Sailor Beware (1956)

US Title: Panic in the Parlor

screenshot from Sailor Beware

Directed by: Gordon Parry
Screenwriter(s): Falkland L Cary, Philip King
Starring: Peggy Mount, Shirley Eaton, Ronald Lewis, Cyril Smith, Esma Cannon, Gordon Jackson, Geoffrey Keen, Thora Hird, Joy Webster
Genre: Comedy
Country: UK
Running time: 1h 21m
Rating: 5 out of 10

Albert Tuffnell (Lewis), a sailor, is about to marry his sweetheart, Shirley (Eaton). An orphan, Albert dreams of having a family and a home of his own. His future mother-in-law, Emma Hornett (Mount), has already decided that she’ll be the one choosing his home, having already put a deposit down on a house down the street for him, and that she’ll be running his life for him, as she does with the rest of her family. When Albert turns up at the Hornett home with his best man and best friend, Carnoustie (Jackson), on the day before the wedding, he starts to worry that his beautiful young bride is going to turn out like her battle-axe mother.

Sailor Beware is a Peggy Mount film in which Peggy Mount plays Peggy Mount. This was, in fact, the film which developed that on-screen persona for which she was so famous. It started as a play, written for and starring Mount, and she contributed tremendously to the development of the character of Emma Hornett, a part she believed was responsible for her long film and TV career.

There’s very little for Eaton and Lewis to do but listen to her, but the rest of the cast manage to get some decent moments of their own in the ensemble. Gordon Jackson gets to romance the bridesmaid (Webster), Esma Cannon gets to reprise her common role as a dotty little old lady, Geoffrey Keen (best known as the Minister of Defence in the Roger Moore Bond run) brings calm as the vicar, and Thora Hird has some cutting Thora Hird lines as Emma’s best friend. Cyril Smith manages to stand out as Emma’s long-suffering husband who can still see the girl he fell in love with behind the woman she has become.

It’s a slight film, but it’s more than enjoyable if you like Peggy Mount and/or British domestic comedies of this kind.

Sailor Beware was renamed Panic in the Parlor in the US because there was already a 1952 Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin film of the same name.

It is out of copyright and can be found online with other public domain films at The listing incorrectly credits the BBC rather than Independent Film Distributors as the distributor, but it’s a watchable copy.


Michael Caine in Sailor Beware

It really is a blink-and-you’ll miss him appearance in this one.

At approx 1m 45s, the side of Sir Michael Caine’s face and the back of his head can been seen as the camera pans around the crew of Ronald Lewis’s ship. You can just make out his only two lines – ‘What did you pay for it?’ and ‘You’ve been done’ – over the general background noise on the ship.