Spare a Copper

Spare a Copper is a 1940 British black-and-white musical comedy war film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring George Formby, Dorothy Hyson and Bernard Lee. It was produced by Associated Talking Pictures. It is also known as Call a Cop. The film features the songs, "I'm The Ukulele Man", "On The Beat", "I Wish I Was Back On The Farm" and "I'm Shy".[1] Beryl Reid makes her film debut in an uncredited role, while Ronald Shiner appears similarly uncredited, in the role of the Piano Mover and Tuner.[2]

Spare a Copper
Song sheet
Directed byJohn Paddy Carstairs
Produced byMichael Balcon
Basil Dearden
Written byBasil Dearden
Roger MacDougall
Austin Melford
StarringGeorge Formby
Dorothy Hyson
Bernard Lee
John Warwick
Music byLouis Levy
CinematographyBryan Langley
Edited byRay Pitt
Distributed byABFD
Release date
December 1940 (London, UK)
14 April 1941 (UK general release)
Running time
77 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Working on the film as associate producer and writer, this production was an early assignment for director Basil Dearden: "it was relatively easy to fit the Formby films into the new demands thrown up by the war: whereas George had typically had to overcome rogues and villains in his 1930s films, these were now simply replaced by spies and saboteurs".[3]


Formby plays a bumbling War Reservist police officer called George Carter who aspires to become a member of the flying squad. The film is set in Merseyside where the battleship HMS Hercules is being built. A group of saboteurs are planning to destroy HMS Hercules by blowing it up. George manages to foil the saboteurs' attempts to destroy HMS Hercules, saving the battleship from being blown up by saboteurs. One of the saboteurs, called "Jake", is played by Bernard Lee.


Critical reception

  • The Times critic wrote in 1940: "the structure of Mr. George Formby's films do not alter very much, and the same blue-print that has done serviceable work in the past was taken out of its drawer for Spare a Copper".[3]
  • In a 1940 issue, Monthly Film Bulletin called it "a good Formby film...With a better story than most".[3]
  • TV Guide dismissed the film as a "mediocre WW II comedy".[4]
  • Halliwell's Film Guide comments, "one of the last good Formby comedies, with everything percolating as it should".[1]
  • George Perry wrote in "Forever Ealing", "the notion of unsuspected German spies in respectable positions was to recur in more serious Ealing films such as The Foreman Went to France and Went the Day Well? These comedy films were judged as very good for public morale at the time while delivering an important message."[5]


  1. "Spare A Copper". Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  2. "Spare a Copper (1940)". BFI Film & TV Database. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  3. Burton, Alan; O'Sullivan, Tim (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  4. "Spare A Copper Trailer, Reviews and Schedule for Spare A Copper |". Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  5. "Spare a Copper 1940". Britmovie. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
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