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Penny Paradise (1938)

A Liverpool tug boat captain finds he's won a fortune on the penny pools and it changes his life. However, after giving up his job and throwing a large expensive party, he discovers that he... See full summary »


Carol Reed


Thomas Browne (dialogue), Thomas Browne (scenario) | 5 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Edmund Gwenn ... Joe Higgins
Betty Driver ... Betty Higgins
Jimmy O'Dea Jimmy O'Dea ... Pat
Ethel Coleridge Ethel Coleridge ... Aunt Agnes
Maire O'Neill Maire O'Neill ... Widow Clegg
Jack Livesey ... Bert
Syd Crossley Syd Crossley ... Uncle Lancelot
Lloyd Pearson Lloyd Pearson
James Harcourt James Harcourt ... Amos Cook
Frederick Burtwell Frederick Burtwell ... Policeman


A Liverpool tug boat captain finds he's won a fortune on the penny pools and it changes his life. However, after giving up his job and throwing a large expensive party, he discovers that he may not really have won after all. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis









Release Date:

20 February 1939 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


On Friday 20th May 1938 Betty Driver celebrated her 18th birthday during the shooting of the film, discovering the crew had filled her dressing room to the roof with flowers. See more »


The name on the bows of the "new" tug clearly reads ALFRED, although in the dialogue she is referred to by the grandiose name of MERSEY QUEEN. See more »


Featured in The Betty Driver Story (2011) See more »


You Can't Have Your Cake
Written by Harry Parr Davies
Performed by Betty Driver
See more »

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User Reviews

Betty and Better
4 August 2006 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee all my reviews

I admit I only saw this picture as second choice to "Of Human Bondage", which was booked out by the time I got to the cinema; but it turned out to be a thoroughly good-humoured and enjoyable little comedy that drew laughter from across the audience. Edmund Gwenn and Jimmy O'Dea shine as a double-act of the captain of a Liverpool tugboat with a wimpish whistle and his happy-go-lucky Irish first mate, and a selection of formidable womenfolk give them something to think about at home, from the captain's daughter (Betty Driver), to the widow he's courting and the sanctimonious Aunt Agnes. The humour is by and large undemanding without ever becoming crude, with the exception of a couple of pure slapstick moments; and there are many jokes made by sight gags alone without labouring the point, as when the embarrassed Captain Higgins encounters first the glare of a hostile child and then, turning away in confusion, the glassy stare of a large dead fish. It rarely puts a foot wrong or over-emphasises a joke for fear the audience might miss the point -- indeed, if anything it errs the other way, for the heavy local accents and tinny recording meant that some of the lines (and laughs) only came through belatedly when the wording became evident from the reply.

I'm not clear whether this was meant to be a musical or not; it features a number of fairly gratuitous musical numbers which I felt on balance to be a misjudgement, especially those sung (or lip-synched) by Betty Driver. A contemporary reviewer described the unfortunate Miss Driver as "a spirited young woman with a voice translated by either recording or reproduction into the accents of an electric saw", and while unkind, the description is a little too accurate for comfort. Her performance as an actress is competent without being outstanding, although again her voice can be difficult to follow.

Jimmy O'Dea as Pat, the little Irishman, also performs a song on demand, which comes across rather better due to the sentiment being so utterly at odds with the character's demeanour: it's played for laughs, whereas Betty Driver's ballads are apparently intended to be taken at face value. His was definitely the most memorable performance among the cast, although Edmund Gwenn in the lead role also gives good value.

"Penny Paradise" is not a big-budget production (although the period scenes of location work on the Mersey are nowadays fascinating), but it enjoys a good script and admirable actors, which generally counts for more, and the pacing is generally excellent. And everyone gets exactly what they deserve in the last reel, which is always a satisfying experience!

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