THE EMPIRE CLASSIC SCENE DAVENPORT (Raymond Huntley):
THE WAY AHEAD CHOSEN BY HUGH GRANT LUKE (John Laurie): Stuka, sir. BREWER (Stanley Holloway): Focke-wulf 190, sir. STAINER (Jimmie Hanley): Lysander, sir.
Hugh Grant: "I've always loved that David Niven World War II film, The Way Ahead. They're all very gloom and things are going very badly in his platoon. So he says to one of his men, 'Got that machine of yours?' 'Yes, sir.' 'Well, play it, and the rest of you, for heaven sake, sing!' And they all sing Lily of Laguna. It makes me cry ebery time." INT. CAFÉ RISPOLI — DAY
Lt Jim Perry (David Niven) is addressing his platoon, who have gathered in the Café Rispoli.
PERRY: I had hoped we would have seen rather more enemy aircraft around here than we have done, so that you could have kept up with your aircraft recognition without using these model things. However, all we have seen is a couple of rather dreary-looking reconnaissance planes, so we’d better just run through the German types to make quite sure you haven’t forgotten them.
He unfolds a chart and points at the airplane on it.
PERRY: We’ll start off with a few questions. What’s this one? Davenport? Messerschmitt 109-F, sir. PERRY: That’s right. This one. Luke? PERRY: That’s right. He picks up a model plane. PERRY: Brewer? Perry puts it down. He picks up another model. PERRY: Stainer? PERRY: Parsons, what’s the difference between a Lysander and a Henschel 126?
PARSONS (Hugh Burden): Different undercarriages, sir. The wings of the Henschel are swept back, and on the Lizzie they look as if they’re swept forward but they aren’t really. Perry looks at his man. Silence. He recognises that morale is low. Something is needed.
PERRY: Stainer, have you got that machine of yours?
STAINER: Yes, sir. PERRY: Well, play it and the rest of you, for heaven’s sake, sing.
Stainer produces his ukulele and starts strumming Lily Of Laguna. Brewer starts humming along, the men join him with whistling. They start singing.
ALL: “She’s no gal for sittin’ down to dream, she’s the only queen Laguna knows...”
Perry checks to see if they’re all singing. Rispoli, the café owner (Peter Ustinov), looks on.
ALL: “I know she likes me/i know she likes me/ Because she says so/she is my lily of Laguna/she is my lily and my rose/she’s my lady love, she is my dove, my baby love.”
Perry joins in. And now his men fully commit, their voices rising and building as one as the song draws to its conclusion.