St Trinians, is along with the ‘Carry On’ films, an important part of the British pantheon of low budget, low brow, slightly smutty, comedy films.
St Trinians is a fictitious girls public boarding school, actually based on a real school, St Trinnean’s in Edinburgh. St Trinnean’s pursued the ‘Dalton’ system of education, which depended on self imposed discipline and became notorous as the school “where they do what they like”.
The artist and cartoonist Ronald Searle wrote a number of books in the late forties and fifties about his fictitious school, based on the recollections of two schoolgirls who were evacuated to live with his family during the second world war.
These were in turn the basis of the popular movies in the late fifties and early sixties.
The classic films were:
- The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954)
- Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957)
- The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960)
- The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)
These featured the comic actor Alistair Sim as the headmistress ‘Millicent Fritton’, George Cole playing ‘Flash Harry’, and Joyce Grenfell.
While the younger schoolgirls are close to Ronald Searle’s original anarchic cartoons, it is the sixth form girls that seared themselves onto the imagination of post war Britain. The sixth formers, with black stockings, gymslips and straw ‘boater’ hats have become a hen night and fancy dress staple.
An attempt was made to revive the franchise in 1980 with The Wildcats of St Trinian’s, but a more successful remake was made in 2007 with the actor Rupert Everett taking the Millicent Fritton role.
The school’s philosophy can be summed up in the words of the Headmistress – “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.”