Twice Around the Daffodils (1962) is a classic example of what British cinema became best-known for during the 1960’s (outside of kitchen-sink-dramas and gothic horror) – old-fashioned, feel-good humour. Widely considered an unofficial entry to the ‘Carry On’ cannon, this comedy set within a TB sanatorium, featured several of the famous film series production staff including director Gerald Thomas, producer Peter Rogers and writer Norman Hudis, as well as starring many of its regular cast members like Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims.
Six male patients (Donald Sinden, Donald Houston, Ronald Lewis, Andrew Ray, Lance Percival and Williams) are convalescing from TB at a country sanatorium. The sign that they will be well enough to go home is when they can manage to walk twice around a large bed of daffodils which forms the centre piece of the garden outside their ward window. During the ensuing months the barriers between the men break down and they become friends, whilst at the same time showing a healthy interest in the nurses who are there to look after them.
It is doubtful Twice Around the Daffodils could be made now with today’s crass and laddish approach to humour. Fundamentally a ‘boy’s own’ tale with all the major characters male, it has an endearing naivety missing from today’s ‘hip’ and ‘clever’ comedies. Its approach to humour may be viewed as sexist and ‘non-pc’ by many modern audiences, but it is done with such innocence and clearly at the expense of the male characters who often come out as the fools of the piece, that only a dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon would fail to see its funny side.
The film’s other underlying beauty is its ability to hold your interest for its eighty five minute duration, despite it all taking place virtually within one room. As much an exploration of the six characters burgeoning friendships, as of their schoolboy infatuations with the nurses who look after them, the film acts as an early showcase for the talents and pin-sharp comedic timing of a group of character actors, many of whom would go on to become household names.
The recent release of Twice Around the Daffodils on DVD was not only a perfect way to mark its 50th anniversary, but also to remember a more innocent era of Britain and British comedy.