Thursday, December 27, 2007

God Bless the ministry of schools: St Trinians.

What harm could a bunch of proper schoolgirls cause?-the girls of St Trinians.

"St Trinian's is a fictional girls' boarding school which was created as a series of cartoons by Ronald Searle, a British cartoonist, and later became the subject of comedy films. The school is the antithesis of the Enid Blyton-type posh girls' boarding school; its pupils are wicked and often well-armed, and mayhem is rife. The mistresses (as female teachers in Britain were known at the time) are also disreputable. Cartoons often showed dead bodies of girls who had been murdered with pitchforks or succumbed to violent team sports, sometimes with vultures circling; girls drank, gambled, and smoked. It is reputed that the gym-slip style of dress worn by the girls was closely modelled on the uniform of the school that Searle's daughter Kate attended, JAGS in Dulwich. The films implied that the girls were the daughters of gangsters, crooks, shady bookmakers and other low-lifes.

The cover of one of Searle's books: "The terror of st Trinians and other drawings".

The name St Trinian's was inspired by St Trinnean's in Edinburgh, originally situated at 10 Palmerston Road, established by Miss C. Fraser Lee and opened on 4th October 1922 with sixty girls.

She practised the revolutionary Dalton system of education — where the emphasis was on self- rather than school-imposed discipline — which led to it being said that St Trinnean's was the school "where they do what they like".
In 1925 the school moved from Palmerston Road to St Leonard's House near Dalkeith Road, and at the beginning of the second world war moved again to Gala House in Galashiels. The school was closed in 1946 after the retirement of Miss Lee Fraser.
It is said that a family by the name of Johnston, whose two daughters attended St Trinnean's, were evacuated to Kirkcudbright, where they met Sapper (Ronald) Searle. He drew a cartoon depicting his idea of the school attended by the girls. Searle spent part of the war in a Japanese POW camp. After the war Lilliput magazine published the cartoons. The first film was made in 1954.

Only (criminally insane) girls need apply: the St Trinian's school badge

10 Palmerston Road is now in private ownership. St Leonard's House is now called St Leonard's Hall, part of Pollock Halls of Residence for the University of Edinburgh; it is used for administration and conferences. One of the rooms within is called St Trinneans.
The school's existence became widely known when it advertised a reunion coffee party for old girls in The Scotsman in September 1955. By this time the fictional school was very well-known; the typesetter incorrectly used Searle's spelling in the advertisement. In an interview with the Sunday Express the headmistress firmly denied that her girls were anything like their fictional counterparts.

Run while you still can-The girls of Trinians from the newest movie.

A series of St Trinian's comedy films was made with well-known British actors including Alastair Sim (in drag as the headmistress, but also playing her brother), George Cole as "Flash Harry", and Joyce Grenfell as Sgt Ruby Gates, a beleaguered policewoman. In the films the school became embroiled in a number of shady enterprises, thanks mainly to Flash, and, as a result, was always threatened with closure by the "Ministry of Schools".

The first four films form a chronological quartet, and were produced by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. They had earlier produced The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), a stylistically similar school comedy, starring Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis, Guy Middleton and Bernadette O'Farrell, all of whom later appeared in the St Trinian's series, often playing similar characters.

In the films St Trinian's is an unorthodox girls school where the younger girls wreak havoc and the older girls express their femininity overtly, turning their shapeless schoolgirl dress into something sexy and risqué by the standards of the times: skirts are short and show the tops of the dark stockings that the girls wear, and busts are emphasised by the cut of the tunic and shirt of the uniform, creating the hourglass figure and long legs favoured at the time. St Trinian's is often invoked in discussions about groups of schoolgirls running riot.
The St Trinian's girls themselves come in two categories: the Fourth Form, most closely resembling Searle's original drawings of ink-stained, ungovernable pranksters, and the much older Sixth Form (one of them is even married), sexually precocious to a degree that must have seemed somewhat alarming in 1954. In the films, the Fourth Form includes a number of much younger girls who are the most ferocious of them all. Indeed, it is something of a rule of thumb that the smaller a St Trinians girl is, the more dangerous she is, especially with a "weapon" (most commonly a lacrosse or hockey stick) in her hands—though none of them can ever be considered harmless.

St Trinian's is presided over by the genial Miss Millicent Fritton (Sim in drag), whose philosophy is summed up as: "In other schools girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world, but when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared."
The 1980 film, The Wildcats of St Trinian's, had the girls forming a trade union and going on strike. It poked fun at the British trade union movement which had been responsible for the recent wave of strikes that culminated in the Winter of Discontent. The film was not a critical success.

Rupert Everett confirmed on the UK television program The Bigger Picture with
Graham Norton on 16 October 2006 that a further film would be made, with himself in the Alastair Sim roles. Filming started on St Trinian's in April 2007, and it was released in December of that year. The cast also included Colin Firth, Russell Brand, Lily Cole, Stephen Fry, Girls Aloud and Mischa Barton. Reviews were generally not favourable"

.....but just don't tell the girls that otherwise there will be trouble"
What evil lies under that sweet and impish smile....and are you now married we wonder?

Maidens of St. Trinian's
Gird your armour on. Grab the nearest weapon Never mind which one. The battle's to the strongest Might is always right. Trample on the weakest Glory in their plight. St. Trinian's St. Trinian's Our battle cry. St. Trinian's St. Trinian's Will never die. Stride towards your fortune, Boldly on your way. Never once forgetting There's one born every day. Let our motto be broadcast "Get your blow in first", She who draws the sword last Always comes off worst. Sidney Gilliat (1954)

No comments: