderfully constructed, but the film never gets out of control and it’s all the better for it. As the two rivals try to outwit each other, this brings Morley’s (great as usual) oblivious Young Mac into play. The result is a three pronged character piece deserving of a bigger audience. 8/10
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