He Snoops to Conquer

He Snoops to Conquer is a 1944 British comedy film directed by Marcel Varnel starring George Formby, Robertson Hare, Elizabeth Allan, and Claude Bailey. Its plot involves an odd job man who becomes mixed up in corruption in politics and town planning.[1] Its title is a paronomasia of the theatre comedy, She Stoops to Conquer.

He Snoops to Conquer
Directed byMarcel Varnel
Produced byMarcel Varnel
Ben Henry
Written byStephen Black
Norman Lee
Howard Irving Young
Langford Reed
StarringGeorge Formby
Robertson Hare
Elizabeth Allan
Music byHarry Bidgood
Eddie Latta
CinematographyRoy Fogwell
Edited byMax Brenner
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
12 December 1944 (1944-12-12)
Running time
103 mins
CountryUnited Kingdom


The film is set in immediate post-war Britain. After being ordered to do a piece on town planning two newspapermen randomly pick on the small, industrial town of Tangleton. After arriving at the town hall the only man they can find working is the odd job man, George Gribble, who gives them a guided tour of the town. However, they run a negative angle on the story highlighting the fact that the wealthy leader of the council, Mr Oxbold, lives in a giant house by himself while Gribble is one of fourteen staying in a tiny slum house. When they read the article, the town's leaders order Gribble to do a public opinion investigation around the town. Instead of doing a cross section as ordered, he interviews the entire town's population. The results he produces shock the town's complacent leaders, who discover the people are deeply unhappy with the status quo and wants radical changes in living conditions and other services. This is a blow to the council leader and his colleagues who all have financial interests in keeping the town as it is. Oxbold is a slum landlord who fears a Whitehall scheme to demolish much of the existing town and rebuild it with council houses. To avert this, Oxbold and his colleagues decide to send off to London only those limited number of forms which praise the current situation. Gribble is ordered to burn the rest but, not wishing to waste paper, he puts them out for salvage instead.

Gribble had agreed to conduct the polling in return for being paid £27.10s (decimal equivalent: £27.50). which he needed to give to a loan shark. However, facing upcoming municipal elections with a clearly unpopular the town's leader decide to invite the inventor Sir Timothy Strawberry to stand for the council to boost its popularity. Strawberry is a wealthy, reclusive, eccentric who enjoys popularity in the town because of his extensive Philanthropy. Strawberry was the only man who did not respond to the polling because Gribble could not get past the door by the butler. Gribble is told he cannot have his money until he completes his survey and is sent off to find out of Strawberry has sound opinions, but again fails to get into the house. He then enjoys a chance meeting with Strawberry in the street, when after a mishap, they find themselves careering through the town on the road sweeper. Gribble accidentally presses a button that releases all the unfavourable polling forms through the street. To avoid the police on their tail they go and shelter in Strawberry's house, where Gribble meets Strawberry's daughter Jane who he is immediately smitten by.

Despite finally persuading Strawberry to fill out his form Gribble is sacked by his bosses when they discover that it was he who originally showed the newspapermen round the town. His problems mount when he is beset by an angry mob of townspeople who have found the abandoned forms on the street and blame Gribble for the cover up. He is also pursued by a bailiff for the money he owes. However, Jane comes up with the idea of Gribble running for the council on a pro-town planning platform. With the support of the newspaper he soon builds up a head of steam and looks likely to be elected. Oxbold and his colleagues plan top this by getting their hands on the forms to destroy the evidence of their dishonesty. After Gribbles' furniture is possessed by the bailiffs including the vase where he had stored the forms, he takes part in a desperate race against clock in order to recover them and produce them at a major town planning conference. Gribble fails to recover them but is saved by Strawberry who had recorded them electronically. The film ends with the crooked councillers exposed and Gribble being hailed by the people.


Reception and analysis

  • TV Guide concluded the film is a "not very good outing for Formby".[2]
  • Halliwell's Film Guide called it a "spotty star comedy with insufficient zest for its great length."[3]
  • In Masculinities in British Cinema, Andrew Spicer wrote that George Formby "personified a cheery, comic ‘little man’, who, despite his bumbling stupidity, has gumption and the will-to-win; in Let George Do It he even punches Hitler on the nose. But although Formby provided what Mass-Observation thought was vital for public morale in the ‘dark days’ of the war, comic relief, his popularity declined rapidly at the end of the war. Neither He Snoops to Conquer (1944) or George in Civvy Street (1946), which attempted to align Formby with social change and reconstruction was successful".[4]


He Snoops to Conquer on IMDb

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