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The Maggie U rating

A wily old tugboat skipper outfoxes a wealthy American businessman in Alexander Mackendrick's underrated Ealing comedy

Comedy 1954 92 mins

Director: Alexander Mackendrick



Most Ealing comedies championed consensus, but Alexander Mackendrick's revelled in conflict. The ‘Maggie’ is a decrepit Clyde 'puffer' boat, whose wily captain dupes a wealthy American businessman to ferry his possessions to his new Scottish island home - then proceeds to delay, hinder and endanger his hapless client. This third of Mackendrick's four comedies for Ealing may be the least known, but it has all the mischief and moral ambiguity of his more celebrated predecessors, Whisky Galore! and The Man in the White Suit.

The battle of wits between the devious Mactaggart and Calvin B. Marshall, his unwilling passenger, carries echoes of the thirsty Scottish islanders' merciless treatment of the priggish English Captain Waggett in Whisky Galore!, and like The Man in the White Suit it can be read as a struggle between opposed forces of progress and tradition, privilege and poverty. But The 'Maggie' is if anything more ambivalent still, with neither the impish tugboat captain nor his swanky client/victim emerging as quite what he first seems. Nearly 30 years later, Bill Forsyth acknowledged Mackendrick's film as a key influence on his classic Local Hero.