I first saw Jack McNaughton in Cardboard Cavalier as a child one rainy Saturday morning. Cardboard Cavalier was the vehicle for another variety artist and comedian – Sid Field. Sid had shot to fame in the 1940s with hugely successful shows at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
The shows were Strike a Note, Strike it Again and Piccadilly Hayride and they made Field an ‘overnight’ success. Adored by theatre goers and critics alike Sid was also revered and respected by comedy legends like Tony Hancock, Eric Sykes, Eric Morecambe and Tommy Cooper who cited him as an influence on their careers. Field’s career was a short one. He died of a heart attack in 1950 aged just 45. Sid only made three films.
Cardboard Cavalier (1949) is a romp through Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Hapless Cockney barrow boy Sidcup Buttermeadow (Field) becomes embroiled in a plot to restore Charles II to the throne. Scripted by Noel Langley the plot is based loosely on the romance between Lord Lovelace and Nell Gwynne. Sid falls for Gwynne (Margaret Lockwood) and becomes an unwitting spy, passing a message to Charles II in exile.
Jack McNaughton does a turn as a suitably evil inquisitor in Cromwell’s pay called Uriah Croup. Croup tries to foil the plot and keep the Commonwealth intact through various foul means. It was one of Jack McNaughton’s bigger film roles, although he went on to act in some ‘bigger’ films that met with more critical success at the time and are looked on as classics today – Brighton Rock for example.
It’s a classic knockabout comedy of the period and has a few gags in it that withstand the test of time.
Go here to watch the movie online or download it.